December 09, 2006

The literary life, back then

Every once in a while, I come across something that makes it clear how much times have changed.  Most recently, a footnote in P. N. Furbank's review of Victoria Glendinning's biography of Leonard Woolf (New York Review of Books, 12/21/06, p. 44).  Glendinning quotes a letter to Lytton Strachey, from Woolf's first year in the Ceylon civil service, in which he describes a fantasy life that includes "reading Voltaire on the immense verandah".  Here comes the footnote:

He had brought with him to Ceylon a seventy-volume edition of the works of Voltaire.

Unimaginable today, I think, even for book nuts like me.

[Mark Liberman points out that these days you could bring it in your pocket, on a thumb drive.  But he understands that I was talking about traveling with those old-fashioned objects made from wood pulp -- book books, rather than e-books.]

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at December 9, 2006 01:41 PM