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its own place; and you cannot imagine the infinite delight I take in that confined view, or the pleasant materials for meditation which it supplies. And then to hear the pealing of the church-organ breaking through the quiet of this place is so soothing, and breathes such a calm and holy spirit, that it is truly enviable.” Really, Mr. Thorley," said I, surprised to find so much poetical enthusiasm in the narrow confines of an office, "you are to be envied the possession of such pleasant thoughts and feelings."
"And yet am I rather diffident of expressing them," replied he, "for I have met with more ridicule than sympathy. But I am like a bird in a cage, upon whom these rays of poetry fall like the glimpses of the sun, and cheer me in the prison to which my occupation dooms me. At the same time, I must confess that time and habit have at last so moulded my mind to this limited sphere of action, that liberty would now be irksome to me, and, as the poet sings, I would not, if I could, be free."
"And that there is wisdom in that resolve experience teaches us," I remarked. "Among a thousand instances that could be cited, there is none more conclusive than the example of the amiable Charles Lamb, who was all his life pining to be free from the thraldom of business; and, when at last he attained his object, he discovered that he had only been pursuing a delusive phantom of the imagination, and candidly confessed his error."
“Good, kind-hearted Elia!" exclaimed Thorley; "with what delight I used to devour his contributions
in the 'London Magazine!' Sir," continued he emphatically, "I once had the honour of being in the company of that extraordinary man. I shall never forget it. Esteeming his writings as I ceive the gratification I felt. given by my friend M
did, you may readily con
It was at a dinner-party at Clapham. There was
an unassuming quietness in his manner, and a quaintness of expression, accompanied with a hesitation in his speech, that at first precluded him from taking that prominent position which is generally usurped by the 'lion' of a party. In fact, our lamb was one of those lions whose roar is more like that of a 'sucking dove' than the king of the forest. When the conversation warmed into life, he became very facetious; and the puns he perpetrated, although of an order peculiar to himself, created infinite amusement among the guests. For example, handing up his plate for gravy, he asked the hostess to liquidate him;' and again, on the cover being taken from a dish of early peas, a gentleman asking him if they were not quite a treat, he answered, Yes, sir, quite a treat-y of pease!' as a German would say. A lady inquiring what were the articles of war, he seriously answered, ' Guns, swords, trumpets, and drums!' Helping one of the guests to a woodcock, 'I've given you a better half, sir,' said he. favoured me,' replied the gentleman.- Don't mention it,' said Lamb; and then added in his hesitating manner, 'I-I charge you, sir; for, you see, I've sent you the bill with it!' A stout gentleman, just arrived from India, was discoursing very volubly upon a tigerhunt, in which, of course, he had been personally en
gaged, when Lamb whispered his host, Indian friend is really Indy-fat-igable.'
joined the ladies in the drawing-room, my friend's daughter was exhibiting some beautiful drawings, and discoursing with all the fervour of a horticulturist upon anemones, grandifloras, china-asters, &c. said Lamb, peeping over her shoulder. Now, pray tell us, Mr. Lamb, which among the flowers is your favourite?' said she. 6 The rose, the lily, or the modest violet, or perhaps Apollo's devoted worshiper, the sunflower, as you are a poet ?'' My dear young lady,' said he, I have no doubt your choice is the result of fancy, while mine may be said to be a mere matter of taste; for, of all the flowers that are grown, I prefer - Which? '—A cauliflower, my dear,' replied he, with a gravity which set all the expectant auditors in a roar. But both my memory and my language fail to do justice to his humour; the cold repetition of his words is like collecting spent shot after they have been flattened against a stone wall."
After a world of discourse upon literary matters I expressed my pleasure in having made his acquaintance, and, with a flattering invitation to repeat my visit, I shook hands with the old man and departed.
Subsequently, upon a more intimate knowledge of each other, Mr. Thorley confessed to me, sub rosâ, that he had committed authorship, although he had never appeared in print; and, one evening, when all the gentlemen of the establishment had departed, and no one but Smith, the porter, remained to close the office, he cautiously unlocked a drawer in his writing
table, and drew forth an old ledger, bound in russia,
and carefully locked.
"This is my album," said he, smiling. startled by its external appearance; for, such is the force of habit, I don't think I could collect my ideas, and register them in a volume of any other form : besides, it bears the semblance of business; and, being interleaved with blotting-paper, should I be interrupted in the entry of my lucubrations, I have only to close the book, and there it lies on my desk in its hypocritical garb, without creating any suspicion of its contents, for I am sensibly alive to ridicule; and, should any of the gentlemen of the firm suspect me of being an author, I should probably not only lose my authority, but these worthy matter-of-fact men of business would infallibly write me down an ass,'—so incompatible are the pursuits of literature and commerce generally considered by the world. That this is a vulgar error, I am convinced; for the composition of these trifles have merely been the innocent recreation of my leisure hours. Like Æsop, I may truly say, these are my game of marbles,' which I have played after the sterner duties of the day have been fulfilled."
Having committed the Old Ledger to my custody, with strict injunctions not to breathe a syllable to a living soul of its contents, or the author, I perused the strange volume, marking those pieces which appeared fit for publication, and, upon returning it, expressed a wish that he would "give it to the public," offering at the same time to illustrate it; but the old clerk instinctively shuddered at the idea of submitting his labours to such an ordeal.
"No," said he; "I wrote them solely for my own recreation; but when I am gone, should you still entertain a favourable opinion of them, you are at liberty to publish them. I will bequeath the volume to you as a legacy."
The worthy old man now sleeps quietly in that same churchyard, wherein, while living, he found so much matter for meditation; and I now present to the public those papers, the composition of which gave so much harmless pleasure to the author, and, with the sincere wish that my readers may, at least, derive some portion of that pleasure in the perusal, I humbly submit my editorial labours to their favourable notice.
BALANCING THE BOOKS.