Wednesday, March 05, 2014


My Books

[Addison Peale Russell (1826-1912)], A Club of One: Passages from the Note-book of a Man who Might Have Been Sociable, 9th ed. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1891), pp. 148-151:
My books! What would my life be without them? They are my meat and my drink. They employ my mind and lift me out of myself. In hours of mental exaltation I forget my miserable body. I have a book for every mood and every condition. When my mind is strongest and clearest and freest, I range the upper fields of philosophy with Plato; when I am most inclined to pure reason, I listen to brave Socrates; when I am in temper for observation, I read Aesop; when I want to realize the power of light over darkness, I tread the dawn with Epictetus; when I want to breathe the atmosphere of the Caesars, I follow Suetonius; then I walk with Cicero and his nomenclator in the streets of the Eternal City, and study the arts of the Roman politician; of moral exaltation, I find a rare example in the heathen emperor Marcus Antoninus; gods, and demigods, and heroes fight for me in Homer; if I want to sup with horrors, I sit down in terror with Aeschylus, witnessing the ghost of Clytemnestra rushing into Apollo's temple, and rousing the sleeping Furies; if I want a refreshing ride in the chariot of the sun, I take a seat with Phaëton, in Ovid; at will, I range paradise with Milton, and explore perdition with Dante; when I hunger for the world, and want to see every type of man and woman perfectly represented, I read Shakespeare; when I want to study human nature, I take Don Quixote, Pilgrim's Progress, and Faust; to feel the inspiration of freedom, I scale the heights and storm the fastnesses with Schiller; I gossip with wise old Montaigne; think with Pascal; moralize with Sir Thomas Browne; quote and comment with Burton; rummage with Disraeli; laugh with Rabelais; enjoy the suggestive experiences of Gil Blas; am always amused and entertained with Tristram Shandy; Tom Jones—who could ever tire of it? or of Humphry Clinker? or of Roderick Random? or Swift's Gulliver? though I am terrified sometimes with its pitiless wisdom; I go a-fishing with Izaak, and participate (the slightest) his meekness and sweet contentment; I listen to sermons from Bourdaloue, and Bossuet, and Massillon, and Barrow, and South, and Chalmers, and Wesley, and Hall; I take down Foster when I want to read a little and think more of times gone by and difficulties overcome; then I philosophize with Souvestre in his Attic; then enjoy the caustic wit and keen satire of Thackeray, and contemplate his immortal creations; then the humanities of Dickens quicken me to tears, and a long procession of the creatures of his teeming brain move before me; Sir Walter, too, who is history enough for me now; and Burns—the one immortal bard of humanity—to be cherished and sung while man is man, ever and ever; and philosophic Wordsworth; and poetic Shelley and Keats; and the moral and wise Sam Johnson; and the gentle and exquisite Goldsmith; and the storming Carlyle,—mighty hater and smiter of cant and shams; then I discourse with Coleridge; pun and turn over rare old books with gentle Elia; luxuriate with abounding Macaulay; dream with De Quincey; expatiate with Hazlitt and Hunt; then to the Brontés—Charlotte especially; then to Miss Austen—so healthy, serene, and pure; then to something more thoughtful again—to Emerson, the reflective, the wise, the exalted—fit society for Plato in the empyrean; then to Hawthorne—dissector, interpenetrator of hearts and lives; to scholarly, witty, shrewd Lowell—critic, poet, ambassador; to Holmes—so acute, humorous, suggestive, and philosophical in the Autocrat and Elsie—altogether unique in literature; and when a taste for something light, and finished, and exquisite, seizes me, I read the Reveries, and Prue and I; and so I go on and on, feasting with the worthies, and banqueting with the celestials, as inclination or whim pleases me—a precious book, as I said, for every mood and every condition.

Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918), Lesender Mann

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