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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Library
By Xavier de Maistre (1763–1852)
 
From the ‘Journey round My Room’

I PROMISED to give a dialogue between my soul and the OTHER. But there are some chapters which elude me, as it were; or rather, there are others which flow from my pen nolens volens, and derange my plans. Among these is one about my library; and I will make it as short as I can. Our forty-two days will soon be ended; and even were it not so, a similar period would not suffice to complete the description of the rich country in which I travel so pleasantly.  1
  My library, then, is composed of novels, if I must make the confession—of novels and a few choice poets.  2
  As if I had not troubles enough of my own, I share those of a thousand imaginary personages, and I feel them as acutely as my own. How many tears have I shed for that poor Clarissa, and for Charlotte’s lover!  3
  But if I go out of my way in search of unreal afflictions, I find in return such virtue, kindness, and disinterestedness in this imaginary world, as I have never yet found united in the real world around me. I meet with a woman after my heart’s desire, free from whim, lightness, and affectation. I say nothing about beauty: this I can leave to my imagination, and picture her faultlessly beautiful. And then closing the book, which no longer keeps pace with my ideas, I take the fair one by the hand, and we travel together over a country a thousand times more delightful than Eden itself. What painter could represent the fairyland in which I have placed the goddess of my heart? What poet could ever describe the lively and manifold sensations I experience in those enchanted regions?  4
  How often have I cursed that Cleveland, who is always embarking upon new troubles which he might very well avoid! I cannot endure that book, with its long list of calamities. But if I open it by way of distraction, I cannot help devouring it to the end.  5
  For how could I leave that poor man among the Abaquis? What would become of him in the hands of those savages? Still less dare I leave him in his attempt to escape from captivity.  6
  Indeed, I so enter into his sorrows, I am so interested in him and in his unfortunate family, that the sudden appearance of the ferocious Ruintons makes my hair stand on end. When I read that passage a cold perspiration covers me; and my fright is as lively and real as if I were going to be roasted and eaten by the monsters myself.  7
  When I have had enough of tears and love, I turn to some poet, and set out again for a new world.  8
 
 
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