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Charles Spurgeon's Illustration Collection

Books: Tried by Time And Posterity

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Call it by what name you please–dream, vision, or revery: we found ourselves in a large room, the wails of which were concealed by well-packed shelves of books, from the ponderous folio to the minute thirty two-mo, and in all the variety of dress which a skilful handicraft could devise. While cursorily gazing on these intellectual stores, our attention was arrested by the entrance of two personages of mild and venerable aspect, who very courteously introduced themselves, and stated the object of their visit. They bore the significant names of Time and Posterity, and intimated that they had come to pay their semi-centennial visit, to weigh the merits of authors, and determine their destiny. The task seemed to us an herculean one, where the volumes were numbered by thousands; and we were curious to know by what process they were to ascertain the character of so many candidates for fame. We might, however, have spared our surprise, had we reflected that Time was a gentlemen who had seen much of the world, and professed great experience, and Posterity was no less distinguished for the solidity of his judgment. They were well prepared for an expeditious performance of their work, and, in truth, we felt no small degree of horror in witnessing the results of their essay. By the way, we should have mentioned that they were provided with a capacious crucible, under which was burning a large and steady flame. Into it volume after volume was thrown, and the ordeal through which they had to pass was one of fire. 'Goodly volumes, these,' said Time, taking up a brace of octavos on metaphysics, 'let us test their quality.' Placed in the crucible, they were instantly converted into cinders.' Dust and ashes,' said POSTERITY. This was the doom of many an ostentatious volume, whose promising tide availed as little as its interior embellishments. Time rather soliloquised than addressed Posterity, while subjecting volume after volume. He would remark,' Deadborn this; its claims for perpetuity died amidst the types.' 'An old heresy under the slight disguise of a new dress.' 'Nonsense, fustian, bombast.' A whole row of poets succeeded each other in their descent into the heated crucible, with no more sympathy on the part of the executioner than a contemptuous exclamation. What is called light literature could scarcely be kept in the crucible long enough to be converted into thin smoke. Whole tons of periodicals and reviews shared the same fate. Occasionally we observed an unscorched leaf or two remained in the crucible, which Posterity carefully gathered and deposited in his portefeuille. At intervals, a whole volume would escape–this, however, was very rare; for in the instances in which they preserved their original shape, large portions of these fortunate volumes were burned out. For the most part, the large books fared worse than the smaller ones, from which we were led to infer, that facility in writing was quite a different thing from ability, and that a lumbering ship may be dashed on the rocks, over which a small boat may safely ride. Whole piles of periodicals (our own did not entirely escape) were soon converted into ashes. 'Fabrications,' said Time, as he hurled volume after volume of history into the crucible. Some leaves, however, of most of them escaped, out of which Posterity remarked, he would make up a small volume of true history worthy of preservation. Many books of religious controversy, and many more of worldly controversies on all subjects went in with the ominously expressed doom, 'Dust and ashes,' and so they came out. We perceived a mast offensive effluvium arise, as certain 'Philosophical Disquisitions,' and 'Light of Reason' were submitted to the fiery test. Thus went forward the process, the further details of which might be tedious to enumerate, and in a very brief time the great library had so far disappeared that POSTERITY carried off what was left in a small but beautiful cabinet, made of enduring materials. We were left to wonder how human brains and iron presses worked to so little effect in this world of ours.: Presbyterian.


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charles. Entry for 'Books: Tried by Time And Posterity'. Charles Spurgeon's Illustration Collection. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fff/b/books-tried-by-time-and-posterity.html. 1870.

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