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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

Again the Narrative is Retarded

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Baudelaire has a touching poem about an albatross, which you would like--describing the poet's soul superb in its own free azure-- but helpless, insulted, ugly, clumsy when striving to walk on common earth-- or rather, on a deck, where sailors torment it with tobacco pipes, etc.

You can imagine what evenings I have here among my shelves, now the long dark nights are come! Of course until ten o'clock, when I shut up shop, I am constantly interrupted--as I have been during this letter, once to sell a copy of Helen's Babies and once to sell The Ballad of Reading Gaol, so you can see how varied are my clients' tastes! But later on, after we have had our evening cocoa and Helen has gone to bed, I prowl about the place, dipping into this and that, fuddling myself with speculation. How clear and bright the stream of the mind flows in those late hours, after all the sediment and floating trash of the day has drained off! Sometimes I seem to coast the very shore of Beauty or Truth, and hear the surf breaking on those shining sands. Then some offshore wind of weariness or prejudice bears me away again. Have you ever come across Andreyev's Confessions of a Little Man During Great Days? One of the honest books of the War. The Little Man ends his confession thus--

My anger has left me, my sadness returned, and once more the tears flow. Whom can I curse, whom can I judge, when we are all alike unfortunate? Suffering is universal; hands are outstretched to each other, and when they touch . . . the great solution will come. My heart is aglow, and I stretch out my hand and cry, "Come, let us join hands! I love you, I love you!"

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And of course, as soon as one puts one's self in that frame of mind someone comes along and picks your pocket. . . . I suppose we must teach ourselves to be too proud to mind having our pockets picked!

Did it ever occur to you that the world is really governed by BOOKS? The course of this country in the War, for instance, has been largely determined by the books Wilson has read since he first began to think! If we could have a list of the principal books he has read since the War began, how interesting it would be.

Here's something I'm just copying out to put up on my bulletin board for my customers to ponder. It was written by Charles Sorley, a young Englishman who was killed in France in 1915. He was only twenty years old--


You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed, And no man claimed the conquest of your land. But gropers both through fields of thought confined We stumble and we do not understand. You only saw your future bigly planned, And we, the tapering paths of our own mind, And in each other's dearest ways we stand, And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind. When it is peace, then we may view again With new-won eyes each other's truer form And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm We'll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain, When it is peace. But until peace, the storm The darkness and the thunder and the rain.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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