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In barbers' shops and public-houses a fellow will get up, and spell out a paragraph, which he communicates as some discovery. Another follows with his selection. So the entire journal transpires at length by piece-meal. Seldom-readers are slow readers, and, without this expedient no one in the company would probably ever travel through the contents of a whole paper. Newspapers always excite curiosity.
No one ever lays one down without a feeling of disappointment.
What an eternal time that gentleman in black, at Nando's, keeps the paper ! I am sick of hearing the waiter bawling out incessantly, Chronicle is in hand, Sir."
Coming in to an inn at night-having ordered your supper-what can be more delightful than to find lying in the window-seat, left there time out of mind by the carelessness of some former guest -two or three numbers of the old Town and Country Magazine, with its amusing tête-à-tête pictures—“The Royal Lover and Lady G--;" “ The Melting Platonic and the Old Beau,”-and such like antiquated scandal ? Would you exchange it—at that time, and in that place—for a better book ?
Poor Tobin, who latterly fell blind, did not regret it so much for the weightier kinds of reading -the Paradise Lost, or Comus, he could have read to him—but he missed the pleasure of skimming over with his own eye a magazine, or a light pamphlet.
I should not care to be caught in the serious
avenues of some cathedral alone, and reading Candide.
I do not remember a more whimsical surprise than having been once detected—by a familiar damsel—reclined at my ease upon the grass, on Primrose Hill (her Cythera), reading-Pamela. There was nothing in the book to make a man seriously ashamed at the exposure ; but as she seated herself down by me, and seemed determined to read in company, I could have wished it had been--any other book. We read on very sociably for a few pages; and, not finding the author much to her taste, she got up, and—went away. Gentle casuist, I leave it to thee to conjecture, whether the blush (for there was one between us) was the property of the nymph or the swain in this dilemma. From me you shall never get the secret.
I am not much a friend to out-of-doors reading. I cannot settle my spirits to it. I knew a Unitarian minister, who was generally to be seen upon Snow-hill (as yet Skinner's-street was not), between the hours of ten and eleven in the morning, studying a volume of Lardner. I own this to have been a strain of abstraction beyond my reach. I used to admire how he sidled along, keeping clear of secular contacts. An illiterate encounter with a porter's knot, or a bread basket, would have quickly put to flight all the theology I am master of, and have left me worse than indifferent to the five points.
There is a class of street-readers, whom I can never contemplate without affection-the poor
gentry, who, not having wherewithal to buy or hire a book, filch a little learning at the open
stalls -the owner, with his hard eye, casting envious looks at them all the while, and thinking when they will have done. Venturing tenderly, page after page, expecting every moment when he shall interpose his interdict, and yet unable to deny themselves the gratification, they “snatch a fearful joy.” Martin B-1 in this way, by daily fragments, got through two volumes of Clarissa, when the stall-keeper damped his laudable ambition, by asking him (it was in his younger days) whether he meant to purchase the work. M. declares, that under no circumstance in his life did he ever peruse a book with half the satisfaction which he took in those uneasy snatches. A quaint poetess of our day 2 has moralised upon this subject in two very touching but homely stanzas.
I saw a boy with eager eye
Of sufferings the poor have many,
[1 Martin Burney.]
[2 Mary Lamb.]
Food, for that day at least-enjoy
THE OLD MARGATE HOY.
AM fond of passing my vacations (I believe I have said so before) at one or other of the Universities. Next to
these my choice would fix me at some woody spot, such as the neighbourhood of Henley affords in abundance, on the banks of my beloved Thames. But somehow or other my cousin contrives to wheedle me once in three or four seasons to a watering place. Old attachments cling to her in spite of experience. We have been dull at Worthing one summer, duller at Brighton another, dullest at Eastbourn a third, and are at this moment doing dreary penance at—Hastings !_and all because we were happy many years ago for a brief week at Margate. That was our first sea-side experiment, and many circumstances combined to make it the most agreeable holyday of my life. We had neither of us seen the sea, and we had never been from home so long together in company.
Can I forget thee, thou old Margate Hoy, with thy weather-beaten, sun-burnt captain, and his rough accommodations--ill exchanged for the fop