I really, really thought that writing this month's post would be a breeze. Table Talk would be what I was going to write about. I would define what Table Talk meant. And then I would discuss and display some of the Table Talk books that I have in my library.
I began my post by providing definitions of Table Talk from my 1785 edition of Johnson's Dictionary, from my facsimile edition of the 1828 First Edition of Webster's American Dictionary, and from my fourteen-volume set of the 1970 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
Both Johnson and Webster defined Table Talk as conversation at meals or at table. But Johnson went further and defined Table Talk as table discourse as well. The OED more or less agreed with the definitions of Johnson and Webster. And it added that Table Talk is now considered to be the social conversation of famous men of intellectual circles that is reproduced in literary form.
The OED cited Hallam in its listing. And what Hallam wrote made me nervous.
One group has acquired the distinctive name of Ana; the reported conversation, the table-talk of the learned.
I shall take Hislop's words to heart and refer to the Johnson/Webster definition of Table Talk: conversation at meal or at table. Therefore, I will discuss and display books in my library that have the words Table Talk in their title, or books that have the word Table in their title and contain conversation or discourses. There are eight books in my library that qualify under this criteria. And the first one is the Table-Talk of John Selden.
Sitting at the library table and letting my eyes wander with affection to the adjacent shelves, I try to fancy who buys the multitudinous books of memoirs and reminiscences, of literary, dramatic, and political gossip, which are poured so profusely from the English presses (p7).
Most of us find that as the number of years increases we are apt to spend to pass more and more time at the library table, within easy reach of the shelves. I have been charged with believing that books are "the chief things in life;" I admit that they are not and ought not to be that, but I see no reason why we should not be allowed to enjoy them as we would any other innocent pleasure in due moderation (p14).
Books continue to be heaped upon my table, and they are flowers that tempt into the sunshine bees, which I call memories, hived in the course of sixty years of indiscriminate and insatiate reading. The Young Anarchist placed his trust in books, and we are told that he was disappointed. The fault must have lain, I think, in himself and not in literature. I have forgotten who Lucas de Penna was, but I love him for saying that books were to him "the light of the heart, the mirror of the body, the myrrh-pot of eloquence." So they are to me, and more so the older I grow. When the infinite variety and charm of them fail to enchant me, it will be time for me to "cease upon the midnight with no pain." (vii)
So at this time we ask you to gather around the big table in our library where we may visit informally, and talk of the fellowship of books, and look at some Hunt rarities. We are hungry for your companionship, and while, possibly, your presence is not essential to complete our happiness, for we have friends on the shelves that are a solace to us at all times, yet we want you to know that we hold you in great esteem (p10).