Henry Ward Beecher on the Love of Books

temptation hall How easily one may distinguish a genuine lover of books from the worldly man I With what subdued
and yet glowing enthusiasm does he gaze upon the costly front of a thousand embattled volumes How gently he draws them down as if they were little children how tenderly he handles them He peers at the title page at the text or the notes with the nicety of a bird examining a flower He studies the binding the leather Russia English calf morocco the lettering the gilding the edging the hinge of the cover I He opens it and shuts it he holds it off and brings it nigh

Henry Ward Beecher (June 24, 1813 – March 8, 1887) was a clergyman, social reformer, and abolitionist. Among his other rich and varied accomplishments Henry Ward Beecher wrote a series of papers under the title "Star Papers." This collection of papers, first published in 1873, includes a humorous passage about the book lover and the measures that he or she must go to obtain books.

Henry Ward Beecher portrays the poor man finding a new book and deciding that the simply must have it. Never mind if he has to eat less for a while. For the book lover food for the mind is more important by far.

year buy Yea he will write books that he may buy books He will lecture teach trade he will do any honest thing for money to buy books The appetite is insatiable Feeding does not satisfy it It rages by the fuel which is put upon it As a hungry man eats first and pays afterward so the book buyer purchases and then works at the debt afterward This paying is rather medicinal

For the married book lover the book addiction is even more awkward. Henry Ward Beecher shows the book lover going home with a collection of new books.

"What is that, my dear?" she asks.

"Oh! Nothing—a few books that I can not do without," the book lover answers.

Naturally, such exchanges can not occur too often.

Now this must not happen frequently The books must be smuggled home Let them be sent to some near place Then when your wife has a headache or is out making a call or has lain down run the booka across the frontier and threshold hastily undo them stop only for one loving glance as you put them away in the closet or behind other books on the shelf or on the topmost shelf Clear away the twine and wrapping paper and every suspicious circumstance Be very
careful not to be too kind That often brings on detection Only the other day we heard it said somewhere Why how good you have been lately I am really afraid that you have been carrying on mischief secretly Our heart smote us It was a fact That very day we had bought a few books which we could not do without After a while you can bring out one volume accidentally and leave it on the table Why my dear what a beautiful book Where did you borrow it You glance over the newspaper with the quietest tone you can command That I oh that is mine Have you not seen it before It has been in the house these two months and you rush on with anecdote and incident and point out the binding and that peculiar trick of gilding and every thing else you can think of but it all will not do you can not rub out that roguish arithmetical smile People may talk about the equality of the sexes They are not equal The silent smile of a sensible loving woman will vanquish ten men Of course you repent and in time form a habit of repenting

During the 1800's the processes of printing, publishing, bookbinding, and book selling were just beginning to split off into separate businesses. Most books were printed and bound at bookstores. Taking into account inflation books were considerably more expensive then than they are today.

As a consequence such love of literature could be a costly habit.

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