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On Some Books And Their Associations
by [?]

Did she live yesterday, or ages sped?
What colour were the eyes when bright and waking?
And were your ringlets fair? Poor little head!
–Poor little heart! that long has done with aching.

Sometimes it comes to pass that the association is of a more far-fetched and fanciful kind. In the great Ovid it lies in an inscription: in my next case it is “another-guess” matter. The folio this time is the Sylva Sylvarum of the “Right Hon. Francis Lo. Verulam. Viscount St. Alban,” of whom some people still prefer to speak as Lord Bacon. ‘Tis only the “sixt Edition”; but it was to be bought at the Great Turk’s Head, “next to the Mytre Tauerne” (not the modern pretender, be it observed!), which is in itself a feature of interest. A former possessor, from his notes, appears to have been largely preoccupied with that ignoble clinging to life which so exercised Matthew Arnold, for they relate chiefly to laxative simples for medicine; and he comforts himself, in April, 1695, by transcribing Bacon’s reflection that “a Life led in Religion and in Holy Exercises ” conduces to longevity,–an aphorism which, however useful as an argument for length of days, is a rather remote reason for religion. But what to me is always most seductive in the book is, that to this edition (not copy, of course) of 1651 Master Izaak Walton, when he came, in his Compleat Angler of 1653, to discuss such abstract questions as the transmission of sound under water, and the ages of carp and pike, must probably have referred. He often mentions “Sir Francis Bacon’s” History of Life and Death, which is included in the volume. No doubt it would be more reasonable and more “congruous” that Bacon’s book should suggest Bacon. But there it is. That illogical “succession of ideas” which puzzled my Uncle Toby, invariably recalls to me, not the imposing folio to be purchased “next to the Mytre Tauerne” in Fleet Street, but the unpretentious eighteenpenny octavo which, two years later, was on sale at Richard Marriot’s in St. Dunstan’s churchyard hard by, and did no more than borrow its erudition from the riches of the Baconian storehouse.

Life, and its prolongation, is again the theme of the next book (also mentioned, by the way, in Walton) which I take up, though unhappily it has no inscription. It is a little old calf-clad copy of Lewis Cornaro’s Sure and Certain Methods of attaining a Long and Healthful Life, 4th ed., 24mo, 1727; and was bought at the Bewick sale of February, 1884, as having once belonged to Robert Elliot Bewick, only son of the famous old Newcastle wood-engraver. As will be shown later, it is easy to be misled in these matters, but I cannot help believing that this volume, which looks as if it had been re-bound, is the one Thomas Bewick mentions in his Memoir as having been his companion in those speculative wanderings over the Town Moor or the Elswick Fields, when, as an apprentice, he planned his future a la Franklin, and devised schemes for his conduct in life. In attaining Cornaro’s tale of years he did not succeed; though he seems to have faithfully practised the periods of abstinence enjoined (but probably not observed) by another of the “noble Venetian’s” professed admirers, Mr. Addison of the Spectator.

If I have admitted a momentary misgiving as to the authenticity of the foregoing relic of the “father of white line,” there can be none about the next item to which I now come. Once, on a Westminster bookstall, long since disappeared, I found a copy of a seventh edition of the Pursuits of Literature of T.J. Mathias, Queen Charlotte’s Treasurer’s Clerk. Brutally cut down by the binder, that durus arator had unexpectedly spared a solitary page for its manuscript comment, which was thoughtfully turned up and folded in. It was a note to this couplet in Mathias, his Dialogue II.:–