Irish Books

John Eglinton
1911 The Irish Review (Dublin)  
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more » ... g This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jun 2014 23:56:43 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Irish Books By JOHN EGLINTON THERE is something so incurably wrong with the world that it is hardly possible to rectify one wrong in it without introducing another. The moment we begin to attend to the affairs of others, with the notion that our own are fully looked after, that moment we begin to act on an assumption of omniscience which will be punished, either in our own experience or in that of others. Thus England, in suppressing the native wars in India, the burning of widows, &c., has raised even greater embarrassments for itself in over-population and famine ; and somewhat similarly our modern libraries, in their determination that posterity shall miss no line of what we have been pleased to write during the past hundred years or so, have already almost hopelessly depreciated the value of the written word and rendered it, one would think, a nearly impossible task for posterity to fix on those books which deserve immortality. We may even doubt whether in the world of books some struggle for existence is not the best security for the survival of the fittest, and whether books of the giant order are likely to appear under conditions so entirely favourable to book-production as the present. It is characteristic of nearly all such books that they have been produced by a kind of accident, the authors being anxious perhaps to beguile the hours of exile or imprisonment, or like Milton to prove a thesis, or like Shakespeare to make a fortune-to avenge themselves, to confess themselves, and so forth. Authors who have been most resolute to produce literary masterpieces have, as a rule, produced the least satisfactory ones. Humanity is endlessly curious about itself, and is not to be put off in its quest of some authentic revelation of itself by the most imposing array of vocables, as the Landors and Swinburnes appear at times to have supposed. The real book is an embodiment of some profound human experience; and 21 This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jun 2014 23:56:43 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
doi:10.2307/30062640 fatcat:lkfzmvppmvflbentcq6u747gpm