December 2008 | Nicholas Basbanes

A Quote for the Times, Redux

A friend reminded me this morning of a passage in my first book, A Gentle Madness, that seems especially appropriate to what's going on in the world today, with recession and unemployment and bankruptcy everywhere around us. It appears at the very end of Part I, and is an excerpt from a work titled For the Love of Books: The Adventures of an Impecunious Collector, written by a man named Paul Jourdan-Smith, and published in 1933, during the midst of the Great Depression. Here is what he had to say:

"This is no time for the collector to quit his books. He may have to quit his house, abandon his trip to Europe and give away his car; but his books are patiently waiting to yield their comfort and provoke him to mirth. They will tell him that banks and civilizations have smashed before; governments have been on the rocks, and men have been fools in all ages. But it is all very funny. The gods laugh to see such sport, and why should we not join them?"

Words of wisdom, if ever there were any.