Page:Books Condemned to be Burnt - James Anson Farrer.djvu/186

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CHAPTER VII.

Our Last Book-Fires.

THE eighteenth century, which saw the abolition, or the beginning of the abolition, of so many bad customs of the most respectable lineage and antiquity, saw also the hangman employed for the last time for the punishment of books. The custom of book-burning, never formally abolished, died out at last from a gradual decline of public belief in its efficacy; just as tortures died out, and judicial ordeals died out, and, as we may hope, even war will die out, before the silent, disintegrating forces of increasing intelligence. As our history goes on, one becomes more struck by the many books which escape burning than by the few which incur it. The tale of some of those which were publicly burnt during the eighteenth century has already been told; so that it only remains to bring together, under their various heads, the different literary productions