The Essays of Elia

The Essays of Elia

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The Essays of Elia

The Essays of Elia

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Excerpt

No apology is needed, and certainly no preface is required, for or to another edition of "The Essays of Elia." They have, to use their author's own words, joined the class of "perpetually self-reproductive volumes, Great Nature's Stereotypes." All that an editor of them has to do is to see that work so delicate, so conscientious, so elaborate, is neither insulted with bad type or ill-tempered paper, nor injured by careless printing. Having done this, he has done his duty. There is no need to praise what all the world praises. Sometimes (it is just possible) an author may slip his hold on men's fancies and fall into a state of neglect, and, so far as human memories are concerned, of ruinous decay, which yet may be removed, and the author's fame judiciously restored by the kindly enthusiasm of some critic, at whose bidding we turn to the forgotten volumes, and try to make up for past neglect by present rapture. But this (it must be owned) is rare. There are, indeed, more discoverers than discoveries; more bold travellers than new continents; more critics dinning the air with their joyful shouts over forgotten poets and disused dramatists than there prove to be poets and dramatists whom it is good to remember, or possible to use. These recovered creatures lead but a blinking kind of existence for a very short time, and then, even though their works may have been reprinted on Whatman paper, sink back into oblivion, and rest for ever on the shelves of that great library, the pride of Limbo, which is made up of the books that no man can read, even though he were to be paid for doing so. This repose is not unkindly. An author who is entirely, forgotten is, at all events, never mispraised. Nothing, we may feel well assured, could cause the Author of the " Essays of Elia" more genuine annoyance than to be clumsily praised, or raised with shouting to a higher pedestal . . .

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