Lavengro, by George Borrow

Chapter 34

The two volumes — A young author — Intended editor — Quintilian — Loose money.

‘What can’t be cured must be endured,’ and ‘it is hard to kick against the pricks.’

At the period to which I have brought my history, I bethought me of the proverbs with which I have headed this chapter, and determined to act up to their spirit. I determined not to fly in the face of the publisher, and to bear — what I could not cure — his arrogance and vanity. At present, at the conclusion of nearly a quarter of a century, I am glad that I came to that determination, which I did my best to carry into effect.

Two or three days after our last interview, the publisher made his appearance in my apartment; he bore two tattered volumes under his arm, which he placed on the table. ‘I have brought you two volumes of lives, sir,’ said he, ‘which I yesterday found in my garret; you will find them of service for your compilation. As I always wish to behave liberally and encourage talent, especially youthful talent, I shall make no charge for them, though I should be justified in so doing, as you are aware that, by our agreement, you are to provide any books and materials which may be necessary. Have you been in quest of any?’

‘No,’ said I, ‘not yet.’

‘Then, sir, I would advise you to lose no time in doing so; you must visit all the bookstalls, sir, especially those in the by-streets and blind alleys. It is in such places that you will find the description of literature you are in want of. You must be up and doing, sir; it will not do for an author, especially a young author, to be idle in this town. To-night you will receive my book of philosophy, and likewise books for the Review. And, by the bye, sir, it will be as well for you to review my book of philosophy for the Review; the other reviews not having noticed it. Sir, before translating it, I wish you to review my book of philosophy for the Review.’

‘I shall be happy to do my best, sir.’

‘Very good, sir; I should be unreasonable to expect anything beyond a person’s best. And now, sir, if you please, I will conduct you to the future editor of the Review. As you are to co-operate, sir, I deem it right to make you acquainted.’

The intended editor was a little old man, who sat in a kind of wooden pavilion in a small garden behind a house in one of the purlieus of the city, composing tunes upon a piano. The walls of the pavilion were covered with fiddles of various sizes and appearances, and a considerable portion of the floor occupied by a pile of books all of one size. The publisher introduced him to me as a gentleman scarcely less eminent in literature than in music, and me to him as an aspirant critic — a young gentleman scarcely less eminent in philosophy than in philology. The conversation consisted entirely of compliments till just before we separated, when the future editor inquired of me whether I had ever read Quintilian; and, on my replying in the negative, expressed his surprise that any gentleman should aspire to become a critic who had never read Quintilian, with the comfortable information, however, that he could supply me with a Quintilian at half-price, that is, a translation made by himself some years previously, of which he had, pointing to the heap on the floor, still a few copies remaining unsold. For some reason or other, perhaps a poor one, I did not purchase the editor’s translation of Quintilian.

‘Sir,’ said the publisher, as we were returning from our visit to the editor, ‘you did right in not purchasing a drug. I am not prepared, sir, to say that Quintilian is a drug, never having seen him; but I am prepared to say that man’s translation is a drug, judging from the heap of rubbish on the floor; besides, sir, you will want any loose money you may have to purchase the description of literature which is required for your compilation.’

The publisher presently paused before the entrance of a very forlorn-looking street. ‘Sir,’ said he, after looking down it with attention, ‘I should not wonder if in that street you find works connected with the description of literature which is required for your compilation. It is in streets of this description, sir, and blind alleys, where such works are to be found. You had better search that street, sir, whilst I continue my way.’

I searched the street to which the publisher had pointed, and, in the course of the three succeeding days, many others of a similar kind. I did not find the description of literature alluded to by the publisher to be a drug, but, on the contrary, both scarce and dear. I had expended much more than my loose money long before I could procure materials even for the first volume of my compilation.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/borrow/george/lavengro/chapter34.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32