Provide for Your Library

Provide for Your Library


WFB with Lady Soames, Boston Churchill Con­fer­ence, 1995

“What shall I do with all my books?” Churchill asked in Thoughts and Adven­tures. It is a ques­tion we should all ponder—while there is still time.

In the Novem­ber 1st issue of Nation­al Review, Neal B. Free­man writes a touch­ing and sen­si­tive appre­ci­a­tion of the library of the late William F. Buck­ley, Jr.: an eclec­tic mix, from tomes on the harp­si­chord to biogra­phies of Elvis Pres­ley, from books inscribed to him to fever­ish­ly marked-up books relat­ing to Buckley’s own writ­ing, to the clas­sics he admired. Because he had not thought to leave spe­cif­ic instruc­tions, his library was bro­ken up, scat­tered to the winds—and not every­thing in it reached an appre­cia­tive owner.

More prac­ti­cal­ly, Free­man serves to remind any­one who has what Lord Mor­ley con­sid­ered “a few books” (5000+) to plan for their dis­po­si­tion. He cer­tain­ly remind­ed me. Over the win­ter I am going to draft very spe­cif­ic direc­tions for the dis­pos­al of my library, sub­ject by sub­ject from Churchill’s Malakand Field Force t0 my com­plete run of Clas­sics Illus­trat­ed comics. I will try not to let them go to waste.

For time, the churl, is run­ning, and we must all rec­og­nize it. Neal Free­man  inef­fa­bly con­veys a sad­ness, for so many of us who loved and admired Bill, at the scat­ter­ing of his library—remindful of what Churchill wrote about his old col­league, Arthur Bal­four:

I saw with grief the approach­ing depar­ture, and—for all human purposes—extinction, of a being high uplift­ed above the com­mon run. As I observed him regard­ing with calm, firm and cheer­ful gaze the approach of Death, I felt how fool­ish the Sto­ics were to make such a fuss about an event so nat­ur­al and so indis­pens­able to mankind. But I felt also the tragedy which robs the world of all the wis­dom and trea­sure gath­ered in a great man’s life and expe­ri­ence and hands the lamp to some impetu­ous and untu­tored stripling, or lets its fall shiv­ered into frag­ments upon the ground.

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