If you love art, folly, or the bright eyes of children, speed to Pollock's, or to Clarke's of Garrick Street. In Pollock's list of publicanda I perceive a pair of my ancient aspirations: WRECK ASHORE and SIXTEEN-STRING JACK; and I cherish the belief that when these shall see once more the light of day, B. Pollock will remember this apologist. But, indeed, I have a dream at times that is not all a dream. I seem to myself to wander in a ghostly street - E. W., I think, the postal district - close below the fool's-cap of St. Paul's, and yet within easy hearing of the echo of the Abbey bridge. There in a dim shop, low in the roof and smelling strong of glue and footlights, I find myself in quaking treaty with great Skelt himself, the aboriginal all dusty from the tomb. I buy, with what a choking heart - I buy them all, all but the pantomimes; I pay my mental money, and go forth; and lo! the packets are dust.
CHAPTER XIV. A GOSSIP ON A NOVEL OF DUMAS'S
THE books that we re-read the oftenest are not always those that we admire the most; we choose and we re-visit them for many and various reasons, as we choose and revisit human friends. One or two of Scott's novels, Shakespeare, Moliere, Montaigne, THE EGOIST, and the VICOMTE DE BRAGELONNE, form the inner circle of my intimates. Behind these comes a good troop of dear acquaintances; THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS in the front rank, THE BIBLE IN SPAIN not far behind. There are besides a certain number that look at me with reproach as I pass them by on my shelves: books that I once thumbed and studied: houses which were once like home to me, but where I now rarely visit. I am on these sad terms (and blush to confess it) with Wordsworth, Horace, Burns and Hazlitt. Last of all, there is the class of book that has its hour of brilliancy - glows, sings, charms, and then fades again into insignificance until the fit return. Chief of those who thus smile and frown on me by turns, I must name Virgil and Herrick, who, were they but
"Their sometime selves the same throughout the year,"
must have stood in the first company with the six names of my continual literary intimates. To these six, incongruous as they seem, I have long been faithful, and hope to be faithful to the day of death. I have never read the whole of Montaigne, but I do not like to be long without reading some of him, and my delight in what I do read never lessens. Of Shakespeare I have read all but RICHARD III, HENRY VI., TITUS ANDRONICAS, and ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL; and these, having already made all suitable endeavour, I now know that I shall never read - to make up for which unfaithfulness I could read much of the rest for ever. Of Moliere - surely the next greatest name of Christendom - I could tell a very similar story; but in a little corner of a little essay these princes are too much out of place, and I prefer to pay my fealty and pass on. How often I have read GUY MANNERING, ROB ROY, OR REDGAUNTLET, I have no means of guessing, having begun young. But it is either four or five times that I have read THE EGOIST, and either five or six that I have read the VICOMTE DE BRAGELONNE.
Some, who would accept the others, may wonder that I should have spent so much of this brief life of ours over a work so little famous as the last. And, indeed, I am surprised myself; not at my own devotion, but the coldness of the world. My acquaintance with the VICOMTE began, somewhat indirectly, in the year of grace 1863, when I had the advantage of studying certain illustrated dessert plates in a hotel at Nice. The name of d'Artagnan in the legends I already saluted like an old friend, for I had met it the year before in a work of Miss Yonge's. My first perusal was in one of those pirated editions that swarmed at that time out of Brussels, and ran to such a troop of neat and dwarfish volumes. I understood but little of the merits of the book; my strongest memory is of the execution of d'Eymeric and Lyodot - a strange testimony to the dulness of a boy, who could enjoy the rough-and-tumble in the Place de Greve, and forget d'Artagnan's visits to the two financiers.