I can’t pick up The Haunted Bookshop without being tickled and intrigued by Roger Mifflin aka Christopher Morley’s love of the written word.
Consider this little bit of the bookshop owner’s soliloquy during his first meal with Aubrey Gilbert, the book’s protagonist:
“I should have thought,” said Gilbert, “that life in a bookshop would be delightfully tranquil.”
“Far from it. Living in a bookshop is like living in a warehouse of explosives. Those shelves are ranked with the most furious of combustibles in the world — the brains of men. I can spend a rainy afternoon reading, and my mind works itself up to such a passion and anxiety over mortal problems as almost unmans me. It is terribly nerve-racking. Surround a man with Carlyle, Emerson, Thoreau, Chesterton, Shaw, Nietzsche, and George Ade — would you wonder at his getting excited? What would happen to a cat if she had to live in a room tapestried with catnip? She would go crazy!”
Leafing through The Haunted Bookshop is like being that cat. Where would I start? What morsel would I pull off the shelf to devour first? And then I look up and see that, although I don’t have a bookshop, I do have shelves upon shelves covered in catnip. It’s downright maddening.
With my fifth edition of the Roger Mifflin Collection firmly in hand and awaiting its formal release, I sat down Saturday morning with The Haunted Bookshop to plot my next move. I think it’s safe to assume that later this spring you may watch for new editions of The Story of My Heart by Richard Jefferies and The Note-Books of Samuel Butler. Beyond that? I have more than 20 nominees, and I’ve barely passed the first chapter of the Bookshop, although a half-dozen of the possibilities are from Chapter VI. I suspect I could spend the rest of my life expanding the Roger Mifflin Collection and still have a ways to go.
I suppose this post belongs in the “shameless self-promotion” category because, yes, I would dearly love for you to click on some of these links from yesterday and today and part with some of your hard-earned federal reserve notes. But I am passionate about books and these books in particular, because I so thoroughly enjoyed The Haunted Bookshop and every book I’ve sampled from Mifflin’s recommendations has given me something to savor and delight in.
If nothing else you can pick almost all of them up for free from Project Gutenberg and other purveyors of public domain material. I have spent a little time making pretty packages and bonus materials to go with the manuscripts, so I do hope you consider a purchase or two or five. In either case, however, if you love books, you owe it to yourself to check out these books.