« הקודםהמשך »
most faithful companions and friends, of which we never are cloyed.
• What heartfelt bliss! what pleasure-winged hours !
DR S. DAVIES.
I am, dear friend, yours.
" This is a traveller, sir; knows men and manners; and has ploughed up sea so far, till both the poles have knocked ; has seen the sun take coach, and can distinguish the colour of his horses, and their kinds, and had a Flanders mare leaped there."
Beaumont and Fletcher's Scornful Lady. DEAR FRIEND, AMONGST the variety of occurrences with which I have endeavoured to entertain you, perhaps not all equally interesting, (and the most material of them, I am duly sensible, not entitling me to the claim of being esteemed a writer possessed of the very first abilities this age or nation has produced,) I recollect my not yet having given you an account of my principal travels. Possibly you might very readily pardon that omission, as from what has already appeared, it must be evident the engagements which from time to time have fully engrossed my attention, have not furnished me with an oppportunity of making the tour of Europe, or tracing the source of the river Nile, much less circumnavigating the globe. And even supposing I had been possessed both of the time and inclination for such extensive undertakings, the disadvantages which I labour under for want of having received a proper education would have disqualified me from making such remarks and observations as naturally present themselves to those who have been fortunate enough to possess that advantage, and of course are qualified to present the world with a variety of subjects equally curious and instructive: though it is not without reluctance, I think it necessary here to observe, that some of these gentlemen, not content with giving a true account of what actually occurred to them, and supposing that plain matter of fact would not be sufficiently interesting to excite that superior degree of attention and admiration which they were ambitious as authors to acquire, they have thought proper to intermix so much of the marvellous into their narrations, as has been the occasion of many persons reading them with such diffidence as to doubt the truth of many relations, which though really strictly consistent with veracity, yet being novel and uncommon, they were unwilling to credit, lest they should incur, the censure of being possessed of a superior degree of weakness and credulity. This I am also confident has induced many a modest author to omit passages, which, though really true, he was cautious of publishing, from a fear of being subjected to the same severe animadversions, ..or what is still worse, being suspected of wilfully im
posing on his readers. Recent instances of which, were it necessary, I could adduce; but I shall proceed with cautioning you from being alarmed lest I should fall into either of these errors; nothing very marvellous will occur in what I mean to present you with, though I shall not be intimidated from relating real facts, from the apprehension of not being credited. As an additional recommendation, (no doubt,) the history of my travels will be interspersed with such remarks on men and manners as have presented themselves to me during my peregrinations; and this I previously warn you will be done in my tomed desultory manner,” from which, as Mr Pennant says in his History of London, “ I am too old to depart,” that is, as Dr Johnson might possibly have explained it; Sir, you are then too old to mend.” But you, my dear friend, are not so fastidious a critic: although you may find the whole very dull, it shall not be very long ; so that if it does not act as a cordial to enliven your spirits, it may (if read in the evening) prove a powerful narcotic, and afford you some pleasing dreams, when
“ Tir'd nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep,
His ready visit pays." I shall therefore not trouble you with a detail of bad roads, the impositions of innkeepers, what food I partook of, how many bottles of wine were drank, the height of steeples, &c.; a sufficiency of this, I trust, has already appeared in different writers. Thus much by way of preparation for my journies. I now set out.
In September 1787, I set off for Edinburgh; and in all the principal towns through which I passed, was led from a motive of curiosity, as well as with a view towards obtaining some valuable purchases, to examine the booksellers' shops for scarce and valuable books; but although I went by the way of York, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, &c., and returned through Glasgow, Carlisle, Leeds, Lancaster, Preston, Manchester, and other considerable places, I was much surprised, as well as disappointed, at meeting with very few of the works of the most esteemed authors; and those few consisted in general of ordinary editions, besides an assemblage of common trifling books, bound in sheep, and that too in a very bad manner. It is true, at York and Leeds there were a few (and but very few) good books; but in all the other towns between London and Edinburgh nothing but trash was to be found; in the latter city indeed a few capital articles are kept, but in no other part of Scotland.
In 1790 I repeated my journey, and was much mortified to be under a necessity of confirming my former observations. This remarkable deficiency is the article of books is however not peculiar to the northern parts of England; as I have repeatedly travelled into the western parts, and found abundant cause for dissatisfaction on the same account, so that I may venture without fear of contradiction to assert, that London, as in all other articles of commerce, is likewise the grand emporium of Great Britain for books, engrossing nearly the whole of what is valuable in that very extensive, beneficial, and I may
add lucrative, branch of trade. As to Ireland I shall only observe, that if the booksellers in that part of the empire do not shine in the possession of valuable books, they must certainly be allowed to possess superior industry in reprinting the works of every English author of merit as soon as published, and very liberally endeavouring to disseminate them, in a surreptitious manner, through every part of our island, though the attempt now generally proves abortive, to the great loss and injury of the ingenious projectors.
At Newcastle, I passed a day or two in the year 1787, where I was much delighted with viewing a singular phenomenon in natural history, namely, the celebrated crow's nest affixed above the weathercock, on the upper extremity of the exchange, in the market-place. In the year 1783, as I was well informed, the crows first built this curious nest, and succeeded in hatching and rearing their young. In the following year they attempted to rebuild it : but a contest ensuing among some of the sable fraternity, after a fierce engagement they were obliged to relinquish it, and the nest was demolished by the victorious party before it was finished. This bad success however did not deter the original builders and possessors from returning in the year 1785, when they took quiet possession of their freehold, rebuilt the premises, and reared another family. This they repeated the three following years with equal success, and when I was there in the year 1790 much of the nest remained, but the crows had forsaken it. The above occurrence, though to many it may appear incredible, is an undoubted fact. That crows should come into the centre of a populous town to build their nests is of 'self remarkable, but much more so that they should prefer a weathercock to any other situation, where the whole family and their habitation turned round with every puff of wind, though they