My Books (In two parts: The Literary Examiner, 5 and 12 July 1823)


by Leigh Hunt (1784 - 1859)

(Not to be confused with Hunt’s essay-pair also titled ‘My Books’ in The New Monthly Magazine, September and October 1825)

Hunt reminisces in Italy about his cozy English study, though he travelled with his library on Cicero’s advice. He describes the ‘sidelong’ inspiration of writing amid books, while contrasting a book-lover’s library (like Lamb’s) with books-as-décor.

He wittily analyses the ethics of book borrowing and lending and eccentrically divides major European writers and eras into those that were or were not book-loving (without being book-wormy). The whole is, incidentally, a stylish way to give the general reader a recommended reading list. Part I ends with mourning for Shelley, while Part II ends with Hunt’s own hopes for reincarnation as book.

Related recommendation: Walter Benjamin’s ‘Unpacking My Library’ (1931); Charles Lamb’s ‘Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading’ (1822); Montaigne’s ‘On Books’

Origin: Britain

Themes: Books, Bookshelves and Reading, The Classics, Artistic Method, Vocation and Celebrity, Anti-Academia

Genres: Familiar or Personal, Periodical

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