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127
WILLIAM CAXTON.

an object of the deepest solicitude on its account; yet one often, when afflicted with it, suffers as much downright agony as does the patient who is sick unto death with some dangerous malady.

We never knew a person pitied because he had corns. Yet corns, as instruments of torture, are worth very serious attention. The individual who gets plucking at one, after he has retired to rest, is not likely to discontinue his work until he has suffered much downright discomfort both of mind and body. There is something so irresistibly fascinating about a corn, that when one has commenced to attack it he is unable to discontinue his work, however much he may be pained meanwhile, and however much sleep he may be deprived of until he has completed his work of destruction. Yet corns are never even mentioned in the category of ailments. No one ever heard of a man being asked how his corns were. Most people would, indeed, probably feel insulted if mere acquaintances were to make inquiries as to the state of their poor feet. Notwithstanding, there are moments when corns will overthrow the most stoical. When they are, for instance, trodden upon by ten stone and upwards in the shape of a man, they are apt to indicate their existence, in a manner which makes their proprietor wince and assume as sour an expression as that of the person who has taken a draught of vinegar in mistake for Moselle, Indeed, it is not unlikely that he may at such a time, however discreet he may generally be in his choice of terms, be tempted to use profane language. Ladies who appear in ball-rooms, of course, never descend to the use of naughty expressions, but many a lovely female face has been seen to become as dark as thunder when upon its owner's dainty feet some clumsy brute has trodden to the extreme annoyance of her corn. This look has more than once been detected by interested onlookers, and contemplated proposals of marriage have never come off because amorous men have noticed the gloomy looks which have followed such a misadventure as that referred to above.

The moral to be drawn from all this is that it is well to suspend judgment upon those who display temper apparently without adequate cause, and to regard "minor tortures" in a less contemptuous manner than they have so far been regarded.




From The Fireside.

WILLIAM CAXTON.

William Caxton, the first English printer, was a Kentish man, born about 1412. His parents were worthy people, and it is memorable that at a time when, from political troubles and the unsettled state of the country, education was neglected, the parents of Caxton reared their son carefully. "I am bounden," says he, "to pray for my father's and mother's souls, that in my youth sent me to school, by which by the sufferance of God I get my living, I hope truly." He was apprenticed to a citizen of London, a mercer, that name being then given to designate a general merchant trading in various goods. That Caxton was a diligent and faithful apprentice may be inferred from the fact that his master, William Large, in 1441 left him in his will a legacy of £13, 6s. 8d., a handsome sum in those days. After he received this legacy he went abroad, being probably engaged in mercantile pursuits. He continued for the most part in the countries of Brabant, Flanders, Holland, and Zeeland, all at this time under the dominion of the Duke of Burgundy, one of the most powerful princes of Europe. While Caxton's countrymen were contesting in the battle-field the claim of the rival houses of York and Lancaster, he was exercising his acute and observant mind, acquiring the French and Dutch languages, and preparing himself, by a peaceful and thoughtful life, for his great work as a benefactor to his country. In 1464 he was sent on a mission by Edward IV., to continue and confirm some important treaties of commerce with the Duke of Burgundy. The Low Countries were at that time the great mart of Europe, and Caxton, bred to commerce, from his experience would be able to enter into treaties beneficial to his own long-troubled land. In 1450, Gutenberg, generally considered to be the first printer, entered into partnership with Fust, a rich merchant of Mentz, who supplied the sums necessary to carry the invention into effect. Charles, the son and successor to the Duke of Burgundy, whom Caxton had known, first married Margaret, sister to our Edward IV., and Caxton, who could scarcely have been a merchant on his own account, was appointed to some post in the household of the duchess. The exact nature and salary of his office are not known, but he was on terms of familiar intercourse with Margaret, who seems to have rightly appreciated her estimable countryman.