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MISS EDGEWORTH's lines express her estimation of the gem she has the happiness to own. That lady allowed a few casts from it in bronze, and a gentleman who possesses one, and who favours the "Table Book" with his approbation, permits its use for a frontispiece to this volume. The engraving will not be questioned as a decoration, and it has some claim to be regarded as an elegant illustration of a miscellany which draws largely on art and literature, and on nature itself, towards its supply.
"I delight," says Petrarch, "in my pic tures. I take great pleasure also in images; they come in show more near unto nature than pictures, for they do but appear; but these are felt to be substantial, and their bodies are more durable. Amongst the Grecians the art of painting was esteemed above all handycrafts, and the chief of all the liberal arts. How great the dignity hath been of statues; and how fervently the study and desire of men have reposed in such pleasures, emperors and kings, and other noble personages, nay, even persons of inferior degree, have shown, in their industrious keeping of them when obtained." Insisting on the golden mean, as a rule of happiness, he says, "I possess an amazing collection of books, for attaining this, and every virtue great my delight in beholding such a treasure." He slights persons who collect books" for the pleasure of boasting they have them; who furnish their chambers with what was invented to furnish their minds; and use them no otherwise than they do their Corinthian tables, or their painted tables and images, to look at." He contemns others who esteem not the true value of books, but the price at which they may sell them-" a new practice" (observe it is Petrarch that speaks) "crept in among the rich, whereby they may attain one art more of unruly desire." He repeats, with rivetting force, "I have great plenty of books: where such scarcity has been lamented, this is no small possession: I have an inestimable many of books!" He was a diligent collector, and a liberal imparter of these treasures. He correspouded with Richard de Bury, illus trious prelate of our own country. eminent for his love of learning and learned men,
and sent many precious volumes to England to enrich the bishop's magnificent library. He vividly remarks, "I delight passionately in my books;" and yet he who had accumulated them largely, estimated them rightly: he has a saying of books worthy of himself—“ a wise man seeketh not quantity but sufficiency."
Petrarch loved the quiet scenes of nature, and these can scarcely be observed from a carriage or while riding, and are never enjoyed but on foot; and to me-on whom that discovery was imposed, and who am sometimes restrained from country walks, by necessity-it was no small pleasure, when I read a passage in his "View of Human Nature," which persuaded me of his fondness for the exercise: "A journey on foot hath most pleasant commodities; a man may go at his pleasure; none shall stay him, none shall carry him beyond his wish; none shall trouble him; he hath but one labour, the labour of nature-to go."
In "The Indicator" there is a paper of peculiar beauty, by Mr. Leigh Hunt," on receiving a sprig of myrtle from Vaucluse," with a paragraph suitable to this occasion: "We are supposing that all our readers are acquainted with Petrarch. Many of them doubtless know him intimately. Should any of them want an introduct in to him, how should we speak of him in the gross? We should say, that he was one of the finest gentlemen and greatest scholars that ever lived; that he was a writer who flourished in Italy in the fourteenth century, at the time when Chaucer was young, during the reigns of our Edwards; that he was the greatest light of his age; that although so fine a writer himself, and the author of a multitude of works, or rather because he was both, he took the greatest pains to revive the knowledge of the ancient learning, recommending it every where, and copying out large manuscripts with his own hand; that two great cities, Paris and Rome, contended which should have the honour of crowning him; that he was crowned publicly, in the metropolis of the world, with laurel and with myrtle; that he was the friend of Boccaccio the father of Italian prose; and lastly, that his
greatest renown nevertheless, as well as the predominant feelings of his existence, arose from the long love he bore for a lady of Avignon, the far-famed Laura, whom he fell in love with on the 6th of April, 1327, on a Good Friday; whom he rendered illustrious in a multitude of sonnets, which have left a sweet sound and sentiment in the ear of all after lovers; and who died, still passionately beloved, in the year 1348, on the same day and hour on which he first beheld her. Who she was, or why their connection was not closer, remains a mystery. But that she was a real person, and that in spite of all her modesty she did not show an insensible countenance to his passion, is clear from his long-haunted imagination, from his own repeated accounts, from all that he wrote, uttered, and thought. One love, and one poet, sufficed to give the whole civilized world a sense of delicacy in desire, of the abundant riches to be found in one single idea, and of the going out of a man's self to dwell in the soul and happiness of another, which has served to refine the passion for all modern times; and perhaps will do so, as long as love renews the world."
At Vaucluse, or Valchiusa, " a remarkab.e spot in the old poetical region of Provence, consisting of a little deep glen of green meadows surrounded with rocks, and containing the fountain of the river Sorgue," Petrarch resided for several years, and composed in it the greater part of his poeins.
The following is a translation by sir William Jones, of
AN ODE, BY PETRARCH,
Through whose transparent crystal Laura play'd;
While Laura lay beneath the quivering shade;
For ever fatal, yet for ever dear;
ye, that heard my sighs
When first she charm'd my eyes, Soft-breathing gales! my dying accents hear. If Heav'n has fix'd my doom, That Love must quite consume
My bursting heart, and close my eyes in death
That here my urn may rest,
My anxious mind, and soothe
Her mortal veil to leave
In these calm shades, and this enchanting hower Haply, the guilty maid
Through yon accustom'd glade
To my sad tomb will take her lonely way
O'erpower'd my dazzled sight,
Her true, but hapless lover's lowly bier;
Shall melt the pitying skies,
Some in her locks were strung,
Some, in a spicy cloud
"Here Love and Youth the reins of empire hold. '
That might all Heaven beguile, Wafted my soul above the realms of earth.
The star-bespangled skies
Were open'd to my eyes;
Sighing I said, "Whence rose this glittering scene? Since that auspicious hour,
This bank, and odorous bower,
My morning couch, and evening haunt have been. Well mayst thou blush, my sung,
To leave the rural throng
And fly thus artless to my Laura's ear,
Ardent as his desire,
Thou wert a song that Heaven might stoop to hear
It is within probability to imagine, that the original of this "ode" may have been impressed on the paper, by Petrarch's peu, from the inkstand of the frontispiece.
FORMERLY, a "Table Book" was a memorandum book, on which any thing was graved or written without ink. It is mentioned by Shakspeare. Polonius, on disclosing Ophelia's affection for Hamlet to the king, inquires
"When I had seen this hot love on the wing, what might you, Or my dear majesty, your queen here, think, If I had play'd the desk, or table-book ?" Dr. Henry More, a divine, and moralist, of the succeeding century, observes, that "Nature makes clean the table-book first, and then portrays upon it what she pleaseth." In this sense, it might have been used instead of a tabula rasa, or sheet of blank writing paper, adopted by Locke as an illustration of the human mind in its incipiency. It is figuratively introduced to nearly the same purpose by Swift: he
tells us that
"Nature's fair table-book, our tender souls,
Dryden says, "Put into your Table-Book whatsoever you judge worthy."
I hope I shall not unworthily err, if, in the commencement of a work under this title, I show what a Table Book was.
Table books, or tablets, of wood, existed before the time of Homer, and among the Jews before the Christian æra. books of the Romans were nearly like ours, which will be described presently; except that the leaves, which were two, three, or more in number, were of wood surfaced with wax. They wrote on them with a style, one end of which was pointed for that purpose, and the other end rounded or flattened, for effacing or scraping out. Styles were made of nearly all the metals, as well as of bone and ivory; they were differently formed, and resembled ornamented skewers; the common style was iron. More anciently, the leaves of the table book were without wax, and marks were made by the iron style on the bare wood. The Anglo-Saxon style was very handsome. Dr. Pegge was of opinion that the well-known jewel of Alfred, preserved in the Ashmolean museum at Oxford, was the head of the style sent by that king with Gregory's Pastoral to Athelney-+
A gentleman, whose profound knowledge of domestic antiquities surpasses that of
Fosbroke's Encyclopædia of Antiquities.
preceding antiquaries, and remains unri-
"And therefore will he wipe his tables clean
As in the middle ages there were tablebooks with ivory leaves, this gentleman remarks that, in Chaucer's "Sompnour's Tale," one of the friars is provided with
"A pair of tables all of ivory,
And wrote alway the names, as he stood, Of alle folk that yave hem any good." He instances it as remarkable, that neither public nor private museums furnished specimens of the table books, common in Shakspeare's time. Fortunately, this observation is no longer applicable.
A correspondent, understood to be Mr. Douce, in Dr. Aikin's " Athenæum," subsequently says, "I happen to possess a table-book of Shakspeare's time. It is a little book, nearly square, being three inches wide and something less than four in length, bound stoutly in calf, and fastening with four strings of broad, strong, brown tape. The title as follows: Writing Tables, with a Kalender for xxiiii yeeres, with sundrie necessarie rules. The Tables made by Robert Triple. London, Imprinted for the Company of Stationers." The tables are inserted immediately after the almanack. At first sight they appear like what we call asses-skin, the colour being precisely
• Gesner De rerum fossilium figuris, &c. Tigur. 1506;
the same, but the leaves are thicker: whatever smell they may have had is lost, and there is no gloss upon them. It might be supposed that the gloss has been worn off; but this is not the case, for most of the tables have never been written on. Some of the edges being a little worn, show that the middle of the leaf consists of paper; the composition is laid on with great nicety. A silver style was used, which is sheathed in one of the covers, and which produces an impression as distinct, and as easily obliterated as a black-lead pencil. The tables are interleaved with common paper."
In July, 1808, the date of the preceding communication, I, too, possessed a table book, and silver style, of an age as ancient, and similar to that described; except that it had not "a Kalender." Mine was brought to me by a poor person, who found it in Covent-garden on a market day. There were a few ill-spelt memoranda respecting vegetable matters formed on its leaves with the style. It had two antique slender brass clasps, which were loose; the ancient binding had ceased from long wear to do its office, and I confided it to Mr. Wills, the almanack publisher in Stationers'-court, for a better cover and a silver clasp. Each being ignorant of what it was, we spoiled "a table-book of Shakspeare's time.'
The most affecting circumstance relating to a table book is in the life of the beautiful and unhappy "Lady Jane Grey." "Sir John Gage, constable of the Tower, when he led her to execution, desired her to bestow on him some small present, which he might keep as a perpetual memorial of her she gave him her table-book, wherein she had just written three sentences, on seeing her husband's body; one in Greek, another in Latin, and a third in English. The purport of them was, that human justice was against his body, but the divine mercy would be favourable to his soul; and that, if her fault deserved punishment, her youth at least, and her imprudence, were worthy of excuse, and that God and posterity, she trusted, would show her favour."
old table books were for private use-mine is for the public; and the more the public desire it, the more I shall be gratified. I have not the folly to suppose it will pass from my table to every table, but I think that not a single sheet can appear on the table of any family without communicating some information, or affording some diversion.
On the title-page there are a few lines which briefly, yet adequately, describe the collections in my Table Book: and, as regards my own "sayings and doings," the prevailing disposition of my mind is perhaps sufficiently made known through the Every-Day Book. In the latter publication, I was inconveniently limited as to room; and the labour I had there prescribed to myself, of commemorating every day, frequently prevented me from topics that would have been more agreeable to my readers than the "two grains of wheat in a bushel of chaff," which I often consumed my time and spirits in endeavouring to discover-and did not always find.
In my Table Book, which I hope will never be out of "season," I take the liberty to" annihilate both time and space," to the extent of a few lines or days, and lease, and talk, when and where I can, according to my humour. Sometimes I present an offering of "all sorts," simpled from outof-the-way and in-the-way books; and, at other times, gossip to the public, as to an old friend, diffusely or briefly, as I chance to be more or less in the giving vein," about a passing event, a work just read, a print in my hand, the thing I last thought of, or saw, or heard, or, to be plain, about "whatever comes uppermost." In short, my collections and recollections come forth just as I happen to suppose they may be most agreeable or serviceable to those whom I esteem, or care for, and by whom I desire to be respected.
MY TABLE Book is enriched and diversified by the contributions of my friends; the teemings of time, and the press, give it novelty; and what I know of works of art, with something of imagination, and the assistance of artists, enable me to add pictorial embellishment. My object is to blend information with amusement, and utility with diversion.
MY TABLE Book, therefore, is a series of continually shifting scenes-a kind of literary kaleidoscope, combining popular forms with singular appearances-by which and to which, I respectfully trust, many youth and age of all ranks may be amused; will gladly add something, to improve its views.