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boyhood, he bestowed a constant bounty. He offered assistance to every one whom he thought needed it, even before it was asked ; and he did this often at no little self-sacrifice. His only personal extravagance was in buying books, and of these he speaks with constant and never failing affection. He loved them as a lover his mistress, and Leigh Hunt tells how he once saw him kiss Chapman's Homer. He reveled in the Elizabethan age, and no writer has ever described that period so well as he. In a great measure he re. vived the literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and did more than any other to make those forgotten worthies beautiful and lovable to modern readers. To him “the sweetest names, and which carry a perfume in the mention, were Kit Marlowe, Drayton, Drummond of Hawthornden and Cowley;” and with these and many others is his own name imperishably associated. He feasted on these noble books. “I dream away my life in other's speculations,” he says in his essay on Books and Reading. “I love to lose myself in other men's minds. I cannot sit and think; books think for me. I have no repugnances. ‘Shaftesbury’ is not too genteel for me, nor ‘Jonathan Wild' too low. I can read
anything which I call a book.”
The “Essays of Elia" fill the heart of every
reader with kindliness and human sympathy, and causes the reader to think better of humanity. No book you will ever read will give you more delight, or will cultivate in you that love for literature, without which all reading is vain.
THOMAS DE QUINCEY.
ONE of the masters of English prose writing is Thomas De Quincey, and there are few volumes that I would more unhesitatingly recommend to the student ambitious of acquiring a good style than the most of his. His writings are both instructive and delightful, and cover a wide range of thought and scholarship. His subjects are of the most diverse kinds, while the under-current of reference and allusion carry one into regions of rarest learning. He had read widely over a vast extent of out-of-the-way literature, and his capacious memory furnished it forth to him at command. From childhood he had a passion for reading, and his knowledge is better entitled to the name of encyclopedia than that of any other modern person I know of, save, perhaps, Macaulay and William Hamilton. And yet he never wrote anything of great length—no extended
work. His novel occupies barely half of one of the duodecimo volumes into which his works have been collected. His writings are almost altogether magazine articles and were written to provide a livelihood. He did not commence authorship until he was thirty-five, and then only because his income from his father's estate failed him, through the wrong-doing of a trustee. For forty years he continued to write for the magazines and reviews of his time, and it is these supposed ephemera that have made him one of the chiefs of English literature. It was not until near the close of his life that these widely scattered articles were collected into volumes, the first step in that direction having been taken by the American publisher, James Ticknor Fields. In the year 1821 an article appeared in the London Magazine, entitled “Confessions of an English Opium Eater,” that attracted wide attention. The London was the chief rival of Blackwood in those days and had a notable corps of contributors. Some of the last minor poems of John Keats appeared in it, and a series of essays under the signature of “Elia” were very popular. Hazlitt was a contributor, and Barry Cornwall. A young humorist, Thomas Hood, by name, was a sort of assistant editor and was be
coming known for writings both grave and gay. Thomas Griffith Wainwright, prisoner and forger, whose miserable and despicable career ended many years later in a convicts' hut in Australia, contributed articles on “The Fine Arts,” and altogether it was a remarkably well sustained and brilliant magazine. In this galaxy De Quincey soon became a bright particular star, and was a constant contributor while the magazine lasted, which was only a few years. “The Confessions” made the world acquainted with his name, for it was a self revelation only surpassed by those of Montaigne and Rousseau. It was published anonymously, but the wide spread curiosity and the unusual demand for more, forbade that the authorship should long remain a secret. The signature of “The Opium Eater” was thenceforward an attraction. Most assuredly here was no common writer, for whatever the topic, it was treated with superlative skill. His articles were therefore in demand, but his peculiar habits and disposition made him but a fitful writer, and an altogether unreliable contributor. When the London failed, he was attracted to Blackwood; the editor, Professor Wilson, being his warm personal friend. In one of the “Noctes,” Wilson calls him “a man of a million,” and in another, where De