Every Man’s Library by Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson

Every Man’s Library

 

IF THERE IS one matter on which men and women dffer profoundly it is books. I don't mean the reading or writing of them. There ;he sexes are equal; not dissimilar anyway. No: I mean the buying, keeping, displaying and hoarding of them. With few exceptions, book misers or accumulators, formers of libraries, are men. Why is this?

I was struck by a passage in A L Rowse's recently published diaries. He pays a &it to old Isaac Foot, patriarch of the distinguished Cornish tribe and father of Michael, Sir Dingle, Lord Foot and many other famous feet. He hds him in a mansion, which, though large, is crowded by the colossal number of books it contains - over 80,000. They not only fill every room but line the passages so that you have to squeeze past. Foot's elderly wife - they are both in their eighties - is in despair and starts complaining to Rowse. While she is going on, two delivery men arrive bearing a vast new bookcase old Isaac has ordered, harbinger of hrther volumes. Mrs Foot explodes, rages, weeps. Isaac is adamant: the shelves are needed. She calms down, apologises. The bookcase is put in the dning

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