페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

can carry on their own business much better than the best set of directors that ever existed; and not all the influence of their majesties of Leadenhall-street, nor the collective wisdom of the Board of Control to boot, would persuade me to the contrary. However, to set your heart at ease upon this point, and at the same time to let you into a great secret, the society have two plans on foot. First, they intend to sell their books by a steam-engine, which every body knows will do a hundred times as much work as can be done by hands; and in a little time it is expected, that when the public are accustomed to the diet, they will swallow the new article with the same avidity with which they now swallow any crude and insipid piece of confusion which passes current under the name of a tragedy or comedy, on the faith of a manager's word, just as they used to take a bank note and a shilling for a guinea, on the faith of the political Elliston of that day. But should this scheme fail, which is about as much as to say "should the sky fall," they have in reserve another, which consists in getting inserted into their act of incorporation a clause to compel every housekeeper to take of the company a certain number of books per annum, at the market price, "be the same more or less." This indeed offers such manifold advantages that I am only surprised that it was not made the main object of the prospectus. The directors of the company being naturally monied men, we have the best security for their religion and loyalty; and therefore inclusive for their critical acumen also. They will accordingly, as a matter of course, print no books which are not of the very purest purity as to "social order" and all that kind of thing. No doctrines which are hostile to any existing interest or vested right will by them be permitted to see the light, while the people, forced to lay out their money in the new market, will have no cash left to purchase the pernicious writings of a Byron or a Bentham. This will not only save the Government a mint in the payment of laureates, but will cut off the whole expense of orthodox reviews at present in action, to teach the people to see things in a proper light. The profits of the concern will of course be proportionate to the powers conceded by Parliament; and I have no doubt that if this part of the scheme be carried into execution, it will "work so well," that even the emperors of Austria and Russia will become suitors to the company for the establishment of a branch association, for the exclusive benefit of their respective dominions.

But the main purpose of this letter is not so much to apologise for this "authors' friends society," which most assuredly can take good care of itself, as to propose to your readers a subsidiary, auxiliary, supplementary association, which appears to me no less useful, necessary, and lucrative, than the parent scheme: I mean a joint stock company for binding books. There are few genuine lovers of books who will not allow that the binding constitutes a large portion of the value of a work: a true bibliomaniac, which is quite the same thing as a man of sense, is always prepared to give more for an uncut volume, than for one which is at once accessible to perusal,—a sure proof that the outside of a book is the most important part about it. But not to speak merely of the select few, book-buyers in general take little trouble in reading what they purchase, and are more solicitous about

the "cut of a book's jib," as it stands on their shelves, than about the intrinsic worth of the volume itself. Now, touching the matter of book-binding, the ordinary tradesmen perform their duties to the public in a very inadequate and unsatisfactory manner. To omit other particulars, it is notorious that they work merely for show, and by no means suit their bindings to any scale of moral fitness or allusive propriety-an essential desideratum in the art. But if the process were placed under the supervision of a board of directors, it would be easy to have our volumes so put together as to form a complete course of criticism, and to exhibit a sort of abridged table of contents consultable without removing the volume from the shelf. Thus, for example, the memoirs of "La belle Harriette," and such other loose publications, might be so carelessly stitched as to exhibit in the irregularity of their leaves a type of the disorderly nature of their subject-matter. Royal and noble authors might be rendered cognizable by extra gilding; orthodox divinity might be cut with a square and compass; while sectarian heresies might demonstrate by the inequality of their angles, the falsehood of the doctrines they teach. Books of rarity and unpurchas able curiosity, being ordinarily valued in proportion to their inaccessibility to the vulgar, might be so bound as not to open at all. Medical works might be indicated by steeping the leather of their bindings in assa fœtida; law books, as at present, by their sheep-skin coverings, so allusive to the condition of the client. Illustrated works should alone be conspicuous in party-coloured fancy bindings. Libels and seditious works, and in general all writings calculated to disturb existing establishments, by advancing civilization and benefiting the condition of man, might be tooled with a gibbet or a faggot on their backs; while works of a sober and proper nature, might be marked by a crown and Bible, thus superseding the necessity for an "index expurgatorius." The effusions of the saints, lay and clerical, should be dressed in a plain, Quaker-like binding; and instead of boards, might have their covers made of sole* leather; military books might be bound in russia, in compliment to the greatest military power of Europe; and the writings of French ultras, in morocco, to indicate the attachment of the party to a pure system of Moorish despotism.

These advantages can never be obtained while binding is entrusted to the passions, the interests, and the caprices of insulated tradesmen ; and this is the great reason for which I propose the formation of a loyal joint stock company. Finally, it is quite evident that all the benefits proposed to be derived from a joint stock printing company, are equally to be expected from a joint stock binding company. No one knows the number of poor neglected authors, who, having achieved printing, can never arrive at the honours of being, what a grave professor is in the habit of terming, well constipated, but are daily sent to the trunkmakers, the pastry-cooks, and the other dealers in quicquid chartis amicitur ineptis, for the want of a stout pair of boards and a few inches of calf-skin. All these cry aloud for relief: and if it be desirable that bad books should be printed, it is equally desirable that they should be handsomely bound. Nay, a well-bound book will "become a shelf”

Query, "soul leather." See Merchant of Venice.-Printer's Devil.

*

as well as better volumes, and is always worth something; while a loose dog's-eared volume is of no use to "man or baste," being good for nothing on the "floor of God's creation," as Paddy has it. If "early genius" stand in need of incorporated assistance, to wing its airy flight, the printing society by itself is but one wing; and the most promising volatile never was able to soar without the aid of two. But if my project be adopted, I do not despair of seeing" merry England" a complete nation of rising geniuses, and of viewing the whole population on the wing like the people of Peter Wilkin's island; so that Diogenes would have more difficulty in finding amongst us a 66 virgin muse" than a man. So I beg you will take this into serious consideration, if you have any regard for your attached admirer and friend M.

OLD PAGES AND OLD TIMES. NO. IV.

WHATEVER may have been the increase in the salary of our civic chief magistrate, or the aggrandizement of the City over which he presides, certain it is, that the glories of his state establishment have for many years been lamentably on the wane. The City-laureate, whose duty it was to sing the splendours of the Lord Mayor's show, has been long suppressed:-the City fool had already preceded him in abolition, though the duties continue to be divided among the court of aldermen : the kennel and the great hunting establishment in Finsbury would be forgotten, but that their memory is preserved in the name of the sole remaining officer-Mr. Common Hunt :-and the annual show itself has dwindled to a sorry tattered remnant of former magnificence. Within these few years, we remember to have seen stout wooden booths, forming a double row down the middle of Cheapside, within which sate the common councilmen smoking their pipes, with their wives and daughters beside them, and the procession moving along in slow pomp before them. But alas!

"The glories of our civic state

Are shadows, not substantial things :"

the booths and the greater part of the procession have passed away, leaving no more traces behind them, than the smoke of the pipes when it mingled with the air. The City Waits would be hardly known to linger out their declining days, but for their annual application for Christmas boxes, an appeal which few perhaps would resist, if, like the writer of this article, they had been repeatedly awakened from their dreams in the dead silence of night by the melodious swellings of music, confounding their waking impressions with the wild visions of sleep, as if under the influence of some dulcet enchantment. Youthful reveries of lover's serenades, the midnight hour, the season hallowed by religion, all combined to render the visit of these invisible musicians inexpressibly delightful to the mind of the writer. Had the mystery been dissolved by his seeing them, the charm would probably have been broken; for they are no longer "the topping tooters of the town," nor

do they present themselves in uniform, or boast the gowns, silver chains, and salaries, which by the following extract from an old periodical, they appear to have enjoyed at the latter end of the century before the last.

"We blundered on in pursuit of our night's felicity, but scarce had walked the length of a horse's tedder, e'er we heard a noise so dreadful and surprising, that we thought the devil was riding a hunting through the City, with a pack of deepmouthed hell-hounds to catch a brace of tally-men for breakfast. At last bolted out from the corner of a street, with an Ignis Fatuus dancing before them, a parcel of strange hobgoblins, covered with long frize rugs and blankets, hooped round with leather girdles from their croopers to their shoulders; and their noddles buttoned up into the caps of martial figure, like a Night Ercant at tilt and turnament, with his wooden head lockt into an iron helmet: one armed, as I thought, with a lusty faggot-bat, and the rest with strange wooden weapons in their hands. Of a suddain they clap'd them to their mouths, and made such a frightful yelling that I thought the world had been dissolving. Under these amazing apprehensions, I asked my friend, what was the meaning of this infernal outcry. Why these,' says he, are the City Waites who play every winter's night through the streets. These are the topping tooters of the town, and have gowns, silver chains, and sallaries for playing Lilly Burlera to my Lord Mayor's horse through the City.'. 'Marry,' said I, if his horse liked their music no better than I do, he would soon fling his rider for hiring such bug-bears to affront his ambleship.""

Such of our readers as are in the habit of recreating themselves or their children with the pantomimic humours of Sadler's Wells, may contrast its present with its former state, when it was merely an eating house, where the guests were entertained with organs and fiddles. following is extracted from an old pamphlet entitled

The

"A walk to Islington, with a description of New Tunbridge Wells, and Sadler's Musica House. London, printed in the year 1699.

"Being surfeited now with this dull recreation,
Our fancies inclined to some petty collation,
Of cheesecakes and custards, and pigeon-pie puff,
With bottle ale, cyder, and such sort of stuff.-
Thus being resolved, I consulted my dear,
And ask'd if she knew any place that was near,
Would yield us some pastime, as well as good cheer;
Who after a little debate made a bargain
To turn into Sadler's for the sake of the organ,
The kind part of females being always advancing
(For pleasure) the int'rest of musick and dancing.-

We enter'd the house, were conducted up-stairs,
Where lovers o'er cheesecakes were seated by pairs.
The organs and fiddles were scraping and humming,
The guests for more ale on the table were drumming,
And poor Tom, amaz'd, crying coming, Sirs, coming;-
Whilst others, ill-bred, lolling over their mugs,

While laughing and toying with their Joans and their jugs,
Disdain'd to be slaves to perfection of graces,

Sat puffing tobacco in their mistress's faces."

When the meanest of the King's subjects may travel to Windsor as fast as himself, galloping through the once formidable defile of Slough, without other evidence of its former bad ways, than what is retained in its name; when the citizen who leaves town in an opposite direction, may take a comfortable nap as he lolls towards Stratford in his sleek

vehicle, neither of them would easily credit the sufferings endured by our ancestors, when they desperately braved the perils of a similar undertaking. We know that Queen Elizabeth often stuck fast in the mud upon her different progresses in the country; but that we may be fully aware how much we ought to thank heaven for Macadamised roads and well-poised stages, we should pursue the following account of a trip from Stratford to London so late as the time of King William.

"When our Stratford Tub, by the assistance of its carrionly tits of different colours, had out-run the smoothness of the road, and entered upon London stones, with as frightful a rumbling as an empty hay cart, our leathern conveniency being bound in the braces to its good behaviour, had no more sway than a funeral Hers, or a country waggon, that we were jumbled about like so many peas in a child's rattle, running at every kennel jolt a great hazard of dislocation. This we endured till we were brought within White Chappel Bars, where we lighted from our stubborn caravan, with our elbows and shoulders as black and blew as a rural Joan that had been under the pinches of an angry fairy. Our weary limbs being rather more tired than refreshed by the thumps and tosses of our ill-contrived engine, as unfit to move upon a rugged pavement, as a gouty sinner is to hault o'er London Bridge with his boots on. For my part,' said I, if this be the pleasure of riding in a coach thro' London streets, may those that like it enjoy it, for it has so loosened my joints in so short a passage that I shall scarce recover my former strength this fortnight; and indeed of the two, I would rather chuse to cry mous-traps for a livelyhood, than be obliged every day to be drag'd about town under such uneasiness; and if the Quality's coaches are as troublesome as this, I would not be bound to do their penance for their estates.' 'You must consider,' says my friend, 'you have not the right knack of humouring the coaches inotion, for there is as much art in sitting a coach finely, as there is in riding the great horse; and many a younger brother has got a good fortune by his graceful lolling in his chariot, and his genteel stepping in and out, when he pays a visit to her ladyship. There are a great many such qualifications among our true French-bred gentlemen, besides the smooth dancing of a minuet, the making of a love song, the neat carving up a fowl, or the thin paring of an apple.'"

Old plays and novels have ennobled the Mall and St. James's Park with such pleasant associations, that in spite of its dismantled and sombre appearance, its neglected decaying trees, its time-worn broken benches, and melancholy looking stagnant canal, we can find in its forlorn walks more food for pleasant thought than in the greener and more fashionable promenades of its rival parks. Charles the Second, as Colley Cibber tells us in his Apology-" even in his indolent amusement of playing with his dogs and feeding ducks in St. James's Park, which I have seen him do, made the common people adore him, and consequently overlook in him what in a prince of a different temper they might have been out of humour at." Upon this spot formerly stood Duck Island, which was erected into a sort of jurisdiction, that it might afford a handsome revenue to M. de St. Evremond; and the place where numerous birds were suspended from the trees in cages, is still known by the name of the Bird-cage Walk. In reading the following description of sylvan scenery, embellished with the meanders of a "fluminous labyrinth," it is difficult to persuade ourselves that the writer has fallen into such a pastoral enthusiasm in delineating the beauties of St. James's Park.

"From thence we walked up to a canal where ducks were frisking about,
VOL. IX. No. 54.-1825.
75

[ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »