Wednesday, June 25, 2014


A Book-Lined Room

Robert Gathorne-Hardy (1902-1973), Recollections of Logan Pearsall Smith: The Story of a Friendship (London: Constable, 1949), pp. 46-47:
I think, if I live to grow old, one of the clearest pictures I retain will be of Logan, sitting in his book-lined room, and reading aloud some new work of his.

This room in Chelsea looked out on to the open space of Burton Court; across the road are plane trees through which appeared, clear in winter, fragmentary during the leafy seasons, the long magnificent façade of Wren's Royal Hospital. On the few wall-spaces left were some favourite pictures—a small eighteenth-century portrait of a red-coated man, a sepia drawing by Corot, and a rather naïve painting of sailing ships at sea; there was a needlework fire-screen, embroidered by his sister, Mrs Russell, and a small hearth-rug designed by Duncan Grant; above the bookshelves were the busts of French writers which he chose when I was with him in Paris.

After his death, looking round the shelves, a friend said to me, 'What a lovely reader he was.' Indeed, I have never seen anything quite like that assembly. Popular editions of fine works neighboured rare issues of recondite compositions. Many people, however passionate as readers, are apt, like myself, too apt, to regard books as objects desirable in their material selves. Logan rather liked fine editions; yet in his room I had the feeling I have never quite experienced anywhere else, that here on the shelves was something more than a collection of books, namely the incarnate essence of literature itself.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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