Friday, October 2, 2009

Smythe, Book Hunter of the Antipodes

Another anecdote abut Smythe from the myesterious J.L.F. of the Hobart Mercury. This time from the 29th of July 1902

A few days ago, I got a letter from my old friend-and the public's old friend Mr. R. S. Smythe "the much-travelled, and, it may be added, "the much-read" in which be refers to the recent death, in Hobart, of the venerable bookmonger, William Legrand.

"What," says Mr. Smythe, "could possibly induce a Frenchman in those times to try his fortune in Van Dieman’s Land? But, I suppose there was a romance about going to the Antipodes, for a good many did go out, among them William Elliston, second son of the great actor. I met Legrand, and bought of him a charming book by Souvestre, ‘The Pleasures of Old Age.’ It bears the stamp of the Port Arthur Library. Of course I shall not care to read it for many years to come: it would not interest me."

Why Mr. Smythe should have any disinclination to know something beforehand of old age, and how he may make it pleasant is not easy to see. Most of us who have read "De Senectute" at school have looked forward brightly to our reaching 45! But Mr. Smythe's fishing up Souvestre's book in Legrand's old shop has reminded me of the romance of book-buying in that dingy, mysterious-looking store in Collins Street, which always seemed to be out of place in a comparatively new city. It looked like an accessible Hades, where the spirits of authors, Long dead and gone, congregated and talked about men and things, and received congenial visitors.

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