Page:Books Condemned to be Burnt - James Anson Farrer.djvu/43

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27
Sixteenth Century Book-Fires.

as the authors of their condemnation; whilst others, again, are so sparkling and well written that I wish it were possible to rescue them from the oblivion that enshrouds them even more thickly than the dust of centuries. The English books of this sort naturally stand apart from their foreign rivals, and may be roughly classified according as they deal with the aflfairs of State or Church. The original flavour has gone from many of them, like the scent from dried flowers, with the dispute or ephemeral motive that gave rise to them; but a new flavour from that very fact has taken the place of the old, of the same sort that attaches to the relics of extinct religions or of bygone forms of life.

The history of our country since the days of printing is exactly reflected in its burnt literature, and so little has the public fire been any respecter of class or dignity, that no branch of intellectual activity has failed to contribute some author whose work, or works, has been consigned to the flames. Our greatest poets, philosophers, bishops, lawyers, novelists, heads of colleges, are all represented in my collection, forming indeed a motley but no insipid society, wherein the gravest questions of government and the deepest problems of speculation are