Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Reading: David Copperfield

Again, Mr. Micawber had a relish in this formal piling up of words, which, however ludicrously displayed in his case, was, I must say, not at all peculiar to him. I have observed it, in the course of my life, in numbers of men. It seems to me to be a general rule. In the taking of legal oaths, for instance, deponents seem to enjoy themselves mightily when they come to several good words in succession, for the expression of one idea; as, that they utterly detest, abominate, and abjure, or so forth; and the old anathemas were made relishing on the same principle. We talk about the tyranny of words, but we like to tyrannize over them too; we are fond of having a large superfluous establishment of words to wait upon us on great occasions; we think it looks important, and sounds well. As we are not particular about the meaning of our liveries on state occasions, if they be but fine and numerous enough, so, the meaning or necessity of our words is a secondary consideration, if there be but a great parade of them. And as individuals get into trouble by making too great a show of liveries, or as slaves when they are too numerous rise against their masters, so I think I could mention a nation that has got into many great difficulties, and will get into many greater, from maintaining too large a retinue of words.

– Charles Dickens, David Copperfield


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On Libraries

In 1814, when the British army burned the Congressional Library in Washington, Jefferson offered to sell his substantial collection of 6,700 volumes. The books were hauled in wagons from Monticello to Washington, where they became the foundation for the Library of Congress. Perhaps there were too many volumes to keep the simple small-medium-large arrangement at home, because Jefferson proposed a classification scheme he adapted from Francis Bacon’s The Advancement of Learning, in which books were organized within the broad categories of Memory, Reason, and Imagination, poetic divisions I’d like to see bookstores adopt today. It might take longer to find what you’re looking for, but in browsing, who knows what you’d find.

Allison Hoover Bartlett
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

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On Dawn

On the morning appointed for her departure Tess was awake before dawn — at the marginal minute of the dark when the grove is still mute, save for one prophetic bird who sings with a clear-voiced conviction that he at least knows the correct time of day, the rest preserving silence as if equally convinced that he is mistaken.

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles

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“She wished then with all her heart that she had the child’s faith. She had never extracted the smallest comfort from religion, thinking of it as she thought of institutions like royalty, or a piece of apparatus like the alphabet or the multiplication tables. Something that deserved occasional lip service, and possibly a passing thought or two, before being set aside in favor of something more amusing and tangible. She supposed she had been taught to look upon Roman Catholics in the way she regarded foreigners, misguided, unfortunate people, much given to rituals of a kind not far removed from those practiced by savages and heathens. She realized now how utterly stupid and bigoted this was on her part, for Deborah’s God was clearly of far more practical use to her now than the austere Jehovah she had half-accepted as the arbiter of the universe, or the more patrician deity who presided over the parish church at Twyforde Green. She would have liked to have asked Deborah to give her more explicit information about her communion with the Virgin, but it seemed an invasion of the child’s privacy so she said, ‘You’ll say more prayers for him? Special prayers, until he’s well again?’

“‘Why yes, of course, and I have written to Sister Sophie to help. I did that the first day. I gave Stillman the letter to post and I wrote again today, as soon as I heard about his leg. It’s important that as many people as possible should help.’

“Her simplicity was one of the most devastating forces Henrietta had ever encountered for, in a way, it seemed to embrace all the religions in the world, reducing their differences to insignificant proportions, and making nonsense of sect and schism. It was rooted and basic, part of the very structure of society once society was stripped of all its fads and fashions and prejudices. There were human beings, pulled this way and that by temperament and circumstance, and there was a majestic source of power that left them to flounder or to make the best of things. As long as things went smoothly, as they had for so long now, she had had no quarrel with the divine plan, but when something like this occurred one needed more than conventional belief in her kind of creator, who was altogether too remote and impersonal to be used as a buffer. One needed access to somebody near, warm, and sympathetic, of the kind Deborah enjoyed, and she supposed right of access to such a source could only be acquired by training, of the kind the child had received in that community of nuns, or possibly, by self-discipline, of a kind she was never likely to possess.”

R. F. Delderfield, “God is an Englishman”

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