or enjoy the greatest of poets: and those, who have passed out of girlhood,

may safely be left to read Shakespeare, in any edition, ‘expurgated’

or not, that they may prefer: but it seems a pity that so many children,

in the intermediate stage, should be debarred from a great pleasure for

want of an edition suitable to them. Neither Bowdler’s, Chambers’s,

Brandram’s, nor Cundell’s ‘Boudoir’ Shakespeare, seems to me to meet the

want: they are not sufficiently ‘expurgated.’ Bowdler’s is the most

extraordinary of all: looking through it, I am filled with a deep sense

of wonder, considering what he has left in, that he should have cut

anything out! Besides relentlessly erasing all that is unsuitable on

the score of reverence or decency, I should be inclined to omit also

all that seems too difficult, or not likely to interest young readers.

The resulting book might be slightly fragmentary: but it would be a real

treasure to all British maidens who have any taste for poetry.

If it be needful to apologize to any one for the new departure I have

taken in this story–by introducing, along with what will, I hope,

prove to be acceptable nonsense for children, some of the graver

thoughts of human life–it must be to one who has learned the Art of

keeping such thoughts wholly at a distance in hours of mirth and

careless ease. To him such a mixture will seem, no doubt, ill-judged

and repulsive. And that such an Art exists I do not dispute: with

youth, good health, and sufficient money, it seems quite possible to

lead, for years together, a life of unmixed gaiety–with the exception

of one solemn fact, with which we are liable to be confronted at any

moment, even in the midst of the most brilliant company or the most

sparkling entertainment. A man may fix his own times for admitting

serious thought, for attending public worship, for prayer, for reading

the Bible: all such matters he can defer to that ‘convenient season’,

which is so apt never to occur at all: but he cannot defer, for one

single moment, the necessity of attending to a message, which may come

before he has finished reading this page,’ this night shalt thy soul be

required of thee.’

The ever-present sense of this grim possibility has been, in all ages,*

Note…At the moment, when I had written these words, there

was a knock at the door, and a telegram was brought me,

announcing the sudden death of a dear friend.

an incubus that men have striven to shake off. Few more interesting

subjects of enquiry could be found, by a student of history, than the

various weapons that have been used against this shadowy foe.

Saddest of all must have been the thoughts of those who saw indeed an

existence beyond the grave, but an existence far more terrible than

annihilation–an existence as filmy, impalpable, all but invisible spectres,

drifting about, through endless ages, in a world of shadows, with nothing

to do, nothing to hope for, nothing to love! In the midst of the gay

verses of that genial ‘bon vivant’ Horace, there stands one dreary word

whose utter sadness goes to one’s heart. It is the word ‘exilium’ in the

well-known passage

Omnes eodem cogimur, omnium

Versatur urna serius ocius

Sors exitura et nos in aeternum

Exilium impositura cymbae.

Yes, to him this present life–spite of all its weariness and all its

sorrow–was the only life worth having: all else was ‘exile’! Does it

not seem almost incredible that one, holding such a creed, should ever

have smiled?

And many in this day, I fear, even though believing in an existence

beyond the grave far more real than Horace ever dreamed of, yet regard

it as a sort of ‘exile’ from all the joys of life, and so adopt

Horace’s theory, and say ‘let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.’

We go to entertainments, such as the theatre–I say ‘we’, for I also go

to the play, whenever I get a chance of seeing a really good one and

keep at arm’s length, if possible, the thought that we may not return

alive. Yet how do you know–dear friend, whose patience has carried

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Categories: Carroll, Lewis