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THE shadows of the names of the mighty in intellect have been thrown upon their pages by the most interesting, and not the least instructive of our English authors, the Essayists. The names of Addison and Johnson alone would give dignity to any species of composition, however apparently trivial. They bave done more. They have given perpetuity and fame to the essay on
manners, morals, religion and literature : and so long as the English language shall last, will the Spectator and Rambler find a place upon our shelves. Indeed the whole of the forty-five volumes of the British Essayists, edited by Mr. Chalmers, comprises perhaps the most delightful work in any language. In the historical prefaces and contents of the volumes which assign almost every essay to its proper author, we find the greatest names that have dignified human nature, and enriched our language. Scarcely a subject of amusement, or of importance to our species, is left unbandled. If we pass to the collected works of our great men the very essence of their spirits is discovered in the form of the essay. The greatest philosophers and statesmen have delighted in this outlet of the deepest, and the sweetest and pure est waters of the mind. Need I mention Bacon,--whose inimitatable volume of essays, containing a mi:e of wisdom, was pronounced by the late Mr. Burks, no incompetent judge, to be the finest
work of that great man,-and bord Clarendon,--and Sir Williain Temple ? This delightful composition has been revived in our own day, but,-save in one instance, by the playful and profound author of the Essays of Elia, the amiable Charles Lambe, --not with the case and graceful self-possession of the elder essayists. Elia resembles “the melancholy Jacques "; and in his hghtest moods, or “ sullen fits,” he is “full of matter.” We have had the “ Round Table," and “ Table Talk" of Hazlitt; and the admirable Essays of “ The Friend,” by Coleridge,—designed rather for the thoughtful and philosophical student than for the man of the worid.
Who then, it may be asked, would dare, or attempt to tread in the steps of such men ? Surely no one, if he think to rival those great masters. Casting away any such idle pretensions, ani humbler mind may pardonably, and even commendably, desire to entertain, and perhaps to instruct his fellowmen by a species of composition, in itself the least presumptuous. If this and successive pa. pers shall but induce those who may peruse them to go to the masters of the crast, instead of novels and newspapers, they will not have been useless in performing the humble office of mak. ing their readers familiar with those incomparable authors.
Such, gentle Reader, is the sole object of one of yourselves. I would suggest to you the best of books as your best friends. I would have the young draw water from the purest fountains in their youth, that they may have within themselves the
source of one of the sweetest solaces of old age :
“One sip of which
Beyond the bliss of dreams, Be wise and taste."
in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest essence and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. Maný a man," he adds, “lives a burden to the earth, but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.” Indeed I know not anything more important to the healthy growth and expansion,
geny of life
* ABEOPAGITICA. A speech for the liberty of unlicensed printing
moral, religious, and intellectual,—of the minds of the young, than to bave for their favorite authors, even in matters of taste, such writers as
" the master spirits and living intellects that bred them," in the world of spirits, were itself “a consumo mation devoutly to be wished.” Such are the matchless writers in our “well of English undefiled,"— both in prose and verse, such as the works of our great Milton himself, and Shakspeare, Spenser, and our elder poets, with one or two modern names,and in prose, the essays and other ethical and, literary works of that mighty mind, Lord Bacon,-together with Clarendon, Temple, Steele, Addison, Johnson, and the other essayists,--and in a word the long line of the aristocracy of English intellect. ---Our language is also rich in translations of the ancient poets and prose writers of ancient Greece and Rome, and the exquisite bards of modern Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
Of books such as these, - not neglecting TIPE Bool, the BIBLE, in all tho best of books,
of real friends, we find, as we advance in life, so few that cling to us,
to them, that it is one of the most desirable things that our literary friends be such as will cause us to blush only, if at all, from the consciousness of our own inferiority.
I might add that the love of reading itself is one of those sweet and innocent which becomes the greaiest,
and often the only pleasure of lives when the evening of old aye is at hand. It is recorded, by Spence in his Anecdotes, of the poet Pope in his declining years, that
as much company as he had kept, and as much as he loved it, le loved Trading better; and that he would rather be employed in reading than in the most agreeable conversation.” The same love of reading is avowed by the historian Gibbon), in bis ow: Memoirs -alas ! that be had read One Book to better purpose ! - and by the late Alexander Knox of Dublin, in, perhaps, the inost interesting work of the day to thoughtful and serious men,-ihe “ Thirty Years Correspondence," between the late Bishop Jebb and himself. If I might add my own testimony to that of these great men, I would affirm that the secret converse which we hold with our silent
yet eloquent books, is the source of the truest delight that We can experience. They are as the good angels that cheer oor