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“I would go fifty miles on foot, to kiss the hand of that man whose generous heart will give up the reins of his imagination into his author's hands -be pleased, he knows not why, and cares not wherefore.” STERNE.
SOUTHEY remarks, that there are some persons who are willing to be pleased, and thankful for being pleased, without thinking it necessary that they should be able to parse their pleasure, like a lesson, or give a rule or reason why they are pleased. It is the aim and design of the following pages to put the reader in this precise condition, believing, with Sydney Smith, “that all mankind are happier for having been happy ; so that if
you make them happy now, you make them happy twenty years hence by the memory of it."
Old books by great authors are not in everybody's reach ; and though it is better to know them thoroughly than to know them here and there, yet it is a good work to give a little to those who have neither time nor means to get more. When in any fragrant, scarce old tome the bookworm discovers a sentence or an illustration that does his own heart good, he should hasten to give it currency. Most readers, readers con amore, have some snug little corner in the storehouse of memory, in which they treasure up choice passages of their favourite authors. It requires more than a mental process to reduce such a heterogeneous collection to something like order. The present Volume, with its antecedent, originated in some such an attempt. These desultory chapters are the fruitage of many pleasant, recreative hours spent in the high
ways and by-ways of literature. Whenever a tempting thoughtblossom decoyed us by its alluring beauty, the prize was captured to enrich and grace our collection. Such gleanings may by some be deemed trifles, but
“Though high philosophy despise such things,
They often give to weightier truths their wings ;
If trifles are facts, they cease to be trivial; and in these stirring times, when our allotted leisure is becoming infinitesimally small, the terse and epigrammatic are to be preferred to the discursive and the diffuse, in our reading. Somewhat after the manner of old Burton, these chapters are fertile of quotations, being compounded mainly of the thoughts of others-a species of literary amalgam. This will scarcely be considered an objection, since it gives the essence of many minds instead of one. A. quaint writer asserts that “ every book is itself a quotation." As with the jeweller, if in some instances the setting may be rudely done, yet the gem still retains its original value; and we are free to confess, as did Goldsmith of his “ Vicar” (and with vastly more reason), that “ there are a hundred faults in this thing ; yet a book may be amusing with numerous errors, or it may be dull without a single absurdity. It would be great temerity to appropriate to our humble essay the witty analysis of the witty author already cited, and affirm-that "it has profundity without obscurity, perspicuity without prolixity, ornament without glare, terseness without barrenness, penetration without subtlety, comprehensiveness without digression, and a great number of other things without a great number of other things.”
The present Work might not inaptly be styled an odd volume,
were it not intended to be even with its predecessor, of which, indeed, it forms the counterpart. It is odd in its plan and arrangement, consists of odd sayings and selections, from many odd and out-of-the-way authors. It is, moreover, fitted for odd readers, and odd half-hours, and, oddly enough, is the handiwork of a very odd specimen of an author. Oddities are not, however, without their use; they sometimes dispel ennui, the headache, and even the heartache.
Our design has been to minister to intellectual entertainment with instruction, mingling
“Sayings fetched from sages old,
Laws which Holy Writ unfold,
Sometimes mildly interluding." For we hold, with Rabelais, that the funds of wit and merriment are not yet exhausted; that the wings of fancy are not yet clipped, and that our ancestors have not said and sung all our good things.
“What more refreshing than a Salad, when your appetite seems to have deserted you, or even after a generous dinner? The nice, fresh, crisp salad, full of life and health, seems to invigorate the palate and dispose the masticatory powers to a much longer duration." *
“Salads,” according to a modern French authority, t "refresh without exciting, and make people younger.” The Salad we offer ought to have this effect; and we hope everybody will bring to it (what everybody wishes for, and as soon as possessed, loses) a good appetite. Salads are not generally suited for weak digestions, or sickly folk : yet we have it certified on professional authority that this salad is adapted for the especial cure and comfort of any who may have such malady as that complained of by the author of Elia, who thus piteously portrays his sufferings to Bernard Barton : “Do you know what it is to succumb under an insurmountable day-mare-an indis
position to do anything, or to be anything a total deadness and distaste-a suspension of vitality-an indifference to locality, a numb, soporific good-for-nothingness-an ossification all over, an oyster-like indifference to passing events—a mind stupor-a brawny defiance to the needles of a thrashing-in conscience-with a total irresolution to submit to water-gruel processes ?”
After sundry erasures, blottings, corrections, insertions, enlargings and diminishings, with interlineations, we have at length completed the Work, which, whatever may be alleged against it, shall be innocent of all heresy of necromancy, geomancy, alchymy, exorcism, phantasmagoria, witchcraft, metoposcopy, sorcery, or thaumaturgie.
As this is a Salad for the Social, it is to be hoped that it will prove savoury to the palate of a goodly number of good-natured guests; since even frugal fare is rendered relishable by the presence of smiling faces and happy hearts, while the most costly viands often lose their zest where these are not. Foremost among the pleasures of the table are, what an elegant novelist has termed “ those felicitous moods in which our animal spirits search, and carry up, as it were, to the surface, our intellectual gifts and acquisitions." The invitation to this repast is, therefore, respectfully tendered all genial spirits who will bear company with the humble host; and being unknown to the great world, “I will tell you, sirs, by way of private, and under seal, I am a gentleman, and live here obscure, and to myself.” *
* Ben Jonson.
Mar 15, 1856.