Page:Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day.djvu/133

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
73
C. E. Mudie.

hundreds, and finally to thousands, of copies of works of high repute and worth; of Livingstone's travels, for example, 3250 copies were taken on the day of publication.

In 1852, the library was removed to New Oxford-street, and year by year, as the business grew, house after house was added. These, with the great hall in their rear—one of the largest and best-proportioned rooms in London—hardly suffice to contain the vast accumulation of books which has been provided for the instruction and amusement of the multitude.

At the commencement of his enterprise, Mr. Mudie did not contemplate the circulation of works of fiction; but very soon afterwards it was quite clear to him that, as some of the best philosophy of the day came clothed in that attractive garb, it was not desirable to exclude them; and a considerable number of copies were taken of 'Margaret Maitland of Sunnyside,' 'Alton Locke,' 'Mary Barton,' 'Jane Eyre,' 'Vanity Fair,' and the earlier novels of the author of John Halifax;' and through the door, once open, a hundred other of the choicer novels found their way, and others followed the difficulty—of drawing any line, save for obvious reasons, having been frankly admitted.

It is almost a pity that the stricter rule and higher standard adopted in the first instance were not rigorously maintained throughout; but the principle of an index expurgatorius could never have commended itself to a man of Mr. Mudie's liberal views, and would never have been tolerated by the great multitude of his patrons.

Whether the library has accomplished all that might have been hoped for by the more sanguine of its early patrons, and whether, while offering the means of intellectual improvement and innocent enjoyment to many readers, it has not at the same time incidentally, and it may be injuriously, disturbed to some extent the old order of things, may be a matter of question; but as far as the founder is concerned, there can be no doubt that he has worked assiduously and effectually in the interests of literature.

Mr. Mudie is one of the members for Westminster of the London School Board; a director of the London Missionary Society; a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society; and is, we believe, the author of a volume of poems called 'Stray Leaves,' of which some of the reviews speak in the highest terms.