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A CHILD is a man in a small letter, yet the best copy of Adam before
he tasted of Eve or the apple; and he is happy whose small practice in the world can only write his character. He is nature's fresh picture newly drawn in oil, which time and much handling dims and defaces. His soul is yet a white paper, unscribbled with observations of the world, wherewith at length it becomes a blurred note-book. He is purely happy, because he knows no evil, nor hath made means by sin to be acquainted with misery. He arrives not at the mischief of being wise, nor endures evils to come, by foreseeing them. He kisses and loves all, and when the smart of the rod is past smiles on his beater. Nature and his parents alike dandle him, and 'tice him on with a bait of sugar to a draught of wormwood. He plays yet, like a young prentice the first day, and is not come to the task of melancholy. His hardest labour is his tongue, as if he were loath to use so deceitful an organ: and he is the best company with it when he can but prattle. We laugh at his foolish sports, but his game is our earnest; and his drums, rattles, and hobby-horses but the emblems and mocking of man's business. His father hath writ him as his own little story, wherein he reads those days of his life that he cannot remember, and sighs to see what innocence he hath outlived. The elder he grows, he is a stair lower from God; and like his first father, much worse in his breeches. He is the Christian's example, and the old man's relapse the one imitates his pureness, the other falls into his simplicity. Could he put off his body with his little coat, he had got eternity without a burden, and exchanged but one heaven for another. Earle.
ON THE TOMBS IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY.
What a change of flesh is here!
Sleep within these heaps of stones;
Here they lie, had realms and lands,
Since the first man died for sin :
Here the bones of birth have cried,
"Though gods they were, as men they died!"
Here are sands, ignoble things,
OLOMON saith truly, "Of making many books there is no end," so insatiable is the thirst of men therein: as also endless is the desire of many in reading them. But we come to our rules,—
1. It is a vanity to persuade the world one hath much learning by getting a great library. As soon shall I believe every one is valiant that hath a well-furnished armoury. I guess good housekeeping by the smoking, not the number of the tunnels, as knowing that many of them, built merely for uniformity, are without chimneys, and more without fires. Once a dunce, void of learning, but full of books, flouted a libraryless scholar with these words, "Hail, doctor without books!" But the next day, the scholar coming into the jeerer's study crowded with books, "Hail books," said he, "without a doctor!"
2. Few books, well selected, are best.-Yet as a certain fool bought all the pictures that came out, because he might have his choice, such is the vain. humour of many men in gathering of books. Yet, when they have done all, they miss their end; it being in the editions of authors as in the fashions of clothes,—when a man thinks he has gotten the latest and newest, presently another newer comes out.
3. Some books are only cursorily to be tasted of.-Namely, first, voluminous books, the task of a man's life to read them over; secondly, auxiliary books, only to be repaired to on occasions; thirdly, such as are mere pieces of formality, so that if you look on them, you look through them; and he that peeps through the casement of the index, sees as much as if he were in the house. But the laziness of those cannot be excused who perfunctorily pass over authors of consequence, and only trade in their tables and contents. These, like city-cheaters, having gotten the names of all country gentlemen, make silly people believe they have long lived in those places where they never were, and flourish with skill in those authors they never seriously studied.
4. The genius of the author is commonly discovered in the dedicatory epistle. -Many place the purest grain in the mouth of the sack, for chapmen to handle or buy; and from the dedication one may probably guess at the work, saving some rare and peculiar exceptions. Thus, when once a
gentleman admired how so pithy, learned, and witty a dedication was matched to a flat, dull, foolish book: "in truth," said another, "they may be well matched together, for I profess they be nothing akin."
5. Proportion an hour's meditation to an hour's reading of a staple author. -This makes a man master of his learning, and dispirits the book into the scholar. Fuller.