THE summit of Parnassus is a narrow place where few find footing for long; but the sacred mountain has vast slopes with many ledges and crannies where there are places for numbers who cannot reach the top. Which preamble came into my mind when I recalled that I became a librarian primarily because I wanted to be an author. To go farther back, I loved books so immoderately that to write one of my very own seemed to me to be a greater achievement than to drive the Flying Scotsman—which I once believed, most unoriginally of course, to be the other highest possibility of life. From which it will be obvious that I began rather early. It is customary for librarians to declare, probably with good reason, that they are not authors and that my ambitions were most undesirable. Reason or not, they really don't believe it; any more than Hilaire Belloc believed his own assertion, at Margate, that writing is a detestable occupation. Would he so eagerly and spontaneously continue it if it were so, or is he—as I do not believe—a standard example of one who defies his own prejudices? I found, as all librarians do, how steep was the going and how many scramble about only on the lowest slopes, and the few who reach what seem to contemporary eyes quite dizzy heights, usually slide back again into insulting obscurity. To be a little less abstract, the librarian is more conscious than most men that literary reputation is generally won with much struggle, and may be terrifyingly transient. Most of the “immortals” of my youth are very dead. Yet, in the centuries, a few here and there slip through into what seems immortality, and everyone born with the author‐impulse hopes, is even sure, that he will be one of these. So it is no good to moralize.
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