Most men seek solitude from wounded vanity, from disappointed ambition, from a miscarriage in the passions; but some others from native instinct, as a duckling seeks water. I have taken to my solitude, such as it is, from an indolent turn of mind, and this solitude I sweeten by an imaginative sympathy which re-creates the past for me,—the past of the world, as well as the past which belongs to me as an individual,—and which makes me independent of the passing moment. I see every one struggling after the unattainable, but I struggle not, and so spare myself the pangs of disappointment and disgust. I have no ventures at sea, and, consequently, do not fear the arrival of evil tidings. I have no desire to act any prominent part in the world, but I am devoured by an unappeasable curiosity as to the men who do act. I am not an actor, I am a spectator only. My sole occupation is sight-seeing. In a certain imperial idleness, I amuse myself with the world. Ambition! What do I care for ambition? The oyster with much pain produces its pearl. I take the pearl. Why should I produce one after this miserable, painful fashion? It would be but a flawed one, at best. These pearls I can pick up by the dozen. The production of them is going on all around me, and there will be a nice crop for the solitary man of the next century. Look at a certain silent emperor, for instance: a hundred years hence his pearl will be handed about from hand to hand; will be curiously scrutinised and valued; will be set in its place in the world’s cabinet. I confess I should like to see the completion of that filmy orb. Will it be pure in colour? Will its purity be marred by an ominous bloody streak? Of this I am certain, that in the cabinet in which the world keeps these peculiar treasures, no one will be looked at more frequently, or will provoke a greater variety of opinions as to its intrinsic worth. Why should I be ambitious? Shall I write verses? I am not likely to surpass Mr. Tennyson or Mr. Browning in that walk. Shall I be a musician? The blackbird singing this moment somewhere in my garden shrubbery puts me to instant shame. Shall I paint? The intensest scarlet on an artist’s palette is but ochre to that I saw this morning at sunrise. No, no, let me enjoy Mr. Tennyson’s verse, and the blackbird’s song, and the colours of sunrise, but do not let me emulate them. I am happier as it is. I do not need to make history,—there are plenty of people willing to save me trouble on that score. The cook makes the dinner, the guest eats it; and the last, not without reason, is considered the happier man.
In my garden I spend my days; in my library I spend my nights. My interests are divided between my geraniums and my books. With the flower I am in the present; with the book I am in the past. I go into my library, and all history unrolls before me. I breathe the morning air of the world while the scent of Eden’s roses yet lingered in it, while it vibrated only to the world’s first brood of nightingales, and to the laugh of Eve. I see the Pyramids building; I hear the shoutings of the armies of Alexander; I feel the ground shake beneath the march of Cambyses. I sit as in a theatre,—the stage is time, the play is the play of the world. What a spectacle it is! What kingly pomp, what processions file past, what cities burn to heaven, what crowds of captives are dragged at the chariot-wheels of conquerors! I hiss, or cry “Bravo,” when the great actors come on the shaking stage. I am a Roman emperor when I look at a Roman coin. I lift Homer, and I shout with Achilles in the trenches. The silence of the unpeopled Syrian plains, the out-comings and in-goings of the patriarchs, Abraham and Ishmael, Isaac in the fields at eventide, Rebekah at the well, Jacob’s guile, Esau’s face reddened by desert sun-heat, Joseph’s splendid funeral procession,—all these things I find within the boards of my Old Testament. What a silence in those old books as of a half-peopled world; what bleating of flocks; what green pastoral rest; what indubitable human existence! Across brawling centuries of blood and war I hear the bleating of Abraham’s flocks, the tinkling of the bells of Rebekah’s camels. O men and women so far separated yet so near, so strange yet so well known, by what miraculous power do I know ye all! Books are the true Elysian fields, where the spirits of the dead converse; and into these fields a mortal may venture unappalled. What king’s court can boast such company? What school of philosophy such wisdom? The wit of the ancient world is glancing and flashing there. There is Pan’s pipe, there are the songs of Apollo. Seated in my library at night, and looking on the silent faces of my books, I am occasionally visited by a strange sense of the supernatural. They are not collections of printed pages, they are ghosts. I take one down, and it speaks with me in a tongue not now heard on earth, and of men and things of which it alone possesses knowledge. I call myself a solitary, but sometimes I think I misapply the term. No man sees more company than I do. I travel with mightier cohorts around me than ever did Timour or Genghis Khan on their fiery marches. I am a sovereign in my library, but it is the dead, not the living, that attend my levees.
The house I dwell in stands apart from the little town, and relates itself to the houses as I do to the inhabitants. It sees everything, but is itself unseen, or, at all events, unregarded. My study-window looks down upon Dreamthorp like a meditative eye. Without meaning it, I feel I am a spy on the on-goings of the quiet place. Around my house there is an old-fashioned rambling garden, with close-shaven grassy plots, and fantastically clipped yews which have gathered their darkness from a hundred summers and winters; and sun-dials in which the sun is constantly telling his age; and statues green with neglect and the stains of the weather. The garden I love more than any place on earth; it is a better study than the room inside the house which is dignified by that name. I like to pace its gravelled walks, to sit in the moss-house, which is warm and cosey as a bird’s nest, and wherein twilight dwells at noonday; to enjoy the feast of colour spread for me in the curiously shaped floral spaces. My garden, with its silence and the pulses of fragrance that come and go on the airy undulations, affects me like sweet music. Care stops at the gates, and gazes at me wistfully through the bars. Among my flowers and trees Nature takes me into her own hands, and I breathe freely as the first man. It is curious, pathetic almost, I sometimes think, how deeply seated in the human heart is the liking for gardens and gardening. The sickly seamstress in the narrow city lane tends her box of sicklier mignonette. The retired merchant is as fond of tulips as ever was Dutchman during the famous mania. The author finds a garden the best place to think out his thought. In the disabled statesman every restless throb of regret or ambition is stilled when he looks upon his blossomed apple-trees. Is the fancy too far brought that this love for gardens is a reminiscence haunting the race of that remote time in the world’s dawn when but two persons existed,—a gardener named Adam, and a gardener’s wife called Eve?
When I walk out of my house into my garden I walk out of my habitual self, my every-day thoughts, my customariness of joy or sorrow by which I recognise and assure myself of my own identity. These I leave behind me for a time, as the bather leaves his garments on the beach. This piece of garden-ground, in extent barely a square acre, is a kingdom with its own interests, annals, and incidents. Something is always happening in it. To-day is always different from yesterday. This spring a chaffinch built a nest in one of my yew-trees. The particular yew which the bird did me the honour to select had been clipped long ago into a similitude of Adam, and, in fact, went by his name. The resemblance to a human figure was, of course, remote, but the intention was evident. In the black shock head of our first parent did the birds establish their habitation. A prettier, rounder, more comfortable nest I never saw, and many a wild swing it got when Adam bent his back, and bobbed and shook his head when the bitter east wind was blowing. The nest interested me, and I visited it every day from the time the first stained turquoise sphere was laid in the warm lining of moss and horse-hair, till, when I chirped, four red hungry throats, eager for worm or slug, opened out of a confused mass of feathery down. What a hungry brood it was, to be sure, and how often father and mother were put to it to provide them sustenance! I went but the other day to have a peep, and, behold! brood and parent-birds were gone, the nest was empty, Adam’s visitors had departed. In the corners of my bedroom window I have a couple of swallows’ nests, and nothing can be pleasanter in these summer mornings than to lie in a kind of half-dream, conscious all the time of the chatterings and endearments of the man-loving creatures. They are beautifully restless, and are continually darting around their nests in the window-corners. All at once there is a great twittering and noise; something of moment has been witnessed, something of importance has occurred in the swallow-world,—perhaps a fly of unusual size or savour has been bolted. Clinging with their feet, and with heads turned charmingly aside, they chatter away with voluble sweetness, then with a gleam of silver they are gone, and in a trice one is poising itself in the wind above my tree-tops, while the other dips her wing as she darts after a fly through the arches of the bridge which lets the slow stream down to the sea. I go to the southern wall, against which I have trained my fruit-trees, and find it a sheet of white and vermeil blossom; and as I know it by heart, I can notice what changes take place on it day by day, what later clumps of buds have burst into colour and odour. What beauty in that blooming wall! the wedding-presents of a princess ranged for admiration would not please me half so much; what delicate colouring! what fragrance the thievish winds steal from it, without making it one odour the poorer! with what a complacent hum the bee goes past! My chaffinch’s nest, my swallows,—twittering but a few months ago around the kraal of the Hottentot, or chasing flies around the six solitary pillars of Baalbec,—with their nests in the corners of my bed-room windows, my long-armed fruit-trees flowering against my sunny wall, are not mighty pleasures, but then they are my own, and I have not to go in search of them. And so, like a wise man, I am content with what I have, and make it richer by my fancy, which is as cheap as sunlight, and gilds objects quite as prettily. It is the coins in my own pocket, not the coins in the pockets of my neighbour, that are of use to me. Discontent has never a doit in her purse, and envy is the most poverty stricken of the passions.
His own children, and the children he happens to meet on the country road, a man regards with quite different eyes. The strange, sunburnt brats returning from a primrose-hunt and laden with floral spoils, may be as healthy looking, as pretty, as well-behaved, as sweet-tempered, as neatly dressed as those that bear his name,—may be in every respect as worthy of love and admiration; but then they have the misfortune not to belong to him. That little fact makes a great difference. He knows nothing about them; his acquaintance with them is born and dead in a moment. I like my garden better than any other garden, for the same reason. It is my own. And ownership in such a matter implies a great deal. When I first settled here, the ground around the house was sour moorland. I made the walk, planted the trees, built the moss-house, erected the sun-dial, brought home the rhododendrons and fed them with the mould which they love so well. I am the creator of every blossom, of every odour that comes and goes in the wind. The rustle of my trees is to my ear what his child’s voice is to my friends the village doctor or the village clergyman. I know the genealogy of every tree and plant in my garden. I watch their growth as a father watches the growth of his children. It is curious enough, as showing from what sources objects derive their importance, that if you have once planted a tree for other than commercial purposes,—and in that case it is usually done by your orders and by the hands of hirelings,—you have always in it a peculiar interest. You care more for it than you care for all the forests of Norway or America. You have planted it, and that is sufficient to make it peculiar amongst the trees of the world. This personal interest I take in every inmate of my garden, and this interest I have increased by sedulous watching. But, really, trees and plants resemble human beings in many ways. You shake a packet of seed into your forcing-frame; and while some grow, others pine and die, or struggle on under hereditary defect, showing indifferent blossoms late in the season, and succumb at length. So far as one could discover, the seeds were originally alike,—they received the same care, they were fed by the same moisture and sunlight; but of no two of them are the issues the same. Do I not see something of this kind in the world of men, and can I not please myself with quaint analogies? These plants and trees have their seasons of illness and their sudden deaths. Your best rose-tree, whose fame has spread for twenty miles, is smitten by some fell disease; its leaves take an unhealthy hue, and in a day or so it is sapless,—dead. A tree of mine, the first last spring to put out its leaves, and which wore them till November, made this spring no green response to the call of the sunshine. Marvelling what ailed it, I went to examine, and found it had been dead for months; and yet during the winter there had been no frost to speak of, and more than its brothers and sisters it was in no way exposed. These are the tragedies of the garden, and they shadow forth other tragedies nearer us. In everything we find a kind of dim mirror of ourselves. Sterne, if placed in a desert, said he would love a tree; and I can fancy such a love would not be altogether unsatisfying. Love of trees and plants is safe. You do not run risk in your affections. They are my children, silent and beautiful, untouched by any passion, unpolluted by evil tempers; for me they leaf and flower themselves. In autumn they put off their rich apparel, but next year they are back again, with dresses fair as ever; and—one can extract a kind of fanciful bitterness from the thought—should I be laid in my grave in winter, they would all in spring be back again, with faces a bright and with breaths as sweet, missing me not at all. Ungrateful, the one I am fondest of would blossom very prettily if planted on the soil that covers me,—where my dog would die, where my best friend would perhaps raise an inscription!
I like flowering plants, but I like trees more,—for the reason, I suppose, that they are slower in coming to maturity, are longer lived, that you can become better acquainted with them, and that in the course of years memories and associations hang as thickly on their boughs as do leaves in summer or fruits in autumn. I do not wonder that great earls value their trees, and never, save in direst extremity, lift upon them the axe. Ancient descent and glory are made audible in the proud murmur of immemorial woods. There are forests in England whose leafy noises may be shaped into Agincourt and the names of the battle-fields of the Roses; oaks that dropped their acorns in the year that Henry VIII. held his Field of the Cloth of Gold, and beeches that gave shelter to the deer when Shakspeare was a boy. There they stand, in sun and shower, the broad-armed witnesses of perished centuries; and sore must his need be who commands a woodland massacre. A great English tree, the rings of a century in its boll, is one of the noblest of natural objects; and it touches the imagination no less than the eye, for it grows out of tradition and a past order of things, and is pathetic with the suggestions of dead generations. Trees waving a colony of rooks in the wind to-day, are older than historic lines. Trees are your best antiques. There are cedars on Lebanon which the axes of Solomon spared, they say, when he was busy with his Temple; there are olives on Olivet that might have rustled in the ears of the Master and the Twelve; there are oaks in Sherwood which have tingled to the horn of Robin Hood, and have listened to Maid Marian’s laugh. Think of an existing Syrian cedar which is nearly as old as history, which was middle-aged before the wolf suckled Romulus! Think of an existing English elm in whose branches the heron was reared which the hawks of Saxon Harold killed! If you are a notable, and wish to be remembered, better plant a tree than build a city or strike a medal; it will outlast both.
My trees are young enough, and if they do not take me away into the past, they project me into the future. When I planted them, I knew I was performing an act, the issues of which would outlast me long. My oaks are but saplings; but what undreamed-of English kings will they not outlive! I pluck my apples, my pears, my plums; and I know that from the same branches other hands will pluck apples, pears, and plums when this body of mine will have shrunk into a pinch of dust. I cannot dream with what year these hands will date their letters. A man does not plant a tree for himself, he plants it for posterity. And, sitting idly in the sunshine, I think at times of the unborn people who will, to some small extent, be indebted to me. Remember me kindly, ye future men and women! When I am dead, the juice of my apples will foam and spurt in your cider-presses, my plums will gather for you their misty bloom; and that any of your youngsters should be choked by one of my cherry-stones, merciful Heaven forfend!
In this pleasant summer weather I hold my audience in my garden rather than in my house. In all my interviews the sun is a third party. Every village has its Fool, and, of course, Dreamthorp is not without one. Him I get to run my messages for me, and he occasionally turns my garden borders with a neat hand enough. He and I hold frequent converse, and people here, I have been told, think we have certain points of sympathy. Although this is not meant for a compliment, I take it for one. The poor faithful creature’s brain has strange visitors; now ’t is fun, now wisdom, and now something which seems in the queerest way a compound of both. He lives in a kind of twilight which obscures objects, and his remarks seem to come from another world than that in which ordinary people live. He is the only original person of my acquaintance; his views of life are his own, and form a singular commentary on those generally accepted. He is dull enough at times, poor fellow; but anon he startles you with something, and you think he must have wandered out of Shakspeare’s plays into this out-of-the-way place. Up from the village now and then comes to visit me the tall, gaunt, atrabilious confectioner, who has a hankering after Red-republicanism, and the destruction of Queen, Lords, and Commons. Guy Fawkes is, I believe, the only martyr in his calendar. The sourest-tempered man, I think, that ever engaged in the manufacture of sweetmeats. I wonder that the oddity of the thing never strikes himself. To be at all consistent, he should put poison in his lozenges, and become the Herod of the village innocents. One of his many eccentricities is a love for flowers, and he visits me often to have a look at my greenhouse and my borders. I listen to his truculent and revolutionary speeches, and take my revenge by sending the gloomy egotist away with a nosegay in his hand, and a gay-coloured flower stuck in a button-hole. He goes quite unconscious of my floral satire.
The village clergyman and the village doctor are great friends of mine; they come to visit me often, and smoke a pipe with me in my garden. The twain love and respect each other, but they regard the world from different points of view, and I am now and again made witness of a good-humoured passage of arms. The clergyman is old, unmarried, and a humourist. His sallies and his gentle eccentricities seldom provoke laughter, but they are continually awakening the pleasantest smiles. Perhaps what he has seen of the world, its sins, its sorrows, its death-beds, its widows and orphans, has tamed his spirit and put a tenderness into his wit. I do not think I have ever encountered a man who so adorns his sacred profession. His pious, devout nature produces sermons just as naturally as my apple-trees produce apples. He is a tree that flowers every Sunday. Very beautiful in his reverence for the Book, his trust in it; through long acquaintance, its ideas have come to colour his entire thought, and you come upon its phrases in his ordinary speech. He is more himself in the pulpit than anywhere else, and you get nearer him in his sermons than you do sitting with him at his tea-table, or walking with him on the country roads. He does not feel confined in his orthodoxy; in it he is free as a bird in the air. The doctor is, I conceive, as good a Christian as the clergyman, but he is impatient of pale or limit; he never comes to a fence without feeling a desire to get over it. He is a great hunter of insects, and he thinks that the wings of his butterflies might yield very excellent texts; he is fond of geology, and cannot, especially when he is in the company of the clergyman, resist the temptation of hurling a fossil at Moses. He wears his scepticism as a coquette wears her ribbons,—to annoy if he cannot subdue; and when his purpose is served, he puts his scepticism aside,—as the coquette puts her ribbons. Great arguments arise between them, and the doctor loses his field through his loss of temper,—which, however, he regains before any harm is done; for the worthy man is irascible withal, and opposition draws fire from him.
After an outburst, there is a truce between the friends for a while, till it is broken by theological battle over the age of the world, or some other the like remote matter, which seems important to me only in so far as it affords ground for disputation. These truces are broken sometimes by the doctor, sometimes by the clergyman. T’other evening the doctor and myself were sitting in the garden, smoking each a meditative pipe. Dreamthorp lay below, with its old castle and its lake, and its hundred wreaths of smoke floating upward into the sunset. Where we sat, the voices of children playing in the street could hardly reach us. Suddenly a step was heard on the gravel, and the next moment the clergyman appeared, as it seemed to me, with a peculiar airiness of aspect, and the light of a humourous satisfaction in his eye. After the usual salutations, he took his seat beside us, lifted a pipe of the kind called “churchwarden” from the box on the ground, filled and lighted it, and for a little while we were silent all three. The clergyman then drew an old magazine from his side pocket, opened it at a place where the leaf had been carefully turned down, and drew my attention to a short poem which had for its title, “Vanity Fair,” imprinted in German text. This poem he desired me to read aloud. Laying down my pipe carefully beside me, I complied with his request. It ran thus; for as after my friends went it was left behind, I have written it down word for word:—
The world-old Fair of Vanity
Since Bunyan’s day has grown discreeter
No more it flocks in crowds to see
A blazing Paul or Peter.
Not that a single inch it swerves
From hate of saint or love of sinner,
But martyrs shock aesthetic nerves,
And spoil the goût of dinner.
Raise but a shout, or flaunt a scarf,—
Its mobs are all agog and flying;
They ’ll cram the levee of a dwarf,
And leave a Haydon dying.
They live upon each newest thing,
They fill their idle days with seeing;
Fresh news of courtier and of king
Sustains their empty being.
The statelier, from year to year,
Maintain their comfortable stations
At the wide windows that o’erpeer
The public square of nations;
While through it heaves, with cheers and groans,
Harsh drums of battle in the distance,
Frightful with gallows, ropes, and thrones,
The medley of existence;
Amongst them tongues are wagging much:
Hark to the philosophic sisters!
To his, whose keen satiric touch,
Like the Medusa, blisters!
All things are made for talk,—St. Paul;
The pattern of an altar cushion;
A Paris wild with carnival,
Or red with revolution.
And much they knew, that sneering crew,
Of things above the world and under:
They search’d the hoary deep; they knew
The secret of the thunder;
The pure white arrow of the light
They split into its colours seven;
They weighed the sun; they dwelt, like night,
Among the stars of heaven;
They ’ve found out life and death,—the first
Is known but to the upper classes;
The second, pooh! ’t is at the worst
A dissolution into gases.
And vice and virtue are akin,
As black and white from Adam issue,—
One flesh, one blood, though sheeted in
A different coloured tissue.
Their science groped from star to star;—
But then herself found nothing greater.
What wonder?—in a Leyden jar
They bottled the Creator.
Fires fluttered on their lightning-rod;
They cleared the human mind from error;
They emptied heaven of its God,
And Tophet of its terror.
Better the savage in his dance
Than these acute and syllogistic!
Better a reverent ignorance
Than knowledge atheistic!
Have they dispelled one cloud that lowers
So darkly on the human creature?
They with their irreligious powers
Have subjugated nature.
But, as a satyr wins the charms
Of maiden in a forest hearted,
He finds, when clasped within his arms,
The outraged soul departed.
When I had done reading these verses, he clergyman glanced slyly along to see the effect of his shot. The doctor drew two or three hurried whiffs, gave a huge grunt of scorn, then, turning sharply, asked, “What is ‘a reverent ignorance’? What is ‘a knowledge atheistic’?” The clergyman, skewered by the sudden question, wriggled a little, and then began to explain,—with no great heart, however, for he had had his little joke out, and did not care to carry it further. The doctor listened for a little, and then, laying down his pipe, said, with some heat, “It won’t do. ‘Reverent ignorance’ and such trash is a mere jingle of words; that you know as well as I. You stumbled on these verses, and brought them up here to throw them at me. They don’t harm me in the least, I can assure you. There is no use,” continued the doctor, mollifying at the sight of his friend’s countenance, and seeing how the land lay,—“there is no use speaking to our incurious, solitary friend here, who could bask comfortably in sunshine for a century, without once inquiring whence came the light and heat. But let me tell you,” lifting his pipe and shaking it across me at the clergyman, “that science has done services to your cloth which have not always received the most grateful acknowledgments. Why, man,” here he began to fill his pipe slowly, “the theologian and the man of science, although they seem to diverge and lose sight of each other, are all the while working to one end. Two exploring parties in Australia set out from one point; the one goes east, and the other west. They lose sight of each other, they know nothing of one another’s whereabouts; but they are all steering to one point,”—the sharp spirt of a fusee on the garden-seat came in here, followed by an aromatic flavour in the air,—“and when they do meet, which they are certain to do in the long run,”—here the doctor put the pipe in his mouth, and finished his speech with it there,—“the figure of the continent has become known, and may be set down in maps. The exploring parties have started long ago. What folly in the one to pooh-pooh or be suspicious of the exertions of the other. That party deserves the greatest credit which meets the other more than half way.”—“Bravo!” cried the clergyman, when the doctor had finished his oration; “I don’t know that I could fill your place at the bedside, but I am quite sure that you could fill mine in the pulpit.”—“I am not sure that the congregation would approve of the change,—I might disturb their slumbers;” and, pleased with his retort, his cheery laugh rose through a cloud of smoke into the sunset.
Heigho! mine is a dull life, I fear, when this little affair of the doctor and the clergyman takes the dignity of an incident, and seems worthy of being recorded.
The doctor was anxious that, during the following winter, a short course of lectures should be delivered in the village schoolroom, and in my garden he held several conferences on the matter with the clergyman and myself. It was arranged finally that the lectures should be delivered, and that one of them should be delivered by me. I need not say how pleasant was the writing out of my discourse, and how the pleasure was heightened by the slightest thrill of alarm at my own temerity. My lecture I copied out in my most careful hand, and, as I had it by heart, I used to declaim passages of it ensconced in my moss-house, or concealed behind my shrubbery trees. In these places I tried it all over, sentence by sentence. The evening came at last which had been looked forward to for a couple of months or more. The small schoolroom was filled by forms on which the people sat, and a small reading-desk, with a tumbler of water on it, at the further end, waited for me. When I took my seat, the couple of hundred eyes struck into me a certain awe. I discovered in a moment why the orator of the hustings is so deferential to the mob. You may despise every individual member of your audience, but these despised individuals, in their capacity of a collective body, overpower you. I addressed the people with the most unfeigned respect. When I began, too, I found what a dreadful thing it is to hear your own voice inhabiting the silence. You are related to your voice, and yet divorced from it. It is you, and yet a thing apart. All the time it is going on, you can be critical as to its tone, volume, cadence, and other qualities, as if it was the voice of a stranger. Gradually, however, I got accustomed to my voice, and the respect which I entertained for my hearers so far relaxed that I was at last able to look them in the face. I saw the doctor and the clergyman smile encouragingly, and my half-witted gardener looking up at me with open mouth, and the atrabilious confectioner clap his hands, which made me take refuge in my paper again. I got to the end of my task without any remarkable incident, if I except the doctor’s once calling out “hear” loudly, which brought the heart into my mouth, and blurred half a sentence. When I sat down, there were the usual sounds of approbation, and the confectioner returned thanks, in the name of the audience.
Smith, Alexander. “Books and gardens.” 1863. Quotidiana. Ed. Patrick Madden. 15 Sep 2007. 25 Apr 2017 <http://essays.quotidiana.org/smith_a/books_and_gardens/>.
There are few books which go with midnight, solitude, and a candle.
I love to lose myself in other men's minds. When I am not walking, I am reading; I cannot sit and think. Books think for me.
If you arrange your books according to their contents you are sure to get an untidy shelf.
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.
What are books and opinions? The creakings of an old house uneasy with the heavy remembrances and the melancholy of antiquity, and with some midnight presage of its finality.