Sunday, February 19, 2012

Q o' D

Thoughts on browsing for guns (and books) from Richard Jeffries' The Hills and the Vale; over a century old and still valid. Thanks to Walter Hingley...

"I had seen rows on rows of guns stacked round the shop, rank upon rank; in the background a door partly open permitted a glimpse of a second room, also perfectly coated with guns, if such an expression is permissible. Now, I look on ranges of guns like this much the same as on a library. Is there anything so delicious as the first exploration of a great library—alone—unwatched? You shut the heavy door behind you slowly, reverently, lest a noise should jar on the sleepers of the shelves. For as the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus were dead and yet alive, so are the souls of the authors in the care of their ancient leathern binding. You walk gently round the walls, pausing here to read a title, there to draw out a tome and support it for a passing glance—half in your arms, half against the shelf. The passing glance lengthens till the weight becomes too great, and with a sigh you replace it, and move again, peering up at those titles which are foreshortened from the elevation of the shelf, and so roam from folio to octavo, from octavo to quarto, till at last, finding a little work whose value, were it in the mart, would be more than its weight in gold, you bear it to the low leather-covered arm-chair and enjoy it at your ease. But to sip the full pleasure of a library you must be alone, and you must take the books yourself from the shelves. A man to read must read alone. He may make extracts, he may work at books in company; but to read, to absorb, he must be solitary. Something in the same way—except in the necessity for solitude, which does not exist in this case— I like to go through a battery of guns, picking up this one, or that, glancing up one, trying the locks of another, examining the thickness of the breech. Why did not the fellow say, 'There are our guns; walk round, take down what you please, do as you like, and don't hurry. I will go on with some work while you examine them. Call me if you want any explanation. Spend the day there if you like, and come again to-morrow.' It would have been a hundred chances to one that I had found a gun to suit D., for the shop was a famous one, the guns really good, the workmanship unimpeachable, and the stock to select from immense. But let a thing be never so good, one does not care to have it positively thrust on one."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ecopies of Jefferies books are available for free on the web as are many other copyright expired ones.