Friday, May 29, 2009


Good Fellowship

Excerpt from William Waller, Divine Meditations: Meditation upon the Contentment I Have in My Books and Study, quoted by Alexander Ireland, The Book-Lover's Enchiridion: Thoughts on the Solace and Companionship of Books (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1883), pp. 42-43:
Here is the best solitary company in the world, and in this particular chiefly excelling any other, that in my study I am sure to converse with none but wise men; but abroad it is impossible for me to avoid the society of fools. What an advantage have I, by this good fellowship, that, besides the help which I receive from hence, in reference to my life after this life, I can enjoy the life of so many ages before I lived! — that I can be acquainted with the passages of three or four thousand years ago, as if they were the weekly occurrences! Here, without travelling so far as Endor, I can call up the ablest spirits of those times, the learnedest philosophers, the wisest counsellors, the greatest generals, and make them serviceable to me. I can make bold with the best jewels they have in their treasury, with the same freedom that the Israelites borrowed of the Egyptians, and, without suspicion of felony, make use of them as mine own. I can here, without trespassing, go into their vineyards and not only eat my fill of their grapes for my pleasure, but put up as much as I will in my vessel, and store it up for my profit and advantage.
Thomas Carlyle, letter to Robert Mitchell (February 16, 1818), quoted by Ireland, p. 159:
Excepting one or two individuals I have little society that I value very highly; but books are a ready and effectual resource. May blessings be upon the head of Cadmus, the Phoenicians, or whoever it was that invented books! I may not detain you with the praises of an art that carries the voice of man to the extremity of the earth and to the latest generations; but it is lawful for the solitary wight to express the love he feels for those companions so steadfast and unpresuming, that go or come without reluctance, and that, when his fellow-animals are proud or stupid or peevish, are ever ready to cheer the languor of his soul, and gild the barrenness of life with the treasures of bygone times.
Related post: The Pleasures of Books.

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