Looking back over forty‐five years as a professional writer, I realise my enormous debt to the public libraries. Samuel Johnson said that for every book a man writes, he should read a hundred. That means that during those forty‐five years I should have read five thousand books. But a pro‐fessional writer reads not only to educate himself and to refill the ever‐emptying cruse. He has to read books for review, or potential books in manuscript in order to advise publishers whether or not to accept them. Sometimes even he reads a book because it is written by a colleague whom he admires, or for whom he has fears. The friendship between authors has never been amply recorded. Too much is published about their mutual jealousies. I have not come across much of it. Usually my fellow word‐mongers are eager to praise each other, and to over‐look indiscretions and flagrant bids for popularity. They know what a fearful thing it is to be a free‐lance writer in the community of man, which on the whole is illiterate or what Matthew Arnold called “phil‐istine”. Only a few days ago I had occasion to ring up my newsagent about a weekly journal which he had again failed to deliver. “Oh”, he said impatiently, “we've not had time yet to sort out the books”. Books! And that from a man who makes his living in the world of print! Think of the rest of the great majority.
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