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0105_001E The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

Titania Arrives

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Accordingly he had spent some time in going through a bin where he kept photos and drawings of authors that the publishers' "publicity men" were always showering upon him. After some thought he discarded promising engravings of Harold Bell Wright and Stephen Leacock, and chose pictures of Shelley, Anthony Trollope, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. Then, after further meditation, he decided that neither Shelley nor Burns would quite do for a young girl's room, and set them aside in favour of a portrait of Samuel Butler. To these he added a framed text that he was very fond of and had hung over his own desk. He had once clipped it from a copy of Life and found much pleasure in it. It runs thus:


I GIVE humble and hearty thanks for the safe return of this book which having endured the perils of my friend's bookcase, and the bookcases of my friend's friends, now returns to me in reasonably good condition.

I GIVE humble and hearty thanks that my friend did not see fit to give this book to his infant as a plaything, nor use it as an ash-tray for his burning cigar, nor as a teething-ring for his mastiff.

WHEN I lent this book I deemed it as lost: I was resigned to the bitterness of the long parting: I never thought to look upon its pages again.

BUT NOW that my book is come back to me, I rejoice and am exceeding glad! Bring hither the fatted morocco and let us rebind the volume and set it on the shelf of honour: for this my book was lent, and is returned again.

PRESENTLY, therefore, I may return some of the books that I myself have borrowed.

We have hundreds more books for your enjoyment. Read them all!

"There!" he thought. "That will convey to her the first element of book morality."

These decorations having been displayed on the walls, he bethought himself of the books that should stand on the bedside shelf.

This is a question that admits of the utmost nicety of discussion. Some authorities hold that the proper books for a guest-room are of a soporific quality that will induce swift and painless repose. This school advises The Wealth of Nations, Rome under the Caesars, The Statesman's Year Book, certain novels of Henry James, and The Letters of Queen Victoria (in three volumes). It is plausibly contended that books of this kind cannot be read (late at night) for more than a few minutes at a time, and that they afford useful scraps of information.

Another branch of opinion recommends for bedtime reading short stories, volumes of pithy anecdote, swift and sparkling stuff that may keep one awake for a space, yet will advantage all the sweeter slumber in the end. Even ghost stories and harrowing matter are maintained seasonable by these pundits. This class of reading comprises O. Henry, Bret Harte, Leonard Merrick, Ambrose Bierce, W. W. Jacobs, Daudet, de Maupassant, and possibly even On a Slow Train Through Arkansaw, that grievous classic of the railway bookstalls whereof its author, Mr. Thomas W. Jackson, has said "It will sell forever, and a thousand years afterward." To this might be added another of Mr. Jackson's onslaughts on the human intelligence, I'm From Texas, You Can't Steer Me, whereof is said (by the author) "It is like a hard-boiled egg, you can't beat it." There are other of Mr. Jackson's books, whose titles escape memory, whereof he has said "They are a dynamite for sorrow." Nothing used to annoy Mifflin more than to have someone come in and ask for copies of these works. His brother-in-law, Andrew McGill, the writer, once gave him for Christmas (just to annoy him) a copy of On a Slow Train Through Arkansaw sumptuously bound and gilded in what is known to the trade as "dove-coloured ooze." Roger retorted by sending Andrew (for his next birthday) two volumes of Brann the Iconoclast bound in what Robert Cortes Holliday calls "embossed toadskin." But that is apart from the story.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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