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the Cambridge University Calendar for 1826 ? Few
indeed have access to it ; there are probably not
many copies in existence outside the libraries. It is
the sort of book men throw away as they do super-
annuated Whi takers. But here and there one will
remain on some high shelf in a country house where,
a hundred years ago, the great-grandfather of the
present tenant was fresh from the University. It
was from such a house that the copy I possess found



its way into a bookseller's twopenny box ; it has
come down from the past with something of the
pathos of a pressed flower ; its freshness has gone,
but it has a fragrance to the mind ; it was so
ephemeral and yet it has outlived so much that was
more solid ; it was grown and blew for one purpose,
but, preserved, it fulfils another to recall old things.
As a pressed violet bears some resemblance to
the violets of last spring, so the University Calendar
of 1826 is in hue and petal, though the hue has been
dimmed by time, like the University Calendar of
1920. Calendars grew smaller in those days ; they
had not, in flowers nor in works of reference, our
passion for size. But the shape is similar, the grey
boards are much like those we know, and the
arrangement of the information is familiar. The
volume is printed for Deighton, of Cambridge, still
existing as Deighton and Bell, and among the seven
other firms by which it is to be sold are Longmans,
Hatchards, Simpkin Marshalls, and Parker, of
Oxford, whose shop is still admirable and still in-
habited by a learned Parker. Much is the same, but
much breathes of an old world. The Classical Tripos
had only just been started ; History and English
had not been dreamed of as subjects deserving
whole-time study ; mathematics still held the field
as the principal study, with theology running it
hard. The fellows, with a few conspicuous excep-
tions, were all celibate clergymen, and the most
casual glance at the names of the undergraduates
less than half as numerous as they were when the
late war broke out will show that the University
was considerably less democratic than now. It



is not that it was what the ignorant call merely " a
playground for the rich." There were always large
numbers of poor boys with scholarships Dr. John-
son's name need only be mentioned, or Kirke White's.
But these were mostly sizars, living in a semi-menial
state ; and great care was taken to distinguish the
Noblemen from the Fellow- Commoners, the Fellow-
Commoners from the Pensioners, the last from the
Sizars. Most of the colleges were very small ; King's
was still a closed corporation of Etonians. It is often
observed to-day that Trinity (which has about a
fifth or a sixth of the undergraduates on its books)
is disproportionately large ; but in 1826 Trinity
and St. John's together were half the University.

It is all interesting to one who knows the ground ;
great changes can come by imperceptible degrees.
But the names on the books have a peculiar fascina-
tion. Lord Palmerston was sitting member. Every
page is thick with the names of undergraduates sub-
sequently well known. Tennyson and his group had
not yet come up, but Frederic Tennyson was at St.
John's, and among the Trinity freshmen was
Edward Fitzgerald, whose name appears near the
bottom of the list between Edward Arthur Illing-
worth and Thomas Daniel Holt Wilson, who had
probably not a notion who he was. Spencer Walpole,
John Wordsworth, Augustus de Morgan, and the
Iron Duke's young heir were also in statu puptllari
at Trinity, and the two forlorn sizars at Peterhouse
included one Ebenezer Elliott, afterwards, no doubt,
to horrify his college by becoming the Corn Law
Rhymer. At Trinity Hall F. D. Maurice was in his
first year, and among the fellow-commoner B.A.S



was " E. G. Lytton Bulwer," who had won the
Chancellor's medal for English verse in the previous
year. It had been in existence thirteen years only.
" Timbuctoo," that remarkable adaptation, had
not yet been submitted. W. M. Praed had been the
winner in 1823 anc * 1824, " Thos. B. Macaulay,
Trin.," in 1819 and 1821, and William Whewell in
1814. It was a great feat on Whewell's part. Few of
his admirers probably are aware of it ; but it should
not be forgotten that his natural ear for verse was
such that in an ostensibly prose passage of one of
his mathematical works he anticipated the stanza
of " In Memoriam " with the remarkable sentence :
" No power on earth, however great, can stretch a
cord, however fine, into a horizontal line which
shall be absolutely straight." One of Browne's medals
in the preceding year had been won by Benjamin
Hall Kennedy ; the list of his immediate prede-
cessors included " S. T. Coleridge, Jes." (1792),
whose name is given a footnote " the celebrated
poet," indicating that he had made amends for his
lamentable Cambridge career. Keate and Samuel
Butler (grandfather of the enfant terrible) were
Browne's medallists in the year after Coleridge.
Nobody has ever heard of the man who in 1825 won
that remarkable Seatonian Prize for an English poem
on a sacred subject. The whole list of those who had
won it is decorated with only one good name, that
of " Chris. Smart, Pemb.," who took it four times
in succession from 1750. In 1826 they still did not
think of him as author of the immortal " Song of
David " ; his footnote calls him merely " Translator
of Horace." Some fames take a long time to



mature, and a still longer time to get academic
recognition. But the Calendar did not overlook the
fact that the fourteenth wrangler in 1819 was now
" Second Professor in the Mission College, Calcutta.*'
1826. It was that year which saw the birth, to a
Spanish father and a Scottish mother, of Eugenie
de Montijo, the unhappy lady who after such vicissi-
tudes and sufferings died the other day. The first of
the Napoleons had been dead but five years then ;
every undergraduate remembered hearing the news at
school. George IV was on the throne, firmly con-
vinced that he had fought at Waterloo ; Byron had
died two years before ; it was the year of Scott's
" Woodstock." Keats and Shelley were as near to
the young men of that time as Brooke and Flecker
are to us ; but they were less well known, and only
the most original of undergraduates were beginning
to read and talk about them. Yet I suppose that to
the Empress Eugenie 1826 seemed like yesterday,
and nothing really an old event that had not taken
place ten years before it. In 2014 possibly there will
die some infant of this year who will have acquired
the reverence due to one who has bridged the great
gulf of history separating 2014 from ourselves. And
in that year some wandering eye may light upon the
Cambridge University Calendar for 1920, now so
very commonplace, and find it romantic. And some
mind for a moment, encountering, reader, your
name or mine in the list of members in the books,
may linger over it for a moment, wondering whether
it is mere fancy that that name has been encoun-
tered before, in an old magazine or between the
covers of some ragged and forgotten book.



ALLEGORIES are not in fashion. I, for one,
am not regretting this. The metaphor and
the simile are well enough ; they are the life-
blood of much good literature. An occasional parable
we can read. But the metaphor which goes on for
three hundred or six hundred pages we no longer
want and no one now produces. Probably we are
right. It is a most irritating thing, as a rule, to read a
narrative and be conscious all the time of another
story going on underneath. Nothing is more dis-
tracting than the uneasy uncertainty as to whether
there is an allegory present in a work or not. I have
never enjoyed reading Spenser's " Faerie Queene "
so much as I did when I was a boy, and was unaware
that Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex were
supposed to be involved in it ; and I resent the
recent, not entirely unconvincing, attempt of a South
African professor to discover a philosophical treatise
beneath the multi-coloured surface of Keats 's
" Endymion." I like a person in a story to be a person
and not a personification. The more uncertain the
allegory, the more annoying and distracting ; but
that our modern dislike and distrust of all allegory
has sense behind it is suggested when one contem-
plates the allegorical literature of the past and dis-
covers how little sustained allegory has lasted. There
are great books with allegorical elements, such as
" Don Quixote " and " Pantagruel " ; but the
authors of those had the sense, once they had got
their general implication clear, to let their characters



behave as such, not to force every detail into some
mechanical symbolic scheme. The one great allegory
in English, the author of which really succeeds, is
" The Pilgrim's Progress." He had to face the
enormous task which confronts all writers of close
and sustained allegory and which has utterly beaten
most of them : the task of making every incident,
almost every sentence, signify some thought or
action on another than the obvious plane, and at the
same time to keep the surface-story so interesting in
itself that, with full knowledge of its meaning, one
can, if one likes, forget everything except that sur-
face-story. Bunyan enchants where Phineas Fletcher
whose " Purple Island "is, I suppose, the longest
allegorical poem in English bores to the point of

These general reflections sprang from a reading
of a little book, not well known, I think, which I
recently came across. Its title is " The Seaman's
Spiritual Companion, or Navigation Spiritualised,"
by William Balmford, " published for a general
Good, but more especially for those that are ex-
posed to the danger of the Seas," by Benjamin Harris,
in " Sweeting's Rents, in Cornhil," in 1678 " price
bound, one shilling " ; and it tempts me to add
that if allegory had never been invented we should
have missed some of the naivest and most amusing
things we have. It is the absurd single metaphors
that stand out as comic in the seventeenth-century
" conceited " poets ; and the obscurer allegorical
writers, of course, forcing all their episodes and
lessons into one series of comparisons, produce
long strings of these preposterous things.



Mr. Balmford was a Bunyan manqul. Writing for
his sailors in nautical diction (much as obscurer
writers of prose tracts in our own day will symbolise
the soul's pilgrimage by some narrative of life on
the railway : collisions, danger-signals, and the
Heavenly Terminus) he was ingeniously exhaust-
ive, and every page of his book contains something
odd. The oddity begins before the text proper :
there is a commendatory poem by a lady friend
(described as " a gentlewoman, who was an intimate
friend of the author's "), which says, amongst other
things :

It is not common for the Female Kind
In Printed papers to expose their mind :

a sentence which certainly could not be written to-
day. There follows an address to the Courteous
Reader, which states that " the First Part of this
Book is an Introduction to the Art of Soul- Naviga-
tion, and ought to have been so Intituled " the
separate title-page having apparently been missed
out by the printer. We are then plunged straight on
to the high seas with :

A ship at sea that on the Waves is tost

In danger every moment to be lost

Is a true emblem of man's restless state :

a point that he proceeds to drive home, adequately,
to say the least, his outline being the thirty-two
points of the Spiritual Compass, by which the
Mariner, in this Ocean of Woe, must steer. Here
are some extracts :



Rouse up, rouse up, and ply my Pump, my soul.

A man may erre in faith in three respects,
All which produce most dangerous effects.

Hast thou a mind to Traffick for Salvation
Then learn the art of Sacred Navigation.

Some ply the Pump, and others stand to sound,
And all to keep themselves from being drowned.

In such a case a Saint that's in the world
Tost to and fro in such a fury hurl'd,
Is made Sea-sick, and nothing now is more
A Saint's desire than Heaven its happy shore.

So 'tis with Christians, Nature being weak,
While in this world, are liable to leak.

Presumption and Despair, on these two rocks
Whoever runs with violence and knocks,
If on the first of these his soul but hit
'Tis very seldom but the soul is split.

Satan that roaring Lyon goes about,

To shipwreck souls his work it is no doubt.

'Tis better go to heaven in foul weather,
Through many dangers, if thou getst but thither,
Than in a pleasant gale to swim to hell,
Where gentle winds do make th' canvas swell.



Our language, for we are a seafaring people, is full
of nautical idioms. Most of them come into Mr.
Balmford's poem, notably, " on the rocks." The
one I miss, and he had many opportunities of using
it, is " half-seas over."

Being " tost to and fro," getting into " foul
weather," and finally " splitting " on certain speci-
fied " rocks " are all of them very popular expres-
sions in current political slang, and nothing,
apparently, does a politician more harm with the
electorate than to take a line of action that can be
described in the terms of one or other of these meta-
phors. Scottish hecklers seem to make a special
study of them. But perhaps, the most familiar of all
is the idea of Heaven as a " happy shore," towards
which we struggle through the raging seas of life. I
should not care to say how often this metaphor
occurs in the hymns of the Salvation Army, but I
remember in particular one verse in which we are
advised to

Leave the poor old stranded wreck
And pull for the shore.

In the " life-boat," of course.


I DO not possess 15,100 ; that I wish I did is
irrelevant. Most people wish they did, and do
not. It is possible that Shakespeare, who was a
man not blind to the amenities of life, would have
liked 15,100. He did fairly well ; he was, if not
the C. B. Cochran of his day, at least one of its most
successful managers. He bought New Place and he
left Anne Hathaway his second-best bed, so that
(as the Shakespearean commentators say) " there
is little reason to doubt " that he had two. In his
quiet way, being a man of taste who liked old things
and read his bestiaries and books of venery as well
as his Plutarch and his Montaigne, he probably
collected books. He may have sometimes given as
much as eight or nine shillings for some chronicle
of wasted time produced by the fathers of printing
or the mediaeval monks. He may have heard of noble-
men and queens who had paid really large sums, if
not for books, at least for tooled and jewelled bind-
ings. But it cannot be supposed that he would have
been other than surprised had he known that a book
(or two books together) of his own would, three
hundred years after his death, fetch 15,100 at
auction, although its contents were everywhere
available for a shilling or two.

The mania I use the word in no derogatory
sense, for I share it for first editions is not more
than a century old. Men liked old books. Horace
Walpole liked them, Charles Lamb was known to
forego a new, and much needed, pair of breeches

113 I


for a folio ; many books fetched fair prices in the
days of " Anglo-Poetica " because they were un-
obtainable in reprints. Really big prices begin with
the Roxburgh sale, when magnificent specimens of
early printing drew the fashionable world to the
auction-rooms, and there was that contest between
a duke and an earl for a rare Boccaccio, which the
Rev. Thomas Dibdin described in phrases which
would have been something turgid if applied to a
mortal struggle of Homeric heroes. The first-edition
cult followed. Prices steadily rose. But it was not
until the last generation, when American buyers
stepped into the ring, that the competition for rarities
really became frenzied and prices prodigious. You
are now lucky if you get a first-class copy of Herrick's
" Hesperides " or Keats 's " Lamia " under 130,
and the prices paid for Shakespeare folios make the
sums which excited the world's wonder in the hey-
day of the Mazarin Bible look ridiculous. Unless he
makes a find, akin to the discovery of Anglo-Saxon
pennies in a furrow, the ordinary collector can no
more hope to possess a " Venus and Adonis " than
he can hope to become Grand Lama of Thibet.

I hear everywhere complaints about the monstrous
prices now prevailing. No book, it is alleged, can
really be worth 15,100 ; this is all a silly fashion.
That is not a tenable view. If a first edition may be
worth 100 it may be worth 10,000. To most of
us the purest rope of pearls, except as a negotiable
security, would not be worth 15,100. The Cullinan
diamond itself would not be ; in fact, one would
want to be paid very heavily even to wear it once as
a stud. At the back of this criticism which is also


heard when an enormous sum is given for a picture
by a great artist like Rembrandt or a second-rate
artist like Romney is, I suppose, the feeling that,
utility apart, the purchaser will not get as much
pleasure out of a book (of which the text, remember,
is obtainable elsewhere) as he would out of a similar
sum expended on something else modern books,
for instance, at 6s. apiece. But it should be remem-
bered that the persons who buy these rarities do
not starve to do it ; they have all the other pleasures
they want. Some of them are genuine collectors who
get the same sort of pleasure out of first editions
and out of rarities that is got by ordinary collectors
like ourselves who think twice before paying a pound
for a book : a few thousands mean no more to them
than a pound to us. Some are philanthropists who
desire like the late H. C. Frick who has just left
millions of pounds worth of pictures to New York
to leave great collections to public institutions.
Some are adventurous persons who collect as a
game, and go out to beat their neighbour in the
competition for rarities. And some are ostentatious
vulgarians who will do anything which excites
attention and envy. Millionaires, rich philanthropists,
rich romantics, and rich vulgarians are more
numerous and more opulent in the United States
of America than in any other country in the world.
Hence the huge prices for works in the English
tongue, and hence the constant stream of works of
art across the Atlantic.

We hear ordinary collectors lamenting and
protesting with sneers that prices are grotesque,
and that the people who buy these books do not



really appreciate them. They fail to observe that
amongst themselves inequalities of wealth produce
results precisely the same in kind. One man can go
to 5, another can go to 10 and does not hesitate
to do so. As there are only three copies of " The
Passionate Pilgrim " in the world, only three people
would be able to possess them, whatever the price :
and the selection of those three would be just as
arbitrary if it were determined by anything else
than wealth. What the man who collects and knows
literature intimately can do is something far more
amusing : namely, hunt for and purchase those rare
or good books (every year adds to their number) for
which hundreds of pounds are not yet being given
by pork-packers : anticipate the market, in fact, if
not from commercial motives. A poor book collector
can get as much amusement out of his pursuit to-
day as he could in any era, though the books he finds
will not be those that were found when Lamb used
to pick up Burton and the Dramatists in the mean
shops off the Strand. And as for the bitterness about
great rarities going to millionaires and to America, it
is surely unreasonable. The millionaires do not hoard
their books for long. They pass them rapidly on to
public libraries, and, meanwhile, their assiduity
and their opulence make it certain that copies of
very rare early books will be preserved which might
otherwise be lost. After all, if there are only a few
copies of a book where better could they be than in
public libraries, where everybody can see them and
they are open to the consultation of all scholars ?
And why should not some of them be in American
libraries ?


Whenever an expensive book (or picture) goes to
America there is always an outcry for the prohibition
of exports. The tumult is usually to be observed in
quarters not ordinarily conspicuous for a devotion
to literature, whether old or new, or for the slightest
acquaintance with the technique of collecting. Those
who make it are apparently far keener on making a
violent appeal to the emotions than they are on
thinking about the elements of the question. It may
be postulated that of every English book, and the
rarer or the greater the book the more essential this
is, there should be a copy in the British Museum,
and copies if possible in a few other great libraries.
They should be there both for sentimental reasons
and in order that British scholars should have access
to original texts. It is always (as Mr. Pollard has
recently said in an admirable article in The Observer)
regrettable when a " unique " copy of a book leaves
this country. But beyond this where is the hurt to
the national interest ? What does it matter whether
the twenty- fifth copy of a Shakespeare quarto is
stowed away, unread, behind the wire screen of
the Duke of Buckminster's library at Grooby, or
whether it adorns the marble halls of Mr. Ephraim
Seltzer, on Lake View Avenue, Chicago ? Surely,
not a bean. On the contrary, it is highly desirable
that the Americans should have a good share of
what are, after all, in large measure their own anti-
quities. It is often forgotten that the English language
and English traditions not to mention English
blood are not the exclusive property of the English
people. Shakespeare antedated even the Pilgrim
Fathers, and (though those particular Puritans



probably did not appreciate the fact) they had as
much of a vested interest in him as had their relatives
whom they left behind. The English tongue is the
tongue of Americans ; our literature is theirs ; our
first editions are theirs ; and at this date they have
already begun to take a fair place in our literary



ONE of the fattest and fullest of recent books
is Mr. J. W.T. Ley's " The Dickens Circle."
Mr. Ley has tabulated about a hundred of
Charles Dickens 's friends and, taking them indi-
vidually or in groups, brought together from
memoirs and letters a great pudding of information
about his hero's relations with them. I have enjoyed
the book. It is about a writer who, to my taste, could
be less easily spared than all subsequent novelists
put together. And it is the sort of book which
demonstrates what interesting literary works may
be produced by men who altogether lack the gift of

Mr. Ley resembles many compilers of literary
memoirs, and most " students of Dickens," in that
almost his sole literary gift is a mastery of the cliche" .
At the very outset, when one finds the sentence " If
it be true that the proper study of mankind is Man,
it is equally true that men most reveal themselves
in their relations with men," one knows that all the
other old sticks will parade across the scene. They
do, and one greets each with a cheer. " My diffi-
culty has been to decide what to omit," " Of the
books I have consulted, I could not possibly give a
complete list. Their name is Legion " : thus pro-
ceeds the preface. And the opening sentence of the
book proper is : " There is no surer test of a man's
character than to ask, ' Who are his friends ? ' "
Mr. Ley is the sort of devotee who continually refers
to Dickens as " Boz " ; on the strength of that



alone one could be certain that he would, when
occasion arose, remark, " Tis true, and pity 'tis,
'tis true " ; that he would say, " It must have been
a red-letter day for the obscure young newspaper
reporter on which he learned that his first book
was to be illustrated by the great George Cruik-
shank," and that he would speak of death as the
passage into the Great Beyond. And so he does. It
is as well to make this clear lest in recommending
this book to the leisured reader I be supposed to
imply that its author is another Walter Pater. But
though Mr. Ley is not an artist in words, it does not
matter. His labour has been mostly research, and its

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Online LibraryJohn Collings SquireEssays at large → online text (page 7 of 13)