Thomas Blinton was a book hunter…. His ‘harmless taste’ really involved most of the deadly sins, or at all events a fair working majority of them. He coveted his neighbour’s books. When he got the chance he bought books in a cheap market and sold them in a dear market, thereby degrading literature to the level of trade. He took advantage of the ignorance of uneducated persons who kept book-stalls. He was envious, and grudged the good fortune of others, while he rejoiced in their failures. He turned a deaf ear to the appeals of poverty. He was luxurious, and laid out more money than he should have done on his selfish pleasures, often adorning a volume with morocco binding when Mrs Blinton sighed in vain for some old point d’Alencon lace. Greedy, proud, envious, stingy, extravagant, and sharp in his dealings, Blinton was guilty of most of the sins which the Church recognises as ‘deadly’.

Andrew Lang, Books and Bookmen (1913).


I should never call myself a book lover, any more than a people lover: it all depends on what’s inside them. Nor am I a book collector: when a don asked me how many books I had, I really couldn’t reply, but this didn’t matter as all he wanted to tell me was that he had 25,000, or 50,000 or some improbable number. I was too polite to deliver a variant of Samuel Butler’s ‘I keep my books round the corner, in the British Museum’, yet at the same time I felt a wave of pity, as if he had confessed to kleptomania or some other minor psychological compulsion.

Phillip Larkin, ‘Books’ (1972).


How true it is that book lovers/collectors often associate their ‘passion’ with a certain degree of ‘guilt’ when confessing up to their indulgences in the matter. We feel the tinge of guilt when we know we have bought one book too many; when we look at ever growing mountain of to-be-read books; when we know that the money could have been used to put food on the table and clothes on our backs; or when we covet our neighbour’s books, just like greedy Mr Bllinton.

I think it is at times like these, that we should take heart and be reminded of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s words :

I believe that when it comes to books, conventional morality doesn’t exist.

Arturo Perez-Reverte, The Dumas Club (1993).

How enabling is that? πŸ˜‰


4 thoughts on “Friday Feature : On Bookish Vices

  1. Book collecting is such a harmless pastime–and yet why do we feel guilty? (See my Friday post where I discuss how I came to have a huge new stack of books!) Thanks for that last quote–perhaps it will ease some of that guilt. πŸ™‚


    1. Yes, so harmless indeed, unless it comes to a point where we are in danger of being buried under those books someday! :p
      Read your Friday post, and please know that you have my envy for some of the great titles you’ve got there. πŸ™‚ Enjoy your loot, and happy reading….


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