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I KNOW there are men who boast that they
have cured themselves of the habit of
loitering at bookstalls. I hope they have
exchanged it for no worse habit. I would
no more give them credit for their
self-conquest than I would join in their foolish
boast. I am not a snuff-taker, a slave to
opium, a sipper of bang, a chewer of hashish,
a gambler, or a drinker of strong drinks. I
am not addicted to sumptuous dinners.
Nevertheless, I do acknowledge myself to be
guilty of all such moral weakness, as may be
implied in a love of lingering at bookstalls.
Surely, if there be an innocent and
unobtrusive pleasure, I may cry "Eureka" here.
I am not aware of any one ever getting a
disease of the brain by indulging in it; or
waxing glassy-eyed, or sallow-cheeked, or
getting slothful, or cruel. I never heard of
any man ruining his family, or blowing out
his brains, who had previously written a
note, in which he laid the blame of his
untimely end upon bookstalls, and charged the
young and thoughtless to take warning by
his fate in time. I do not remember a case
of gout or dyspepsia being attributed to the
same cause. Therefore, thou Bacchanalian or
Tobacconalian, pick the mote out of thine
own eye, and let me loiter when I will.

Here is the autobiography of Benjamin
Franklin: he knew the worth of time, if ever
any man did; yet he never begrudged ten
minutes at a bookstall. The books he speaks
of as his earliest favourites are all the very
sort you find at bookstalls. That odd volume
of the Spectator, for instance, which he says
he bought. You do not buy odd volumes of
the Spectator at regular booksellers. Across
a hundred and odd years of wars and
revolutions I see him plainly nowa stout
and healthy-looking boy in homely dress
eagerly scanning the slender stock of some
dealer in odd, tattered volumes, in that clean-kept
and shady Quaker city, where he landed
penniless. He runs over the authors; thinks,
perhaps, that one day the New World will
have her great names too, when she has
time to blend the beautiful and useful, like
the trees and houses in Penn's new capital.
He notes The Art of Thinking, by Messieurs
du Port Royal, Locke's Essay on the
Human Understanding, Cotton's Montaigne,
Plutarch's Lives, and sighs, feeling some few
loose coppers in his pocket. Suddenly his
eye catches a little dirty book denuded of one
cover and weather-beaten in a voyage across
the sea; a solitary volume, parted from its kin
and sold into exile, like a slave by a bad
master, never to join company again with its
lost brethren, in any book-case in the world.
Taking it up, he is straightway introduced to
Sir Roger de Coverly, Knight; in whose
pleasant company he forgets the passers
by, and the bookdealer inside, who begins
to suspect him of a shabby design to read
that book through in twelve visits, and is
about to point out to him the trifling price,
by way of hint, when the youth draws forth
his hand, and depositing the coppers, takes
the little book away. Stay, loyal and obedient
subject of His Majesty King George of
England, who shall be great hereafter! Stay!
I would look upon your honest face again.
Walk not away so fast. I have wondrous
things to tellsecrets of which you or your
fellow countrymen, who number yet not quite
a million, do not dream. I could tell you all
about the tea that shall be wasted in the
waters of Boston Harbour, and what will
come of it. Startling news I have of things
that shall be seen in France one day; whereof
even now the seeds are sown. But he does
not look back, nor to right or left, till he is
at home, where for many a day he will pore
over that little book, learning whole Essays
by heart, and versifying Vizions of Mirza,
with a delight which only bookstall books
can give.

I have no sympathy with grubbers after
old books. Black-letter has no charm for
me, and superfluous final e's are an eyesore.
It rejoices not me to see that my book was
printed "at the sign of the Black Boy, over
against St. Bede's." I have no pleasure in
that mass of prefaces, addresses to the reader,
prologues, exordia, marginal notes, epilogues,
and envoys in which our forefathers delighted
to bury an author. If I am to have my
choice between white paper and dingy yellow,
I choose white; and I have a decided
preference for octavo over folio, as being more
portable. I do not care to have a portrait of
my author, made by ruling a straight line for
a nose, and striking semicircles for forehead