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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

Again the Narrative is Retarded

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You will not agree with me on what I am about to say, for I know you as a stubborn Republican; but I thank fortune that Wilson is going to the Peace Conference. I've been mulling over one of my favourite books-- it lies beside me as I write--Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, edited by Carlyle, with what Carlyle amusingly calls "Elucidations." (Carlyle is not very good at "elucidating" anything!) I have heard somewhere or other that this is one of Wilson's favourite books, and indeed, there is much of the Cromwell in him. With what a grim, covenanting zeal he took up the sword when at last it was forced into his hand! And I have been thinking that what he will say to the Peace Conference will smack strongly of what old Oliver used to say to Parliament in 1657 and 1658--"If we will have Peace without a worm in it, lay we foundations of Justice and Righteousness." What makes Wilson so irritating to the unthoughtful is that he operates exclusively upon reason, not upon passion. He contradicts Kipling's famous lines, which apply to most men--

    Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
    To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

In this instance, I think, Reason is going to win. I feel the whole current of the world setting in that direction.

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It's quaint to think of old Woodrow, a kind of Cromwell-Wordsworth, going over to do his bit among the diplomatic shell-craters. What I'm waiting for is the day when he'll get back into private life and write a book about it. There's a job, if you like, for a man who might reasonably be supposed to be pretty tired in body and soul! When that book comes out I'll spend the rest of my life in selling it. I ask nothing better! Speaking of Wordsworth, I've often wondered whether Woodrow hasn't got some poems concealed somewhere among his papers! I've always imagined that he may have written poems on the sly. And by the way, you needn't make fun of me for being so devoted to George Herbert. Do you realize that two of the most familiar quotations in our language come from his pen, viz.:

    Wouldst thou both eat thy cake, and have it?


    Dare to be true: nothing can need a ly;
    A fault, which needs it most, grows two thereby.

Forgive this tedious sermon! My mind has been so tumbled up and down this autumn that I am in a queer state of mingled melancholy and exaltation. You know how much I live in and for books. Well, I have a curious feeling, a kind of premonition that there are great books coming out of this welter of human hopes and anguishes, perhaps A book in which the tempest-shaken soul of the race will speak out as it never has before. The Bible, you know, is rather a disappointment: it has never done for humanity what it should have done. I wonder why? Walt Whitman is going to do a great deal, but he is not quite what I mean. There is something coming--I don't know just what! I thank God I am a bookseller, trafficking in the dreams and beauties and curiosities of humanity rather than some mere huckster of merchandise. But how helpless we all are when we try to tell what goes on within us! I found this in one of Lafcadio Hearn's letters the other day--I marked the passage for you--

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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