CHAPTER VII: A SCOTTISH ROMANTICIST OF 1830
The finding of a rare book that you have wanted long is one of the happier moments in life. Whatever we may think of life when we contemplate it as a whole, it is a delight to discover what one has sought for years, especially if the book be a book which you really want to read, and not a thing whose value is given by the fashion of collecting. Perhaps nobody ever collected before
DEATH-WAKE, OR LUNACY
In Three Chimeras
BY THOMAS T. STODDART.
“Is’t like that lead contains her?— It were too gross To rib her cerecloth in the obscure grave.”— Shakespeare.
Printed for HENRY CONSTABLE, Edinburgh,
And HURST, CHANCE, & CO., London.
This is my rare book, and it is rare for an excellent good reason, as will be shown. But first of the author. Mr. Thomas Tod Stoddart was born in 1810. He died in 1880. Through all his pilgrimage of three-score years and ten, his “rod and staff did comfort him,” as the Scottish version of the Psalms has it; nay, his staff was his rod. He “was an angler,” as he remarked when a friend asked: “Well, Tom, what are you doing now.” He was the patriarch, the Father Izaak, of Scottish fishers, and he sleeps, according to his desire, like Scott, within hearing of the Tweed. His memoir, published by his daughter, in “Stoddart’s Angling Songs” (Blackwood), is an admirable biography, quo fit ut omnis Votiva pateat veluti descripta tabella Vita senis.
But it is with the “young Tom Stoddart,” the poet of twenty, not with the old angling sage, that we have to do. Miss Stoddart has discreetly republished only the Angling Songs of her father, the pick of them being classical in their way. Now, as Mr. Arnold writes:—
“Two desires toss about
The poet’s feverish blood,
One drives him to the world without,
And one to solitude.”