Thursday, November 19, 2009

I ride the rails ironic . . .

Hoegi Station
Seoul Subway
(Image from Wikipedia)

As I passed by Seoul Subway's Hoegi Station yesterday en route from Ehwa Womans University to the station nearest my apartment, I read in Holbrook Jackson's Anatomy of Bibliomania, within a larger passage enumerating various types and odd specimens of intrepid readers, the following words:
It is the same with all those happy readers who take the book of their choice in the place chance dictates, regardless of rules and advice. Picture Henry Crabb Robinson outside the Bury Coach on a mid-January day devouring Goethe's 'Autobiography' with great pleasure [2] and Madame de Sévigné reading alternately her Breviary and Corneille in the carriage on her journeys from Paris to her country seat in Brittany; [3] Dr. Johnson with Pomponius Mela de Situ Orbis in the stage-coach en route for Harwich, and very intent upon ancient geography, as Boswell notes; [4] Edward FitzGerald [5] communing with Sophocles, Virgil, Don Quixote, Montaigne and Boccaccio, in his fishing-boat off Lowestoft; Ramsay Macdonald passing the time with Hazlitt when flying from London to his native Lossiemouth; John Addington Symonds travelling from London to Florence reading Guicciardini all the way, regardless (says Maurice Hewlett) of the growing attractiveness of the journey and increasing gravity of the book: a man, he well adds, who could read that book on a journey to Italy could read Milton on top of a motor 'bus; [6] Symonds could have done even that, for he was a trained and hardened reader, imperturbable amid noise and movement; it was his constant habit to do a considerable amount of hard study while travelling, and he found it difficult to enumerate how many heavy German and Italian books on history, biography, and criticism, how many volumes of Greek poets, and what a library of French and English authors had been slowly perused by him in railway stations, trains, steamers, wayside inns, and Alpine chalets. [7] (Jackson, Anatomy, page 254)

[2] Diary, i, 246. [3] Letters, i, 150. [4] Life. Hill, i, 465. [5] Letters and Literary Remains, i, 101, 307. [6] Hewlett, Extemporary Essays. 119. [7] 'A Page of my Life', Fortnightly Review. December 1889.
I was quite taken with the mental image of Symonds reading Milton perched atop a motorbus, though I'd hesitate to attempt such a feat on some bus here in Seoul if it were to be driven by a Korean 'hell-driver' -- as my kids and I like to call so many of Seoul's bus drivers, given how they swiftly bound over speed bumps, slantly careen around sharp curves, and rashly lunge through red lights.

Though if I were to try the atop attempt, I suppose that Paradise Lost would be most appropriate since I'd likely fall and not survive . . .

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At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once memorized the book of Ephesians (New Testament) during bathroom visits while working at Inland Cold Storage.
I mentioned it to a fellow worker, and he only said, "That was a lot of bowel movements."
But, of course, my mind was on higher things in those moments.

Are you able to concentrate on your reading during your commutes?

You could reply, "That's a lot of ..............."



At 7:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Actually, Uncle Cran, the subway commute often makes me lose my train of thought.

Jeffery Hodges

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