When I was fifteen and a half I received a letter from my new friend Lorna Stockton which announced that she was reading T.S. Eliot, ‘in a tree’. I stared at these words in alarm: who was this T.S. Eliot? Trees, for me, were climbing frames full of cunningly shaped, preferably fatal, challenges to ascent and had no relation to books. Books were read indoors, stiffly, with both knees drawn together, at a table, the pages turned with quavering, elderly care. Lorna’s way of proceeding was always to have the book with you, whatever you were doing. She never really got on with copyright libraries; and, like a Scottish Presbyterian faced with the prospect of kneeling at an altar, she always stubbornly refused to sit in places like the British Museum. Besides, you had to leave the books there at night, and she always wanted them around her. Lorna’s idea was to take them home – or get her own bookseller.
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[*] The essay is included in Grub Street and the Ivory Tower, edited by Jeremy Treglown and Bridget Bennett (1998).