Vera - Elizabeth von Arnim

The other end was filled with bookshelves from floor to ceiling, and the books, in neat rows and uniform editions, were packed so tightly in the shelves that no one but an unusually determined reader would have the energy to wrench one out. Reading was evidently not encouraged, for not only were the books shut in behind glass doors, but the doors were kept locked and the key hung on Wemyss’s watch-chain.

Which tells us pretty much everything we need to know about Everard Wemyss.

‘People are so untrustworthy about books. I took pains to arrange mine myself, and they’re all in first-class-bindings and I don’t want them taken out and left lying anywhere by Tom, Dick, and Harry. If any one wants to read they can come and ask me. Then I know exactly what is taken, and can see that it is put back.’ And he held up the key on his watch-chain.

‘But doesn’t that rather discourage people?’ asked Lucy, who was accustomed to the most careless familiarity in intercourse with books, to books loose everywhere, books overflowing out of their shelves, books in every room, instantly accessible books, friendly books, books used to being read aloud, with their hospitable pages falling open at a touch.

‘All the better,’ said Wemyss. ‘I don’t want anybody to read my books.’


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