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CHARLES LAMB, in one of his admirable essays, told the public that he could read anything which he called a book, but intimated that there were things in that shape which he could not allow to be such. “In this catalogue,” says he, "of books which are no books — biblia a-biblia — I reckon Court Calendars, Directories, Pocket-books, Draught-boards, bound and lettered on the back, Scientific Treatises, Almanacks, Statutes at large, the Works of Hume, Gibbon, Robertson, Beattie, Soame Jenyns, and generally all those volumes which ‘no gentleman's library should be without.' With these exceptions, I can read almost anything. I bless my stars for a taste so catholic, so unexcluding."
Had the essayist lived to the present day, when the printingpress sends forth library after library, until their very names are legion, he would have found it necessary to modify his self-congratulation, and to chronicle a few additional exceptions. It is a known fact, that more than half of the books now published which escape the trunkmaker and the butterman, are never read at all; for the greater portion of that large section of the community who do read books, are too overworked to have much leisure for reading recreation beyond that bestowed on the Englishman's necessity
- his newspaper; and of the little time that remains, it is idle to expect that it should be spent in poring over treatises on popular science, dull translated histories, dreary voyages and travels, or dry standard authors,- in short, those books which, as Charles Lamb says, “no gentleman's library should be without.”