A reprint of the 1893 collection of eighteen essays. Newly typeset and with a new glossary of French and Latin terms.
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|The text of Pagan Papers is in the public domain and we have made it available online for free.|
|From the back cover|
Years before he wrote The Wind in the Willows,
Kenneth Grahame published a very different sort of book:
Pagan Papers, a wry, witty, wide-ranging
collection of eighteen irresistible essays.
Strolling, loafing, smoking, collecting books and pondering, the author muses on the human condition. What to do about relatives who are in the way? What is the proper punishment for a bookbinder who takes too long at his job? Are free libraries an unmixed blessing?
More seriously: Can nothing make it worth our while not to quarrel with our fellows? Which is more desirable: memory or forgetfulness? Are we irrevocably cut off from the natural world, or might there still be a way back to it?
For myself, I probably stand alone in owning to a
sentimental weakness for the night-piercing whistle --
judiciously remote, as some men love the skirl of the
pipes. In the days when streets were less wearily familiar
than now, or ever the golden cord was quite loosed that led
back to relinquished fields and wider skies, I have lain
awake on stifling summer nights, thinking of luckier
friends by moor and stream, and listening for the whistles
from certain railway stations, veritable ``horns of
Elf-land, faintly blowing.'' Then, a ghostly passenger, I
have taken my seat in a phantom train, and sped up, up,
through the map, rehearsing the journey bit by bit: through
the furnace-lit Midlands, and on till the grey glimmer of
dawn showed stone walls in place of hedges, and masses
looming up on either side; till the bright sun shone upon
brown leaping streams and purple heather, and the clear,
sharp northern air streamed in through the windows... ``We
are only the children who might have been,'' murmured
Lamb's dream babes to him; and for the sake of those
dream-journeys, the journeys that might have been, I still
hail with a certain affection the call of the engine in the
-- The Romance of the Rail
No man -- no human, masculine, natural man -- ever sells a book. Men have been known in moments of thoughtlessness, or compelled by temporary necessity, to rob, to equivocate, to do murder, to commit what they should not, to ``wince and relent and refrain'' from what they should: these things, howbeit regrettable, are common to humanity, and may happen to any of us. But amateur bookselling is foul and unnatural; and it is noteworthy that our language, so capable of particularity, contains no distinctive name for the crime. Fortunately it is hardly known to exist: the face of the public being set against it as a flint -- and the trade giving such wretched prices.
-- Non Libri Sed Liberi
In later years it is stifled and gagged -- buried deep, a green turf at the head of it, and on its heart a stone; but it lives, it breathes, it lurks, it will up and out when 'tis looked for least. That stockbroker, some brief summers gone, who was missed from his wonted place one settling-day! a goodly portly man, i' faith: and had a villa and a steam launch at Surbiton: and was versed in the esoteric humours of the House. Who could have thought that the Hunter lay hid in him? Yet, after many weeks, they found him in a wild nook of Hampshire. Ragged, sun-burnt, the nocturnal haystack calling aloud from his frayed and weather-stained duds, his trousers tucked, he was tickling trout with godless native urchins; and when they would have won him to himself with honied whispers of American Rails, he answered but with babble of green fields. He is back in his wonted corner now: quite cured, apparently, and tractable. And yet -- let the sun shine too wantonly in Throgmorton Street, let an errant zephyr, quick with the warm South, fan but his cheek too wooingly on his way to the station; and will he not once more snap his chain and away? Ay, truly: and next time he will not be caught.
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