« הקודםהמשך »
booksellers (as they ought to do, no doubt) or read. ing at home. The best time for bookselling, is when there is no kind of news stirring ; then many of those who for months would have done nothing but talk of war or peace, revolutions, and counter-revolutions, &c. &c., for want of other amusement will have recourse to books; so that I have often experienced that the report of a war, or the trial of a great man, or indeed any subject that attracts the public attention, has been some hundreds of pounds out of my pocket in a few weeks.
Before I conclude this letter, I cannot help observ, ing that the sale of books in general has increased prodigiously within the last twenty years. According to the best estimation I have been able to make, I suppose that more than four times the number of books are sold now than were sold twenty years since. The poorer sort of farmers, and even the poor country people in general, who before that period spent their winter evenings in relating stories of witches, ghosts, hobgoblins, &c., now shorten the winter nights by hearing their sons and daughters read tales, romances, &c.; and on entering their houses, you may see Tom Jones, Roderick Random, and other entertaining books, stuck up on their bacon racks, &c. If John goes to town with a load of hay, he is charged to be sure not to forget to bring home ‘Peregrine Pickle's Adventures ;' and when Dolly is sent to market to sell her eggs, she is commissioned to purchase, The History of Pamela Andrews. In short, all ranks and degrees now read. But the most rapid increase of the sale of books has been since the termination of the
A number of book-clubs are also formed in every part of England, where each member subscribes a certain sum quarterly to purchase books; in some of these clubs the books, after they have been read by all the subscribers, are sold among them to the highest bidders, and the money produced by such sale, is ex
pended in fresh purchases, by which prudent and judicious mode each member has it in his power to become possessed of the work of any particular author he may judge deserving a superior degree of attention; and the members at large enjoy the advantage of a continual succession of different publications, instead of being restricted to a repeated perusal of the same authors; which must have been the case with many, if so rational a plan had not been adopted.
I have been informed, that when circulating libraries were first opened, the booksellers were much alarmed, and their rapid increase added to their fears, and led them to think that the sale of books would be much diminished by such libraries. But experience has proved that the sale of books, so far from being diminished by them, has been greatly promoted, as from those repositories many thousand families have been cheaply supplied with books, by which the taste for reading has become much more general, and thousands of books are purchased every year by such as have first borrowed them at those libraries, and after reading, approving of them, become purchasers.
Circulating libraries have also greatly contributed towards the amusement and cultivation of the other sex; by far the greatest part of ladies have now a taste for books.
"-Learning, once the mau's exclusive pride,
Seems verging fast towards the female side." It is true that I do not, with Miss Mary Wolstonecraft, “ earnestly wish to see the distinction of sex confounded in society," not even with her exception, “unless where love animates the behaviour.” And yet I differ widely from those gentlemen who would pre. vent the ladies from acquiring a taste for books; and as yet I have never seen any solid reason advanced why ladies should not polish their understandings, and render themselves fit companions for men of
And I have often thought that one great
reason why some gentlemen spend all their leisure hours abroad, is, for want of rational companions at home; for, if a gentleman happens to marry a fine lady, as justly painted by Miss Wolstonecraft, or the square elbow family drudge, as drawn to the life by the same hand, I must confess that I see no great inducement that he has to desire the company of his wife, as she scarce can be called a rational companion, or one fit to be entrusted with the education of her children; and even Rousseau is obliged to acknowledge that it is a melancholy thing for a father of a family, who is fond of home, to be obliged to be always wrapped up in himself, and to have nobody about him to whom he can impart his sentiments.” Lord Lyttleton advises well in the two following lines :
“Do you, my fair, endeavour to possess
An elegance of mind, as well as dress.” I cannot help thinking that the reason why some of the eastern nations treat the ladies with such contempt, and look upon them in such a degrading point of view, is owing to their marrying them when mere children both as to age and understanding, which last being entirely neglected, they seldom are capable of rational conversation, and of course are neglected and despised. But this is not the case with English ladies; they now in general read, not only novels, although many of that class are excellent productions and tend to polish both the heart and head; but they also read the best books in the English language, and many read the best works in various languages; and there are some thousands of ladies who come to my shop, that know as well what books to chuse and are as well acquainted with works of taste and genius as any gentlemen in the kingdom, notwithstanding the sneer against novel-readers, &c.
“ The rights of women, says a female pen,
And since the sex at length has been inclin'd
NARES. I am sorry that doctor Gregory had some reason for giving the following advice to his daughters :-“If you happen (says he) to have any learning, keep it a profound secret, especially from the men, who generally look with a jealous and malignant eye on a woman of great parts." My God, what sort of men must these be, and what degrading ideas must they have of women! Butler, when he wrote this couplet, seems to have been one of that sort.
« The souls of women are so small,
REMAINS. A gentleman of my acquaintance lately rode fifty miles for the pleasure of seeing and conversing with a learned woman but very little known; her name is Elizabeth Ogilvie Benger. When very young she wrote a poem, entitled “The Female. She understands Latin, Greek, Italian, Spanish, and other languages, is well versed in various branches of arts and sciences. She is a tidewaiter's daughter, in or near Portsmouth. It seems she learned to read and write by picking up bits of paper in the street, with which she would retire to her garret.
" Why boast, O arrogant, imperious man,
To use the pow'rs assign'd her ? Active strength,
The Sunday-schools are spreading very fast in most parts of England, which will accelerate the diffusion of knowledge among the lower classes of the community, and in a very few years exceedingly increase the sale of books. Here permit me earnestly to call on every honest bookseller (I trust my call will not be in vain) as well as on every friend to the extension of knowledge, to unite (as you I am confident will) in a hearty Amen.
Let such as doubt whether the enlightening of the understandings of the lower orders of society, makes them happier, or be of any utility to a state, read the following lines (particularly the last twelve) by Dr Goldsmith, taken from his Traveller.
“ These are the charms to barren states assign'd,