THE MONARCH OF BOOKS
T. DeWitt Talmage
Old books go out of date. When they were written
they discussed questions which were being discussed;
they struck at wrongs which have long ago ceased, or
advocated institutions which excite not our interest.
Were they books of history, the facts have been
gathered from the imperfect mass, better classified
and more lucidly presented. Were they books of poetry,
they were interlocked with wild mythologies which have
gone up from the face of the earth like mists at
sunrise. Were they books of morals, civilization will
not sit at the feet of barbarism; neither do we want
Sappho, Pythagoras and Tully to teach us morals. What
do the masses of the people care now for the pathos of
Simonides, or the sarcasm of Menander, or the
gracefulness of Philemon, or the wit of Aristophanes?
Even the old books we have left, with a few
exceptions, have but very little effect upon our
times. Books are human; they have a time to be born,
they are fondled, they grow in strength, they have a
middle life of usefulness; then comes old age - they
totter and they die.
Many of the national libraries are merely the
cemeteries of dead books. Some of them lived
flagitious lives and died deaths of ignominy. Some
were virtuous and accomplished a glorious mission.
Some went into the ashes through inquisitorial fires.
Some found their funeral pile in sacked and plundered
cities. Some were neglected and died as foundlings at
the door of science. Some expired in the author's
study, others in the publisher's hands. Ever and anon
there comes into your possession an old book, its
author forgotten and its usefulness done, and with
leathern lips it seems to say, "I wish I were dead."
Monuments have been raised over poets and
philanthropists. Would that some tall shaft might be
erected in honor of the world's buried books 1 The
world's authors would make pilgrimage thereto, an ...
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