He is a dark, mouldy little man, and rather dry in his manner; yet, on his favourite theme, he kindles up, and at times is even eloquent. No fox-hunter, recounting his last day’s sport, could be more animated than I have seen the worthy parson, when relating his search after a curious document, which he had traced from library to library, until he fairly unearthed it in the dusty chapter-house of a cathedral. When, too, he describes some venerable manuscript, with its rich illuminations, its thick creamy vellum, its glossy ink, and the odour of the cloisters that seemed to exhale from it, he rivals the enthusiasm of a Parisian epicure, expatiating on the merits of a Perigord pie, or a Patte de Strasbourg.
His brain seems absolutely haunted with love-sick dreams about gorgeous old works in “silk linings, triple gold bands, and tinted leather, locked up in wire cases, and secured from the vulgar hands of the mere reader;” and, to continue the happy expressions of an ingenious writer, “dazzling one’s eyes like eastern beauties, peering through their jealousies."
[Footnote 3: D’Israeli—Curiosities of Literature.]
He has a great desire, however, to read such works in the old libraries and chapter-houses to which they belong; for he thinks a black-letter volume reads best in one of those venerable chambers where the light struggles through dusty lancet windows and painted glass; and that it loses half its zest, if taken away from the neighbourhood of the quaintly-carved oaken book-case and Gothic reading-desk. At his suggestion, the Squire has had the library furnished in this antique taste, and several of the windows glazed with painted glass, that they may throw a properly tempered light upon the pages of their favourite old authors.
The parson, I am told, has been for some time meditating a commentary on Strutt, Brand, and Douce, in which he means to detect them in sundry dangerous errors in respect to popular games and superstitions; a work to which the Squire looks forward with great interest. He is, also, a casual contributor to that long-established repository of national customs and antiquities, the Gentleman’s Magazine, and is one of those that every now and then make an inquiry concerning some obsolete custom or rare legend; nay, it is said that several of his communications have been at least six inches in length. He frequently receives parcels by coach from different parts of the kingdom, containing mouldy volumes and almost illegible manuscripts; for it is singular what an active correspondence is kept up among literary antiquaries, and how soon the fame of any rare volume, or unique copy, just discovered among the rubbish of a library, is circulated among them. The parson is more busy than common just now, being a little flurried by an advertisement of a work, said to be preparing for the press, on the mythology of the middle ages. The little man has long been gathering together all the hobgoblin tales he could collect, illustrative of the superstitions of former times; and he is in a complete fever lest this formidable rival should take the field before him.