Jest and Earnest: A Series of Essays
(London: Hugh Cunningham, 1840), pp. 20-23:
To commune with WORDSWORTH: cast yourself at full length on the soft sward, by the margin of a rippling stream, with green boughs hanging over your head and the merry chirping of birds heard all around. In the distance are the blue mountains, and there rises up against them the smoke from an encampment of gypsies.
SCOTT should be read in an apartment hung with relics of the feudal ages and lighted by windows painted with heraldic ornaments. A richly-carved, high-backed old chair is occupied by the student, and in a few minutes he is in the days of chivalry and romance.
To sympathize with the spirit of BYRON seat yourself on a rock by the sea-shore when the sky looks wild and stormy. A few distant white sails are all that tell of the existence of man, and no sound breaks the feeling of utter loneliness save the faint murmur of the tide on the beach below.
Choose POPE for your companion in a bijou of an apartment fitted up with the most fastidious elegance. Pictures, busts, and vases are disposed around, and the light falls gently from windows half-veiled by curtains of rose-colored silk. There feast on the exquisitely refined wit and philosophy of Pope, whilst coffee is served at intervals in cups of the richest china.
Read MILTON in some sequestered nook of a cathedral, where the "dim, religious light" of the gorgeous painted window and the distant swell of the choir illustrate the page of the great Christian poet.
Seat yourself on a stile in the country and read GOLDSMITH. The corn-field is full of reapers: Some are at work, and others are lying in the shade of a hedge, laughing and drinking. Over the trees peeps the spire of the picturesque old village church, and the red-brick house of the 'squire looks down from the hill.
All around breathes of English rural life and of Goldsmith.
Study the philosophic FIELDING in the travellers' room of a country inn, which is a little world in itself. Guests are arriving—others are departing—bells are ringing—the landlady is calling; but let not this disturb you, for probably the very same thing is occurring on the page before you.
Enjoy the mirth-moving SMOLLETT at an open window which looks down into a crowded street. Fine gentlemen, adventurers, sailors, ladies of easy virtue, catchpoles, pass along and form a living portrait-gallery to illustrate the volume.
MOORE must give forth his fascinations in a a cup of wine be at your side, and read and quaff until you feel that this world is full of sunshine and happiness, and that he who grieves is but a fool.
The ruins of some old abbey shall be your study for the pure and ardent SHELLEY. There read; and, in the pauses of your reading, look around on the memorials of a past state of man and meditate on his future destiny.
And where shall be our study for the mastermind, SHAKSPERE? The lonely sea-shore—the green shades of the forest—the busy resorts of the town—all those spots which we have singly claimed for others, may be successively claimed for Shakspere; for all have inspired his universal genius. Each play shall have a different study, and this devotion, I solemnly declare, I will require only of the student of Shakspere.