I sketched this fellow in Politics & Prose bookshop. I was interested in his reading material.
Today is the birthday of Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), scientific writer, lecturer, and author of the Thesaurus, a project that he did not even begin to pursue seriously until his 70s. That ought to encourage the rest of us slowpokes. Roget was a lifelong and compulsive list-maker, a practice that apparently comforted him and helped sustain him through the terrible depressions that plagued him and his extended family, although he suffered tragedy enough throughout his life to justify serious despair. I love my Thesaurus and was inspired by this birthday to get on the library waiting list (speaking of lists) for a recent biography of Roget, Joshua Kendall’s The Man Who Made Lists. Among Roget’s many other admirers is J.M. Barrie:
“The night nursery of the Darling family, which is the scene of our opening Act, is at the top of a rather depressed street in Bloomsbury. We have a right to place it where we will, and the reason Bloomsbury is chosen is that Mr. Roget once lived there. So did we in days when his Thesaurus was our only companion in London; and we whom he has helped to wend our way through life have always wanted to pay him a little compliment. The Darlings therefore lived in Bloomsbury.” —Introduction to Act I of Peter Pan
Natsukashii: A Japanese word used to express the feeling described above. It is not yet in the Thesaurus.
On my list of things for which I am grateful is the public library, which I consider one of the greatest blessings of modern civilization and which is one of the first things I think of when I pay taxes. I have memories of libraries going back to childhood and recall wandering the stacks in cool semi-darkness, making my selections, then walking home on a hot summer day with a stack of well-worn cloth-bound books, prepared to curl up and enter other realms. Now I see my children with the same passion, choosing the library as a pleasurable destination: “Can we stop at the LIBRARY?” A world of wonders open to us all, free of charge. Thank you, Andrew Carnegie! Thank you, dear Library and Librarians everywhere!