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WHEN man puts his faculties on the strut and the stretch, he builds pyramids, founds empires, wages wars, circumnavigates the globe, writes epic poems, histories, and dictionaries, and delivers speeches and lectures. In short, it is doubtless by this stiffening of himself, this straining and striving, that he achieves most of those things which get him what is called a name. But, very well as all this may be in its way, it would make a weary world if we had nothing else. Therefore, as Sancho Panza, in his honest natural horror at the idea of constant movement and exertion, invoked blessings on the man who invented sleep, we are grateful also for the existence of that pleasant middle region which lies between the scene of public display and struggle and absolute slumber-land. It is here we would stray at our ease in the present book. THIs Book of TABLE-TALK, we hope, will have little in it of what is trivial, any more than of what is dull; but, admonished by the title we have just written, and keeping in remembrance that


a festive board is neither a class-room nor a church, and that a talk is not, or at least ought not to be, either a sermon or a lecture, we shall especially endeavour to avoid the fatiguing and the long-winded.

This last word alone, indeed, gives us nearly a complete definition of all that a book of table-talk should not be. There is scarcely anything capable of being put into a book of which it may not contain a little. The acts, and sayings, and fortunes of individuals; public events; the manners and customs of different ages, and nations, and states of society; curious and interesting facts in all the departments of natural knowledge; the wonders of science and of art; all the turnings and windings of human opinion; sagacious maxims for the conduct of life; even ingenious thoughts in speculative philosophy;—all things, in short, that have either wit or humour in them, or a finer intellectual life and spirit of any other kind, may here enter as ingredients, and be mixed up together in rich variety:

“Quicquid agunt homines, votum, timor, ira, voluptas,
Gaudia, discursus, nostriest farrago libelli.”

A book of table-talk, like the actual conversation poured forth at a social meeting of accomplished and well-furnished minds, should be a distillation of whatever is most ethereal in all the wealth of life and of books.

Of works of this class, reading people have been fond ever since reading began; and a complete catalogue of the various dishes of intellectual hotch-potch, which this taste has called forth both in the ancient and the


modern world, would considerably outmeasure, we sus-
pect, the longest carte ever displayed by Parisian restau-
rateur. They have been prepared to suit the palate and di-
gestion of every several species of literary gourmands. A
great many of them have been got up more especially for
the use of the religious public. Of these, one of the
greatest favourites for a long time after the revival of
letters was a volume entitled the Speculum Exemplorum,
and in the latter and fatter editions the Magnum Specu-
lum Exemplorum; that is, the Great Looking-glass of
Examples. An edition of this work in small quarto,
printed at Douay in 1605, consists of between four and
five hundred closely-printed double-columned pages. The
book, we are told on the title-page, was originally com-
piled by a person whose name is not known, but who
appears to have lived about the year 1480; and this en-
larged edition professes to be revised and corrected by a
learned Jesuit. The examples or stories, it is affirmed,
have been extracted from more than sixty authors ve-
nerable for their piety, their learning, and their antiquity,
and from various histories, tracts, and pamphlets. The
stories are grouped together under heads, and the whole
work is divided into ten books, or distinctions, as they
are called, exclusive of a pretty long appendix.
One of the most curious things in this volume is a list
which it contains of previous works of the same descrip-
tion, or, as it is expressed, of authors who have profess-
edly written books of examples. The catalogue extends
to about five columns, and may comprehend between se-
venty and eighty names. -
This work, of course, was for story-lovers of the Roman

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