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With what a charm, the moon, serene and bright,
Sit we, I pray; and let us sweetly hear
III.-AUTUMNAL COMMENCEMENT OF FIRESMANTLE-PIECES-APARTMENTS FOR STUDY.
How pleasant it is to have fires again! We have not time to regret summer, when the cold fogs begin to force us upon the necessity of a new kind of warmth;
-a warmth not so fine as sunshine, but, as manners go, more sociable. The English get together over their fires, as the Italians do in their summer-shade. We do not enjoy our sunshine as we ought; our climate seems to render us almost unaware that the weather is fine, when it really becomes so: but for the same reason, we make as much of our winter, as the anti-social habits that have grown upon us from other causes will allow. And for a similar reason, the southern European is unprepared for a cold day. The houses in many parts of Italy are summer-houses, unprepared for winter; so that when a fit of cold weather comes, the dismayed inhabitant, walking and shivering about with a little brazier in his hands, presents an awkward image of insufficiency and perplexity. A few of our fogs, shutting up the sight of every thing out of
doors, and making the trees and the eaves of the houses drip like rain, would admonish him to get warm in good earnest. If "the web of our life" is always to be "of a mingled yarn," a good warm hearth-rug is not the worst part of the manufacture.
Here we are then again, with our fire before us, and our books on each side. What shall we do? Shall we take out a Life of somebody, or a Theocritus, or Petrarch, or Ariosto, or Montaigne, or Marcus Aurelius, or Moliere, or Shakspeare who includes them all? Or shall we read an engraving from Poussin or Raphael ? Or shall we sit with tilted chairs, planting our wrists upon our knees, and toasting the up-turned palms of our hands, while we discourse of manners and of man's heart and hopes, with at least a sincerity, a good intention, and goodnature, that shall warrant what we say with the sincere, the good-intentioned, and the good-natured.
Ah-take care. You see what that old-looking saucer is, with a handle to it? It is a venerable piece of earthenware, which may have been worth to an Athenian, about two-pence; but to an author, is worth a great deal more than ever he could-deny for it. And yet he would deny it too. It will fetch his imagination more than ever it fetched potter or penny-maker. Its little shallow circle overflows for him with the milk and honey of a thousand pleasant associations. This is one of the uses of having mantle-pieces. You may often see on no very rich mantle-piece a representative body of all the elements
physical and intellectual-a shell for the sea, a stuffed bird or some feathers for the air, a curious piece of mineral for the earth, a glass of water with some flowers in it for the visible process of creation,-a cast from sculpture for the mind of man ;-and underneath all, is the bright and ever-springing fire, running up through them heavenwards, like hope through materiality. We like to have any little curiosity of the mantle-piece kind within our reach and inspection. For the same reason, we like a small study, where we are almost in contact with our books. We like to feel them about us ;-to be in the arms of our mistress Philosophy, rather than see her at a dis tance. To have a huge apartment for a study is like lying in the great bed at Ware, or being snug on a mile-stone upon Hounslow Heath. It is space and physical activity, not repose and concentration. It is fit only for grandeur and ostentation,-for those who have secretaries, and are to be approached like gods in a temple. The Archbishop of Toledo, no doubt, wrote his homilies in a room ninety feet long. The Marquis Marialva must have been approached by Gil Blas through whole ranks of glittering authors, standing at due distance. But Ariosto, whose mind could fly out of its nest over all nature, wrote over the house he built, "parva, sed apta mihi "-small, but suited to me. However, it is to be observed, that he could not afford a larger. He was a Duodenarian, in that respect, like ourselves. We do not know how our ideas of a study might expand with our
walls, Montaigne, who was Montaigne" of that ilk” and lord of a great chateau, had a study "sixteen paces in diameter, with three noble and free prospects." He congratulates himself, at the same time, on its circular figure, evidently from a feeling allied to the one in favour of smallness. "The figure of my study," says he, " is round, and has no more flat (bare) wall, than what is taken up by my table and my chairs; so that the remaining parts of the circle present me with a view of all my books at once, set upon five degrees of shelves round about me." (Cotton's Montaigne, B. 3. ch. 3.)
A great prospect we hold to be a very disputable advantage, upon the same reasoning as before; but we like to have some green boughs about our windows, and to fancy ourselves as much as possible in the country, when we are not there. Milton expressed a wish with regard to his study, extremely suitable to our present purpose. He would have the lamp in it seen; thus letting others into a share of his enjoyments, by the imagination of them.
And let my lamp at midnight hour
What world or what vast regions hold
Her mansion in this fleshly nook.
There is a fine passionate burst of enthusiasm on
the subject of a study, in Fletcher's play of the Elder Brother, Act 1, Scene 2:
Sordid and dunghill minds, composed of earth,
With kings and emperors, and weigh their counsels;
Unto a strict account; and in my faney,
To augment a heap of wealth: it shall be mine
IV. ACONTIUS'S APPLE.
ACONTIUS was a youth of the island of Cea (now Zia), who at the sacrifices in honour of Diana fell in love with the beautiful virgin, Cydippe. Unfortunately she was so much above him in rank, that he had no hope of obtaining her hand in the usual way; but the wit of a lover helped him to an expedient. There was a law in Cea, that any oath, pronounced in the temple of Diana, was irrevocably binding.