Page:Some aspects of the Victorian age.djvu/12

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8
SOME ASPECTS OF

which followed our literature was enriched by 'Vanity Fair', 'Jane Eyre', the first volume of 'Modern Painters', and the first two volumes of Macaulay's 'History'.

A distinguished man, happily still amongst us, who was born near the beginning of the Queen's reign, and was later on an ornament both of the forensic and the political world—Sir Edward Clarke—has recently produced an interesting autobiography.[1] He did not, in his formative years, enjoy the advantages—perhaps in these days one ought to add, or suffer from the drawbacks—of a Public School and University Education. He was to a large extent his own teacher, and was a voracious reader, especially of contemporary English. He gives us a list, year by year, of the books which appeared during his boyhood from 1850 to 1859: perhaps, in the department of Literature, the most fruitful decade in the whole Victorian era.

I will not go through his catalogue, which every one should read and study; but I will take two or three years as samples, sometimes omitting one or two of Sir E. Clarke's specimens, and sometimes adding one or two, for which he has not found a place.

Take first 1850—the year of 'Pendennis', 'In Memoriam', and 'Christmas Eve and Easter Day'. Or again, 1855, with 'Maud', 'Men and Women', 'The Virginians', Macaulay's third and fourth volumes, and Herbert Spencer's 'Psychology'. Or, lastly, 1859, with the 'Idylls of the King', 'Adam Bede', 'The Tale of Two Cities', 'The Ordeal of Richard Feverel', Edward Fitzgerald's 'Rubaiyát', and (in some ways the most

  1. Memories of my Life,' by Sir Edward Clarke (Murray, 1918).