Friday, December 21, 2012


Writers and Books in Heaven

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), "An Earth Upon Heaven," The Companion (April 2, 1828):
Somebody, a little while ago, wrote an excellent article in the New Monthly Magazine on "Persons one would wish to have known." He should write another on "Persons one could wish to have dined with." There is Rabelais, and Horace, and the Mermaid roysters, and Charles Cotton, and Andrew Marvell, and Sir Richard Steele, cum multis aliis: and for the colloquial, if not the festive part, Swift and Pope, and Dr. Johnson, and Burke, and Horne Tooke. What a pity one cannot dine with them all round! People are accused of having earthly notions of heaven. As it is difficult to have any other, we may be pardoned for thinking that we could spend a very pretty thousand years in dining and getting acquainted with all the good fellows on record; and having got used to them, we think we could go very well on, and be content to wait some other thousands for a higher beatitude. Oh, to wear out one of the celestial lives of a triple century's duration, and exquisitely to grow old, in reciprocating dinners and teas with the immortals of old books! Will Fielding "leave his card" in the next world? Will Berkeley (an angel in a wig and lawn sleeves!) come to ask how Utopia gets on? Will Shakespeare (for the greater the man, the more the good-nature might be expected) know by intuition that one of his readers (knocked up with bliss) is dying to see him at the Angel and Turk's Head, and come lounging with his hands in his doublet-pockets accordingly?


Item, books. Shakespeare and Spenser should write us new ones! Think of that. We would have another Decameron: and Walter Scott (for he will be there too;—we mean to beg Hume to introduce us) shall write us forty more novels, all as good as the Scotch ones; and Radical as well as Tory shall love him.
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