That Kirk quote yesterday got me thinking about George Gissing’s The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft. It’s a beautiful little book, one that tugs at every wannabe nerd who can’t be that nerd because the affairs of the world keep him strapped to the table, like a confined Frankenstein. If you’re the bookish sort who would like nothing more than to hole up in a simple cottage with a collection of books and a notebook for the rest of your life, get a copy of it.
There’s a nice little Wikipedia entry for The Private Papers. The references at the end include a link to Paul Elmer More’s introduction to the work. I shouldn’t have read it. Based solely on the picture painted by Gissing in that semi-autobiographical papers, I vaguely assumed he lived an enchanted simple life. Not so. Rather, he lived a short life of “sordid poverty and Unmerciful disaster.” That really bummed me out.
But regardless, I agree enthusiastically with More’s final words from the introduction: “The meditations of Henry Ryecroft are grave without being heavy, learned without being pedantic, wise and sceptical without being being frigid; the little book is one of the rare treasures of English literature.”