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- Honest Englishmen, who never were abroad,
Man of Taste.
POMFRET. Dear FRIEND, It has been long since remarked, that a person may be well acquainted with books, or, in other words, may be a very learned man, and yet remain almost totally ignorant of inen and manners, as Mallet remarks of a famous divine :
“While Bentley, long to wrangling schools confin'd,
Tho' no judge decide.”
VERBAL CRITICISM. Hence many
fine chimerical systems of law, government, &c. have been spun out of the prolific brains of the learned, which have only served to amuse others as learned and as unacquainted with mankind as the authors, and have frequently produced a number of remarks, replies, observations, severe (not to say scurrilous) criticisms, and new systems and hypotheses; these again gave birth to fresh remarks, rejoinders, &c. ad—infinitum.
These learned men,
after tiring themselves and the public, have generally left them just as wise on the subject as when they began, nay, often
“ From the same hand how various is the page ;
Tracts battle tracts, self-contradictions glare.”—Young. The reading and studying of history, voyages, travels, &c. will no doubt contribute much to that kind of knowledge, but will not alone be sufficient, in order to become a proficient in that useful branch of knowledge. “ MAN, KNOW THYSELF!” was a precept of the ancient philosophers. But I can scarce think it possible for any man to be well acquainted with himself, without his possessing a tolerable degree of knowledge of the rest of mankind. In the former part of my life I saw a deal of what is called low life, and became acquainted with the customs, manners, dispositions, prejudices, &c. of the labouring part of the community, in various cities, towns, and villages ; for years past I have spent some of my leisure hours among that class of people who are called opulent or genteel tradesmen; nor have I been totally excluded from higher circles. The middle station of life (says Hume) is the most favourable to the acquiring of wisdom and ability, as well as of virtue, and a man so fortunate has a better chance of attaining a knowledge both of men and things, than those of a more elevated station. He enters with more familiarity into human life; everything appears in its natural colours before him; he has more leisure to form observations, and has besides the motive of ambition to push him on in his attainments, being certain that he can never rise to any distinction, or eminence in the world, without his own industry.
But among all the schools where the knowledge of mankind is to be acquired, I know of none equal to that of a bookseller's shop. A bookseller who has any
& in literature, may be said to feed his mind as
cooks' and butchers' wives get fat by the smell of meat. If the master is of an inquisitive and communicative turn, and is in a considerable line of business, his shop will then be a place of resort for men, women, and children, of various nations, and of more various capacities, dispositions, &c.
“ Who there but wishes to prolong his stay,
And on those cases cast a ling'ring look ;
Neglects to hold short dalliance with a book.
Novels Lord Fopling and Sir Plume require,
And sense and nature Grandison desire."
To adduce a few instances by way of illustration :Here you may find an old bawd inquiring for • The Countess of Huntingdon's Hymn-bouk ;' an old worn-out rake for • Harris's List of Covent-garden Ladies ;' simple Simon, for The Art of Writing Love-letters ;' and Dolly for a Dream-book; the lady of true taste and delicacy wants 'Louisa Mathews; ' and my lady's maid, “ (vid's Art of Love ;' a doubting Christian calls for “The Crumbs of Comfort;' and a practical Antinomian for • Eton's Honeycomb of Free Justification ;' the pious churchwoman for • The Week's Preparation; and the Atheist for * Hammond's Letter to Dr Priestly,'' Toulmin's Eternity of the World,' and ` Hume's Dialogues on Natural Religion ;' the mathematician for Sanderson's Fluxions ;' and the beau, for · The Toilet of Flora ;' the courtier, for 'Macchiavel's Prince,' or 'Burke on the Revolution in France ;' and a republican for • Paine's Rights of Man;' the tap-room politician wants The History of Wat Tyler, or of The Fisherman of Naples ;' and an old Chelsea pensioner calls for "The History of the Wars of glorious Queen Anne;' the critic calls for • Bayle's Historical Dictionary,' 'Blair's Lectures,' Johnson's Lives of the
Poets, and the last month's reviews; and my barber wants the Sessions Paper,' or the 'Trial of John the Painter;' the freethinker asks for · Hume's Essays;' and the young student for 'Leland's View of Deistical Writers; the fortuneteller wants 'Sibley's Translation of Placidus de Titus,' or 'Sanderson's Secrets of Palmistry;' and the sceptic wants · Cornelius Agrippa's Vanity of the Arts and Sciences;' an old hardened sinner wants
Bunyan's Good News for the vilest of Men;' and a moral Christian wants . The Whole Duty of Man ;' the Roman Catholic wants · The Lives of the Saints ;' the Protestant wants · Fox's Book of Martyrs;' one asks for An Account of Animal Magnetism ;' another for “The Victorious Philosopher's Stone discovered;' one wants the 'Death of Abel;' another desires, to have · The Spanish Rogue;' one wants an Ecclesiastical History, another, The Tyburn Chronicle;' one wants Johnson's Lives of the Highwaymen;' another wants "Gibbon's Lives of Pious Women ;' Miss W -h calls for 'Euclid in Greek ;' and a young divine for · Juliet Grenville, a novel ;' and the philosopher dips into everything.
But it would be an endless task to set down the various and opposite articles that are constantly called for in my shop. To talk to these different pursuers after happiness, or amusement, has given me much pleasure, and afforded me some knowledge of mankind, and also of books; and to hear the debates that frequently occur between the different purchasers is a fine amusement; so that I have sometimes compared my shop to a stage. And I assure you that a variety of characters, strongly marked, constantly made their appearance.
“ Ye who push'd on by noble ardour aim
How zeal in Pricus nothing more thanheats,
Essay on CONVERSATION.
Would my health permit my constant attendance, I should prefer it to everything in life (reading ex. cepted) and you may recollect that for some years I sought no other amusement whatever. It was at a bookseller's shop at Athens, that Zeno, after his great loss by shipwreck, found consolation in reading Xenophon : there he soon forgot his loss. Where (says he to the bookseller) do these sort of men live? The philosopher Crates was at the door, whom Zeno fol. lowed, and from that hour became his disciple.
Having been long habituated to make remarks on whatever
I saw or heard, is another reason why I have succeeded so well in my business. I have for the last seven years successively told my acquaintances before the year began, how much money I should take in the course of it, without once failing of taking the sum mentioned. I formed my judgment by observing what kind of stock in trade í had in hand, and by considering how that stock was adapted to the different tastes and pursuits of the times; in doing this I was obliged to be pretty well informed of the state of politics in Europe, as I have always found that bookselling is much affected by the political state of affairs. For as mankind are in search of amusement, they often embrace the first that offers ; so that if there is anything in the newspapers of consequence, that draws many to the coffee-house, where they chat away the evenings, instead of visiting the shops of