Friday, November 29, 2013


Alone With His Books

Charles MacFarlane (1799-1858), Reminiscences of a Literary Life (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1917), pp. 167-168 (on Mountstuart Elphinstone and his house at Hookwood Park):
The house is nearly all over library. On the ground-floor three spacious rooms open upon one another, and these from floor to ceiling have the walls covered with excellent books; while, upstairs, in bedrooms and dressing-rooms, there is another collection. The works are in a great variety of languages. Many are Italian, as he is very fond of that language and literature. It is delightful always to have so many good books of reference at hand, and to see how constantly and with what spirit he uses them. Though very infirm, and though suffering much in his eyes, he never calls in either servant or amanuensis, but always goes himself to the shelves and takes down the book or books he wants. He knows where to lay his hand on every volume, every pamphlet, every map and chart. He takes just as much interest in all that is doing in science, literature, and art, as he did when I first knew him. I never knew so keen an interest in any man, for his time of life. He is almost sure to have read himself, or to have had read to him, the last new novel, for not even novels escape him. He sees but little society; for months at a time he lives alone with his books, thoughts, and remembrances.

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