Among my library books I have a number of Birrell's works.
He met Johnson in 1763 and made yearly visits to London to see him.
Lomer, Librarian of McGill University, pointed out in his index of Leacock's writings (Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1954), Leacock, in his writings, touched upon an astonishing number of topics, including the "pompous politician and the bulky businessman." While Leacock is best remembered for his humorous stories, his best writing, in my view, is to be found in his more serious works, as, for example, (New York: John Lane, 1920) and (London: Bodley Head, 1942).
“ And of his port as meek as is a maid. ”
Any one of these three of his books should occupy a space on your shelf: (New York: MacMillan, 1929), (1937), (Boston: Little, Brown; 1946), or (1955) (Boston: Little, Brown; 1955).
The lawyer should extend his reading from the father to the son.
The soul of conversation is sympathy. – Authors should converse chiefly with authors, and their talk should be of books. “ When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war.” There is nothing so pedantic as pretending not to be pedantic. No man can get above his pursuit in life: it is getting above himself, which is impossible. There is a Free-masonry in all things. You can only speak to be understood, but this you cannot be, except by those who are in the secret. Hence an argument has been drawn to supersede the necessity of conversation altogether; for it has been said, that there is no use in talking to people of sense, who know all that you can tell them, nor to fools, who will not be instructed. There is, however, the smallest encouragement to proceed, when you are conscious that the more you really enter into a subject, the farther you will be from the comprehension of your hearers – and that the more proofs you give of any position, the more odd and out-of-the-way they will think your notions. C[oleridge] is the only person who can talk to all sorts of people, on all sorts of subjects, without caring a farthing for their understanding one word he says – and he talks only for admiration and to be listened to, and accordingly the least interruption puts him out. I firmly believe he would make just the same impression on half his audiences, if he purposely repeated absolute nonsense with the same voice and manner and inexhaustible flow of undulating speech! In general, wit shines only by reflection. You must take your cue from your company – must rise as they rise, and sink as they fall. You must see that your good things, your knowing allusions, are not flung away, like the pearls in the adage. What a check it is to be asked a foolish question to find that the first principles are not understood! You are thrown on your back immediately, the conversation is stopped like a country-dance by those who do not know the figure. But when a set of adepts, of illuminati, get about a question, it is worth while to hear them talk. They may snarl and quarrel over it, like dogs; but they pick it bare to the bone, they masticate it thoroughly.
(For a sample of Holmes' prose, see his essay, ".")
(Gibbon, Wordsworth, Scott, Arnold, Holmes, Tennyson, Pascal, Browning, Donne, Ruskin, Godwin, Bagehot, Huxley, Froude, etc.) is the compact three volume work of Sir Leslie's which I have on my shelf.