John Ruskin on books. Francis Hackett, Raymond Chandler, Flaubert, Matthew Arnold.

(26.06.2016) Denne friske midsommer søndag’s eftermiddag vil jeg omtale nogle af de seneste bogerhvervelser. Dels fra det igangværende hollandske udsalg i Helligaandshuset (ved Forum Antikvariats foranstaltning), dels fra Vangsgaards igår afsluttede udsalgsrunde på Kultorvet.

I helligåndshuset koster bøgerne idag (vistnok) 40 kr. Da de for nogle dage siden kostede 50 kr erhvervede jeg et par pæne fotobøger, som jeg vil omtale nedenfor. Men jeg vil begynde med nogle få 5-kroners bøger, erhvervet i den forløbne uge på Kultorvet.

1. ART AND LIFE. Af T. Sturge Moore. London, 1910, 314 s., ill.

Bogen er indb. i et typisk engelsk helshirtingbind, græskrønt med guldtryk. Bindet en lille smule slidt, men indvendig fin og velholdt.

På forbladet findes Signe Toksvig/Francis Hackett’s exlibris. I irgrøn (stempel)farve, naturligvis – Hackett var jo af Irsk afstamning.

For øvrigt minder hans kontrafej – som afbildet andetsteds – i mine øjne meget om en anden kendt Irsk-Amerikansk forfatter, nemlig Raymond Chandler. Men Chandler havde jo, mig bekendt, absolut ingen tilknytning til Danmark, i modsætning til Hackett og hans danskfødte hustru, idet de boede i nogle år i Danmark, indtil de i 1938 flyttede tilbage til USA.

Nu har jeg jo ikke nået at læse bogen, ej heller ret meget i den, så jeg må endnu engang nøjes med et par smagsprøver. Det halvanden sider korte forord sluttes således:

“Within the writer’s horizon Flaubert and Blake seemed the most strongly characterised instances of men conceiving of art as an ideal life: he therefore uses them as illustrations; and, since the French writer is ill-known amongst us as an individual, an author, and as a theme of controversy, sets out with a brief review of his life, his work, and the criticism to which both have been subjected.”

Fra side 65 hidsættes yderligere følgende to små stykker:

“English readers may ask, “How does Flaubert stand in relation to Balzac, Hugo, or George Sand?”. The reply leaps out, “He is that Hercules who cleaned out stables which had become impossible through their neglect.”

“For me, he is THE literary event since Goethe. Wordsworth, Keats, and others have been as choice, but his work has the wider range and more of it is sound. With those of the best poets alone can I rank his finest pages, which, if never more popular than theirs, will surely never win less love, less admiration.”

Desværre har jeg ikke kunnet finde noget om kritikeren Sturge Moore i de få og små leksika jeg p.t. har på mine hylder. Jeg savner min Salmonsen og min Svensk Uppslagsbok, som desværre endnu ikke er dukket op af kasserne efter byfornyelses-genhusningen.

2. BOOKS AND THINGS. Af Philip Littell. NewYork, 1919, 283 s., grønt halvshirting.

Denne bog er ligeledes lidt slidt i indbindingen, men ellers pæn og brugbar. Bogen har stået på et bibliotek i Californien “Holy Cross School, Santa Cruz Calif. – Convent” – altså på dansk vel: Hellig Kors Skolens Kloster?

På et forblad står: “My thanks are due to the other editors of “The New Republic” for letting me print and reprint the following articles”.

Littell har altså været en af redaktørene på The New Republic, og da Francis Hackett i en lang årrække, og på samme tid, var redaktør sammesteds tør man nok formode, at denne bog ligeledes kommer fra Hackett’s bibliotek?

Bogen indeholder 36 essays. Jeg bringer her en lille smagsprøve fra “Matthew Arnold” (s.180):

“A sober green volume, lately published by the Oxfort University Press, and called “Essays by Matthew Arnold,” reminds me of an evening I spent, almost thirty years ago, in the smoking-room of a German hotel, where I had no business.

“If anybody had asked me why I’d left my pension in another part of Dresden, and was hanging about that smoking-room, too young to give myself a status there by ordering a drink, I should not have told the truth.

“Mr Matthew Arnold, who was inspecting the schools of Saxony, was staying in that hotel, and I hoped he might come to the smoking-room after dinner. At that moment there was nothing I wanted quite so much as to see him and to hear him talk. At last he entered.

“At last he talkied. It would have been hard for me to say whether his appearance or his talk was the deeper disappointment. He sat down near a French actress, but what he said to her did not sound at all like “Faster, faster, O Circe, Goddress!”. He said, “Avez-vous bien dormi?”.

“Of Hungary, where he had lately been a circuitous wanderer, he merely remarked that in one town, where his host had an English wife, he had been very comfortable.

“Although he spoke of Virgil, he didn’t even allude to the sense of tears in mortal things. He recited three or four lines of the Aeneid, just to illustrate by imitation the charmlessness with which English schoolboys pronounced Latin.”

3. SESAME AND LILIES. Three lectures by John Ruskin. London, 1894, grøn helshirting, ligeledes lidt slidt. 228 s. plus 35 s. forord.

Bogen er dedikeret “Frances from Cecil – Xmas 1895. The Wilderness”. Jeg gætter på, at bemeldte Frances er Francis Hackett, som har været en ung mand på det tidspunkt. Bogens tre essays hedder: a) Of King’s Treasuries. b) Of Queen’s Gardens. c) The Mystery of Life and its Arts.

Smagsprøven er et par stykker fra Of King’s Treasuries (s.48):

“My friends, I do not know why any of us should talk about reading. We want some sharper discipline than that of reading, but, at all events, be assured, we cannot read. No reading is possible for a people with its mind in this state. No sentence of any great writer is intelligible to them. It is simply and sternly impossible for the English public, at this moment, to understand any thoughtful writing, – so incapable of thought has it become in its insanity of avarice.” Samt (side 50):

“I say first we have despised literture. What do we, as a nation, care about books? How much do you think we spend altogether on our libraries, public or private, as compared with what we spend on our horses?

“If a man spends lavishly on his library, you call him mad – a bibliomaniac. But you never call any one a horsemaniac, though men ruin themselves every day by their horses, and you do not hear of people ruining themselves by their books.

“Or, to go lower still, how much do you think the contents of the book-shelves of the United Kingdom, public and private, would fetch, as compared with the contents of its wine-cellars? What position would its expenditure on literature take, as compared with its expenditure on luxurious eating?

“We talk of food for the mind, as of food for the body: now a good book contains such food inexhaustibly; it is a provision for life, and for the best part of us; yet how long most people would look at the best book before they would give the price of a large turbot for it?

“Though there have been men who have pinched their stomachs and bared their backs to buy a book, whose libraries were cheaper to them, I think, in the end, than most men’s dinners are. We are few of us put to such trial, and more the pity; for, indeed, a precious thing is all the more precious to us if it has been won by work or economy; and if public libraries were half so costly as public dinners, or books cost the tenth part of what bracelets do, even foolish men and women might sometimes suspect there was good in reading, as well as in munching and sparkling: Whereas the very cheapness of literature is making even wise people forget that if a book is worth reading, it is worth buying.

“No book is worth anything which is not worth much; nor is it serviceable, until it has been read and re-read, and loved, and loved again; and marked, so that you can refer to the passages you want in it, as a soldier can seize the weapon he heeds in an armoury, or a housewife bring the spice she needs from her store.

“Bread of flour is good; but there is bread, sweet as honey, if we would eat it, in a good book; and the family must be poor indeed, which once in their lives, cannot for such multipliable barley-loaves, pay their baker’s bill. We call ourselves a rich nation, and we are filthy and foolish enough to thumb each other’s books out of circulating libraries!”


I et kommende indlæg fortsættes med endnu et par 5-kroners bøger fra Kultorvet samt, som nævnt, et par fotobøger fra Helligåndshuset.


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