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FOR JANUARY, 185 6.
ART. I.-1. The Table-Talk of John Sel- tionist will soon have wearied the last
den. With Notes by David Irving, Whig peer, and that the prediction which LL.D. Edinburgh, 1854.
the Dunciad' will thus far have 2. Table-Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. achieved its fulfilment in England. These Third edition. London, 1851.
are the gloomy vaticinations of a few who, 3. The Table-Talk, or Familiar Discourse like Socrates, have a morbid passion for
of Martin Luther. Translated by Wil- discourse ; but on whom their auditors may liam Hazlitt. London, 1848.
possibly retaliate with the assertion that
human nature is unequal to supporting We have not only to thank Dr. Irving them in their talkative mood. for a good edition of a book which holds a It would be unpardonable to omit menhigh place in the belles-lettres of England, tioning the Table-Talk of the ancients. In but for recalling our attention to the impor- fact, it was one of the points in which they tant class of works which constitute the had an advantage over us ; for though they literature of conversation. It seems to be were less domestic, they were more social. the Doctor's destiny to deal with neglected The absence of printing imparted to their subjects. He has written a biography of conversation the same superior importance George Buchanan, whose face, we fear, the which it gave to their oratory. A modern public does not even recognise on the cover philosopher lives like a hermit, and pubof his country's famous magazine. He has lishes in quarto ; the ancient one carried written lives of Scottish poets, many of his philosophy about with him and propawhose pipings are no longer heeded by the gated it in the market-place, in shops, and present generation. Selden's Table-Talk, at suppers. The Table-Talk of an age was which Johnson preferred to all the French its wisdom. No wonder the affection of 'Ana,' was passing into forgetfulness in our disciple for master, and there is no more own times when he took it under his edi- beautiful relation, was so vividly felt. The torial care.
The world cannot afford to whole state experienced the effect of oral throw aside such books, particularly if it teaching through all the veins of its moral considers the frivolity and want of sub- being. From the lips of Socrates himself, stance of the current publications which in the saddler's shop, Euthydemus learned profess to combine amusement and instruc- that he who would be fit for politics must tion. It requires a light literature with a go through an ethical training little dreamvalue in it,--a lightness like that of the pa ed of by dabblers in democracy. From the per boat which Shelley launched on the lips of the reverend seniors of the state the Serpentine, and which was made of a fifty Roman youth learned what reading alone pound Bank of England bill.
could never have taught him. His first Ana' are out of fashion now, and books step from home was to the house of the of Table-Talk little read. Some go so far statesman or orator by whom he was geneas to say that conversation itself is becom- rally initiated into the duties of life, and in ing a lost art, that the last Whig conversa- I whom he was to see the living image of that