Tuesday, August 03, 2010


As the forlorn purlieus of the railway-station end of the town gave place to colleges, reverie, banal if you like, though eminently Burtonesque, turned towards the relatively high proportion of persons known pretty well at an earlier stage of life, both here and elsewhere, now dead, gone off their rocker, withdrawn into states of existence they–or I–had no wish to share. The probability was that even without cosmic upheaval some kind of reshuffle has to take place halfway through life, a proposition borne out by the autobiographies arriving thick and fast—three or four at a time at regular intervals—for review in one of the weeklies. At this very moment my bag was weighed down by several of these volumes, to be dealt with in time off from the seventeenth century [work on a study of Robert Burton]: Purged Not in Lethe...A Stockbroker in Sandals...Slow on the Feather...Moss off a Rolling Stone...chronicles of somebody or other's individual fate, on the whole unenthralling enough, except insomuch as every individual's story has its enthralling aspect, though the essential pivot was usually omitted or obscured by most autobiographers. —Anthony Powell, Books Do Furnish a Room



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