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Felix ille animi, divisque simillimus ipsis,
HAPPILY for Daniel, he lived before the age of Magazines, Reviews, Cyclopædias, Elegant Extracts and Literary Newspapers, so that he gathered the fruit of knowledge for himself, instead of receiving it from the dirty fingers of a retail vender. His books were few in number, but they were all weighty either in matter or in size. They consisted of the Morte d'Arthur in the fine black-letter edition of Copeland ; Plutarch’s Morals and Pliny's Natural History, two goodly folios, full as an egg of meat, and both translated by that old worthy Philemon, who for the service which he rendered to his contemporaries and to his countrymen deserves to be called the best of the Hollands, without disparaging either the Lord or the Doctor of that appellation. The whole works of Joshua Sylvester (whose name, let me tell thee reader in passing, was accented upon the first syllable by his contemporaries, not as now upon the second);Jean Petit's History of the Netherlands, translated and continued by Edward Grimeston, another worthy of the Philemon order; Sir Kenelm Digby's Discourses; Stowe's Chronicle; Joshua Barnes's Life of Edward III.; "Ripley Revived by Eirenæus Philalethes, an Englishman styling himself Citizen of the World,” with its mysterious frontispiece representing the Domus Naturæ, to which, Nil deest, nisi clavis : the Pilgrim's Progress; two volumes of Ozell's translation of Rabelais; Latimer's Sermons; and the
last volume of Fox's Martyrs, which latter book had been brought him by his wife. The Pilgrim's Progress was a godmother's present to his son: the odd volumes of Rabelais he had picked up at Kendal at a sale, in a lot with Ripley Revived and Plutarch's Morals: the others he had inherited.
Daniel had looked into all these books, read most of them, and believed all that he read except Rabelais, which he could not tell what to make of. He was not however one of those persons who complacently suppose every thing to be nonsense, which they do not perfectly comprehend, or flatter themselves that they do. His simple heart judged of books by what they ought to be, little knowing what they are. It never occurred to him that any thing would be printed which was not worth printing, any thing which did not convey
either reasonable delight or useful instruction, and he was no more disposed to doubt the truth of what he read, than to question the veracity of his neighbour,or any one who had no interest in deceiving him. A book carried with it to him authority in its very aspect. The
Morte d'Arthur therefore he received for authentic history, just as he did the painful chronicle of honest John Stowe, and the Barnesian labours of Joshua the self-satisfied : there was nothing in it indeed which stirred his English blood like the battles of Cressy and Poictiers and Najara; yet on the whole he preferred it to Barnes's story, believed in Sir Tor, Sir Tristram, Sir Lancelot, and Sir Lamorack as entirely as in Sir John Chandos, the Captal de Buche and the Black Prince, and liked them better.
Latimer and Du Bartas he used sometimes to read aloud on Sundays; and if the departed take cognizance of what passes on earth, and poets derive any satisfaction from that posthumous applause which is generally the only reward of those who deserve it,Sylvester might have found some compensation for the undeserved neglect into which his works had sunk, by the full and devout delight which his rattling rhymes and quaint collocations afforded to this reader. The silver-tongued Sylvester however was reserved for a Sabbath book; as a week-day author Daniel preferred Pliny, for the same reason that
bread and cheese, or a rasher of hung mutton contented his palate better than a syllabub. He frequently regretted that so knowing a writer had never seen or heard of Wethercote and Yordas caves; the ebbing and flowing spring at Giggleswick, Malham Cove, and Gordale Scar, that he might have described them among the wonders of the world. Omne ignotum pro magnifico is a maxim which will not in all cases hold good. There are things which we do not undervalue because we are familiar with them, but which are admired the more the more thoroughly they are known and understood; it is thus with the grand objects of nature and the finest works of art,—with whatsoever is truly great and excellent. Daniel was not deficient in imagination; but no description of places which he had never seen, however exaggerated (as such things always are) impressed him so strongly as these objects in his own neighbourhood, which he had known from childhood. Three or four times in his life it had happened that strangers with a curiosity as uncommon in that age as it is general in this, came from afar to