Page:Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day.djvu/130

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


Charles Edward Mudie, the subject of our cartoon, was born October 18, 1818, at Cheyne-walk, Chelsea, where his father kept a small library, old-fashioned, but good of its kind, and well frequented by the literary dwellers in that then fashionable suburb. Some of our older readers may, perhaps, still remember the little lad attending at his father's counter, too young in the business to do more than fetch and carry, but already a diligent reader of all the books within his reach.

The elder Mudie relinquished the Cheyne-walk library in 1828, and removed with his family to Coventry-street, where he commenced a stationery business, still carried on by one of his sons. There young Charles Edward remained for a few years, spending most of his time in reading what works of philosophy and history he could manage to procure. In those days it was difficult to find a library from which it was possible, at a moderate cost, to obtain any books better worth reading than the ordinary novels of the period; and there was, therefore, nothing for it in his case but to buy the books he could not borrow. In this way he, in the course of time, accumulated a considerable collection of standard works.

One morning, in the spring of 1840, the idea occurred to young Mudie that there were many readers who, like himself, experienced this difficulty in procuring the higher class of books, and who would gladly patronise an undertaking which would place the better literature within their reach. Acting upon this idea, he commenced business in Southampton-row—then Upper King-street, Bloomsbury—by placing the whole of his collection in a window, with a printed intimation of his purpose, under the now familiar title of 'Mudie's Select Library.' The 'select' library soon attracted a select circle of readers, and as this circle enlarged the supply of books increased; until, in the course of a few years, the success of the enterprise was so well assured that the proprietor ventured to advance from tens to