his wife, enabled him, at the decease of his master, to take to the business. For some few years he had to contend with the usual difficulties which are felt by tradesmen, whose capital is not adequate to their demands, but he eventually overcame them, and acquired a very large property.

There are few tradesmen in modern times, who are more intelligent than booksellers, and we may easily account for it, from their intercourse with men of general literature; but Mr. Lester being intent only on the acquisition of money, paid but little attention to the improvement of his mind. He knew how to buy and sell, with any man in the trade: could quote title pages, and the number of the editions, with great facility: but as he seldom waded beyond the preface, he could give no account of the works which passed through his hands, except what he acquired from reviews, or the current opinions of his customers. Indeed, he often said, that is the best book, which has the greatest run-estimating its quality by the extent of its sale, rather than its real excellence.

As he had imbibed, at a very early period in his life, some very strange prejudices against what he termed the Methodists in the Church, and the Methodists out of it, he hesitated, for some time, on the propriety of giving any circulation to the productions of their pen, till he submitted this case of conscience to the decision of Mrs. Lester, who very gravely remarked, "our business is to get money, and if we don't sell these works, others will, and therefore, I think it is our duty to study the taste of our customers." This reference to the doctrine of profits, overcame all his pious scruples, and he soon found that sacred literature was as productive of gain, as profane. When rallied on

this point, by his worthy rector, who had just denounced from the pulpit the enthusiastic productions of the press-urging his parishioners to avoid 'reading them, as they would avoid touching the body of a man who had died of the plague, he replied,

"I agreed with you Doctor, on Sunday morning, respecting the tendency of such works, but I am happy to find, that your sermon did not produce the effect you intended."

"How so, Mr. Lester, how so?" replied the worthy Doctor.

"Why, Doctor, your sermon was intended to prevent the people from purchasing the books you condemned."

"Certainly, certainly and don't you think my arguments were very just and conclusive."

"They may have been just, but if they had been conclusive, they would have half ruined me."

"Why, you know, Mr. Lester, that the interest of individuals must be occasionally sacrificed to promote the general good. That you know is a favourite opinion of mine. And if, sir, you should sustain some loss, in consequence of the sermon which I delivered on Sunday morning, you ought to be consoled by this reflection, that our church will be made more secure."

"No man, Doctor, feels a greater regard for the church as by law established; and no man can feel a greater abhorrence against all the fanatics of the age, than I do; but I have a family to maintain, and therefore I think my first duty is to make provision for them."

"Very true, Mr. Lester, very true; and you shall have all my influence."

"Then, Doctor, I wish you would preach that sermon, once a month."

"How so, Mr. Lester, how so; if it will lessen the number of your customers."

"If, Doctor, it would lessen the number of my customers, I would give you a handsome price for the manuscript, and place it where you wish to place the works you condemned, in the darkness of oblivion; but it produced quite the contrary effect."

"What! Mr. Lester! what! Mr. Lester: the contrary effect ?”

"Yes, Doctor, for I had scarcely opened my shop on Monday morning, before the works which you condemned were asked for; and I have sold three times as many this week, as I ever sold in one week in my life." "Indeed! Lester ?"

how can you account for that Mr.

"Why, Doctor, you excited the curiosity of the people, who very naturally felt anxious to read what you thought proper to condemn."

"Do you say so, Mr. Lester."
"Yes, Doctor.'


"But I hope, that notwithstanding my sermon has had the effect you mention, that my parishioners will feel that disgust by reading these fanatical works which you and I feel, Mr. Lester."

"Why Doctor, if I were to speak as a churchman, I should say I hope they will; but you know I sustain a two-fold character; I am a churchman and a bookseller; and therefore, when I speak as a bookseller, I say that I hope they will catch the mania."

"It is a great misfortune, Mr. Lester, when a man follows a profession which is not in exact ac

cordance with his principles. You see the danger of it. His love of gain makes him do what his conscience censures him for. But, Mr. Lester, permit me to ask you one question; do you think that the reading of these books has any bewitching effect on the minds of the people?"

"Why, Doctor, you must know, that there is no power so strong as the power of the press; and if I express my opinion, I must say, that with the exception of infidel publications, there are no works which gain over such a number of admirers, nowa-days, as those which we call fanatical. They are indeed bewitching. And I am sorry to say that I have a melancholy instance of it, in my own family. One of my daughters, who is a very intelligent and accomplished girl, is now become, I fear, a confirmed fanatic by reading some of Miss Hannah More's Works. I have endeavoured, and so has her mother, to reasor her out of her new opinions, but all is in vain. When they once get infected with this moral disease, they generally become incurable."

"Miss Hannah More, I have no doubt, Mr. Lester, is a very excellent lady, and I have heard that she does some little good amongst the poor; but I have long thought, that her writings have a most pernicious influence over the public mind. She is, in my opinion, the patron saint of the modern enthusiasts who infect our church-to the charms of whose pretended sanctity, and fanatical writings, we are to attribute, the extensive prevalence of what you very properly call a moral disease. Yes, it is a moral disease, and one which if not expelled from amongst us, will corrupt the whole body. And has one of your daughters taken it, Mr. Lester? This is a circumstance which you may regret, but

you ought not to complain; for if a person will sell tares, he ought not to be surprised if a few grains fall into his own field."

"Very true, Doctor, but still I wish you would look in some day, when you are disengaged, and see if you cannot reclaim her, before she is irrecoverably gone. You would confer a lasting obligation on the family, as we feel rather degraded by the introduction of this fanatical religion amongst


"Very well, Mr. Lester, I will. But you must give me a list of her opinions that I may have time to examine into them; and then I shall be better able to enter on the task of refutation."

"Shall I send them to the Rectory, Doctor?" "Yes, Mr. Lester; do-do.". "When, Doctor?

"Why, Mr. Lester, I am engaged at a card party to-night; and to-morrow I expect to leave home for a week or two, for Cheltenham; but when I return I shall be happy to serve you."


Your case, Sir, in the history recently given, (for I will use the freedom of a direct address, and not the cold, cautious, circuitous form, of a third person) is, it must be owned, a most affecting one. A spirit of negligence and procrastination in secular affairs, is by all keenly censured and condemned. Should the husbandman propose to sow his seed, but not ere the season for reaping arrive, or the sailor propose to learn to swim, but not before

« VorigeDoorgaan »