A light-hearted literary 12 days of Christmas
Amusing anecdotes from the world of books
Source: J B Howell ‘A History of the Dublin Library Society 1791-1881’ (Dalhousie 1985)
9. A problem with autobiography
“Why should I read it, when I know what’s in it?”
Katie Price, on her autobiography.
10. Exiled in England while Mussolini occupied his country, Haile Selassie spent a weekend with the publisher Victor Gollancz and his wife. Afterwards he wrote:
‘To the lady Gollancz*, wise in kindness and motherhood, and the eternal youth of beauty, greetings.
I thank her for her wonderful weekend and shall carry back to my country the memory of her garden and its flowers and birds and her home with its music and pictures and good words. In my country there is no such peace; and our slaves are less willing than her own; nor are our courtiers willing to participate in the gardening and the pub life of beer and darts.
To her most wise and dialectical husband kind in all things including the cigar and the brandy, also Greetings.
Emperor (until the present) of the Abyssinians.
* Gollancz was not in fact knighted until 1965
Ruth Dudley Edwards, Victor Gollancz, p295
11. Publisher Richard Phillips to Sydney Owenson (later Lady Morgan) 1804.
‘I assure you that you have a power of writing, a fancy of imagination and a degree of enthusiasm which will enable you to produce an immortal work if you will labour it sufficiently. Write only on one side of your paper, and retain a broad margin.’
Phillips made quite a lot of money from supporting Lady Morgan, but much more from juveniles and compilations. He was supposed to have rejected Sir Walter Scott’s first novel. Isaac D’Israeli (Benjamin’s father) told John Murray that ‘like an atheist, who is usually a disappointed man, he thinks all belles lettres are nonsense, and denies the existence of taste’.
Smiles A Publisher and his Friends 1.49
12. Oxford manners
“I was once in an Oxford bookshop when I noticed a colleague of mine, a distinguished Oxford philosopher, browsing his way through a volume of Philosphy Made Simple . Seizing the chance of a jape, I crept behind him and murmured: “That’s a bit difficult for the likes of you, isn’t it?” He swung round with a start, but to my dismay it was not my colleague at all. It was a complete stranger. I had the vague impression that he was a tourist. Somewhere in the world there is a man who has reason to believe that Oxford is such a snotty place that strangers step up and sneer at you in bookshops when you are furtively trying to better yourself.”
Terry Eagleton, The Gatekeeper, London: Allen Lane, 2001, p73