1866 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Dibdin

William Jerdan, in Men I have Known (1866) 172-73.



In Dibdin's writings and conversation there was a substratum of knowledge and sound sense, but often annoyingly bespattered with a novel sort of slang which vexed the dull ear and perplexed the understanding. One wanted a dictionary, or rather, a bibliographical vocabulary or grammar, to run along with the rectos, colophons, "saucy margins," "tall folios," "toolings" (alias, binding work), "the uncut or almost uncut," the "creamy papyrus," and much similar phraseology; the great aggravation of which was, that it was poured out in perfect rhapsodies, as if the maniac were in a state of ecstacy; and this, too, on perhaps a perfect copy of a book not worth twopence for the contents, or an old clasp, or an insignificant misprint, or some odd-looking ornaments, or some quaint fashion in the boards. The hyperbole was hardly outrageous enough to be offensive, but it was also too absurd to excite laughter. A French critic, in noticing one of the Doctor's luxurious and costly publications, and having heard all his learned disquisitions on its mere exterior, observed that the "Tour" would have been a capital volume if there had been no letterpress.