Aspiring to Bookishness


One of my prize possessions is an Alden’s CYCLOPEDIA OF UNIVERSAL LITERATURE, all 20 volumes in good condition. The first volume was published in 1885, the 20th in 1891. Cousin Vivian on my mom’s side of the family got it with her mother’s things and gave it to me—the family bookworm. It sat in a box in my closet for a few years until I investigated and discovered this treasure. I say treasure because to me something called a Cyclopedia of Universal Literature has to be a wondrous thing, well worth owning, touching, reading, and exhibiting among my eclectic assortment of Swedish murder mysteries and presidential biographies.

Volume 1 opens with Ezra Abbot who is immediately followed by three two-t Abbotts: Jacob, John S. C. and Lyman. Volume 20 ends with Johann Heinrich Daniel Zschokke.

If one, who purports to be a writer or at least intends to become one, owns such a sampling of the important literature of the world, surely it is incumbent upon that person to read each and every entry in all 20 volumes.

So let me begin. Maybe one author a day beginning with Ezra Abbot. Mr. Abbot, a northeasterner, lived from 1819 until 1884. He held various teaching positions until being employed by Harvard in library and professorial positions, and becoming an American authority on bibliography. My intention is not be flippant but Mr. Abbot’s two pages do appear to be a tedious start to my honorable project.

Ten minutes later…finished entry one, an explanation of how “The Bibliography of a Future Life” is to be structured. Tomorrow’s entry is four pages. I can do this. A glimpse into the literary mindset of the Nineteenth Century can only make me a better writer/person/mother/grandmother/employee/citizen/cook/driver. Otherwise why would I bother? Except to begin yet one more project to eventually wind up on my guilt shelf with its many unfinished companions.


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