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In the Dozy Hours and other papers

In the Dozy Hours
and other papers
Title: In the Dozy Hours and other papers
Release Date: 2019-02-23
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 39
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By Miss Repplier.

BOOKS AND MEN. 16mo, gilt top, $1.25.

POINTS OF VIEW. 16mo, gilt top, $1.25.

ESSAYS IN IDLENESS. 16mo, gilt top, $1.25.

IN THE DOZY HOURS, AND OTHER PAPERS. 16mo, gilt top, $1.25.

A BOOK OF FAMOUS VERSE. Selected by Agnes Repplier. In RiversideLibrary for Young People. 16mo, 75 cents; Holiday Edition, 16mo,fancy binding, $1.25.


Boston and New York.



The Riverside Press, Cambridge
Copyright, 1894,
All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass. U. S. A.
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.



In the Dozy Hours1
A Kitten16
At the Novelist’s Table32
In Behalf of Parents42
Aut Cæsar, aut Nihil60
A Note on Mirrors76
Humor: English and American94
The Discomforts of Luxury: A Speculation112
Reviewers and Reviewed137
Pastels: A Query153
The Children’s Age190
A Forgotten Poet201
A Curious Contention217
The Passing of the Essay226




Montaigne and Howell’s letters,” says Thackeray, “are my bedside books.If I wake at night, I have one or other of them to prattle me to sleepagain. They talk about themselves forever, and don’t weary me. I like tohear them tell their old stories over and over again. I read them inthe dozy hours, and only half remember them.

In the frank veracity of this last confession there lies a pleasanttruth which it is wholesome to hear from such excellent and undisputedauthority. Many people have told us about the advantage of rememberingwhat we read, and have imparted severe counsels as to ways and means.Thackeray and Charles Lamb alone have ventured to hint at the equaldelight of forgetting, and of returning to some well-loved volume withrecollections softened{2} into an agreeable haze. Lamb, indeed, withcharacteristic impatience, sighed for the waters of Lethe that he mighthave more than his due; that he might grasp a double portion of thoseserene pleasures of which his was no niggardly share. “I feel as if Ihad read all the books I want to read,” he wrote disconsolately toBernard Barton. “Oh! to forget Fielding, Steele, etc., and read ’emnew!”

This is a wistful fancy in which many of us have had our share. Therecome moments of doubt and discontent when even a fresh novel fills uswith shivery apprehensions. We pick it up reluctantly, and look at itaskance, as though it were a dose of wholesome medicine. We linger sadlyfor a moment on the brink; and then, warm in our hearts, comes thememory of happier hours when we first read “Guy Mannering,” or “TheScarlet Letter,” or “Persuasion;” when we first forgot the world in“David Copperfield,” or raced at headlong speed, with tingling veins andbated breath, through the marvelous “Woman in White.” Alas! why were weso ravenous in our youth? Like the Prodigal Son, we consumed all ourfortune in a few short years, and now the{3} husks, though very excellenthusks indeed, and highly recommended for their nourishing andstimulating qualities by the critic doctors of the day, seem to ourjaded tastes a trifle dry and savorless. If only we could forget theold, beloved books, and “read ’em new”! With many this is not possible,for the impression which they make is too vivid to be obliterated, oreven softened, by time. We may re-read them, if we choose. We do re-readthem often, for the sake of lingering repeatedly over each familiarpage, but we can never “read ’em new.” The thrill of anticipation, thejoyous pursuit, the sustained interest, the final satisfaction,—allthese sensations of delight belong to our earliest acquaintance withliterature. They are part of the sunshine which gilds the halcyon daysof youth.

But other books there be,—and it is well for us that this is so,—whosetranquil mission is to soothe our grayer years. These faithful comradesare the “bedside” friends whom Thackeray loved, to whom he returnednight after night in the dozy hours, and in whose generous companionshiphe found respite from the fretful cares of day. These are the vol{4}umeswhich should stand on a sacred shelf apart, and over them a bust ofHermes, god of good dreams and quiet slumbers, whom the wise ancientshonored soberly, as having the best of all guerdons in his keeping. Asfor the company on that shelf, there is room and to spare for poets, andnovelists, and letter-writers; room for those “large, still books” sodear to Tennyson’s soul, and for essays, and gossipy memoirs, andgentle, old-time manuals of devotion, and ghost lore, untainted bymodern research, and for the “lying, readable histories,” which growevery year rarer and more beloved. There is no room for self-consciousrealism picking its little steps along; nor for socialistic dramas, hotwith sin; nor ethical problems, disguised as stories; nor “heroes ofcomplex, psychological interest,” whatever they may mean; norinarticulate verse; nor angry, anarchical reformers; nor dismal recordsof vice and disease parading in the covers of a novel. These things areall admirable in their way, but they are not the books which the calmHermes takes under his benign protection. Dull, even, they may be, andprovocative of slumber; but the road to fair dreams{5} lies now, as in thedays of the heroes, through the shining portals of ivory.

Montaigne and James Howell, then, were Thackeray’s bedsidefavorites,—“the Perigourdin gentleman, and the priggish little clerk ofKing Charles’s Council;” and with these two “dear old friends” he whiledaway many a midnight hour. The charm of both lay, perhaps, not merely intheir diverting gossip, nor in their wide acquaintance with men andlife, but in their serene and enviable uncontentiousness. Both knew howto follow the sagacious counsel of Marcus Aurelius, and save themselvesa world of trouble by having no opinions on a great variety of subjects.“I seldom consult others,” writes Montaigne placidly, “and am seldomattended to; and I know no concern, either public or private, which hasbeen mended or bettered by my advice.” Ah! what a man was there! What afriend to have and to hold! What a courtier, and what a countrygentleman! It is pleasant to think that this embodiment of genialtolerance was a contemporary of John Calvin’s; that this fine scholar,to whom a few books were as good as many, lived unfretted by the{6} angryturbulence of men all bent on pulling the world in their own narrowpaths. What wonder that Thackeray forgave him many sins for the sake ofhis leisurely charm and wise philosophy! In fact, James Howell, the“priggish little clerk,” was not withheld by his priggishness fromrelating a host of things which are hardly fit to hear. Those were notreticent days, and men wrote freely about matters which it is perhaps ashealthy and as agreeable to let alone. But Howell was nevertheless asincere Churchman as well as a sincere Royalist. He was soundthroughout; and if he lacked the genius and the philosophy of Montaigne,he was his equal in worldly knowledge and in tolerant good temper. Heheard, enjoyed, and repeated all the gossip of foreign courts, all the“severe jests” which passed from lip to lip. He loved the beauty ofItaly, the wit of France, the spirit of the Netherlands, and the valorof Spain. The first handsome woman that earth ever saw, he tells us, wasmade of Venice glass, as beautiful and as brittle as are her descendantsto-day. Moreover, “Eve spake Italian, when Adam was seduced;” for inthat beguiling tongue, in those soft, per{7}suasive accents, she feltherself to be most irresistible.

There is really, as Thackeray well knew, a great deal of pleasinginformation to be gathered from the “Familiar Letters,” and no pedagogicpride, no spirit of carping criticism, mars their delightful flavor. Themore wonderful the tale, the more serene the composure with which it isnarrated. Howell sees in Holland a church monument “where an earl and alady are engraven, with three hundred and sixty-five children aboutthem, which were all delivered at one birth.” Nay, more, he sees “thetwo basins in which they were christened, and the bishop’s name who didit, not yet two hundred years ago;” so what reasonable room is left fordoubt? He tells us the well-authenticated story of the bird with a whitebreast which visited every member of the Oxenham family immediatelybefore death; and also the “choice history” of Captain Coucy, who, dyingin Hungary, sent his heart back to France, as a gift to his own truelove. She, however, had been forced by her father into a reluctant andunhappy marriage; and her husband, intercepting the token, had it{8}cooked into a “well-relished dish,” which he persuaded his wife to eat.When she had obeyed, he told her, in cruel sport, the ghastly nature ofthe food; but she, “in a sudden exaltation of joy, and with afar-fetch’d sigh, cried, ‘This is a precious cordial indeed,’ and solick’d the dish, saying, ‘It is so precious that ’tis pity to put everany meat upon it.’ So she went to her chamber, and in the morning shewas found stone dead.” Did ever rueful tale have such triumphant ending?

Of other letter-writers, Charles Lamb and Madame de Sévigné are perhapsbest suited for our dozy hours, because they are sure to put us into agood and amiable frame of mind, fit for fair slumber and the ivorygates. Moreover, the bulk of Madame de Sévigné’s correspondence is sogreat that, unless we have been very faithful and constant readers, weare likely to open into something which is new to us; and as for Lamb,those who love him at all love him so well that it matters little whichof his letters they read, or how often they have read them before. Onlyit is best to select those written in the meridian of his life. Theearlier ones are too painful, the later ones too{9} sad. Let us take himat his happiest, and be happy with him for an hour; for, unless we gocheerfully to bed, the portals of horn open for us with sullen murmur,and fretful dreams, more disquieting than even the troubled thoughts ofday, flit batlike round our melancholy pillows.

Miss Austen is likewise the best of midnight friends. There stand hernovels, few in number and shabby with much handling, and the god Hermessmiles upon them kindly. We have known them well for years. There is nofresh nook to be explored, no forgotten page to be revisited. But wewill take one down, and re-read for the fiftieth time the history of thetheatricals at Mansfield Park; and see Mr. Yates ranting by himself inthe dining-room, and the indefatigable lovers rehearsing amorously onthe stage, and poor Mr. Rushworth stumbling through his two-and-fortyspeeches, and Fanny Price, in the chilly little schoolroom, listeningdisconsolately as her cousin Edmund and Mary Crawford go through theirparts with more spirit and animation than the occasion seems to demand.When Sir Thomas returns, most inopportunely, from{10} Antigua, we lay downthe book with a sigh of gentle satisfaction, knowing that we shall findall these people in the morning just where they belong, and not, afterthe fashion of some modern novels, spirited overnight to the antipodes,with a breakneck gap of months or years to be spanned by our droopingimaginations. Sir Walter Scott tells us, with tacit approbation, of anold lady who

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