Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Readers of a feather

{Spring Night, Greenwich Village, 1930, by Martin Lewis.}

On an overnight visit to Lichfield, Staffordshire, during our recent vacation to London, we visited a charming little museum devoted to Erasmus Darwin, a doctor, poet, and botanist who was the grandfather of Charles and a member of the learned society the Lunar Society, whose numbers included Josiah Wedgwood, James Watt, and Joseph Wright of Derby. From a placard at the museum, I unexpectedly learned that Erasmus Darwin and I are spiritual kin: a young woman wrote that when Dr. Darwin would set out to call on patients he would have
a pile of books reaching from the floor to nearly the ceiling of the carriage.
That was for a journey of a mere forty miles. I'm traveling much farther this week, and I'm proud to say that I've brought only five books.

Should I be pleased that I'm finally getting smart enough to heed the warning cries of my sore shoulders? Or should I feel silly that I brought even that many to a city that is lousy with books? But what if I were to run out . . . and so did New York's bookstores? Disasters do happen in publishing, after all--like the supply-chain mishaps that, according to biographer Ron Powers, nearly brought down Mark Twain's publishing company:
Then bad luck struck the business, in the form of fires and contagious horse diseases that slowed down book shipment.
Perhaps I should stop by St. Mark's tonight, just in case of horse disease.

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