Famous men and the books they read as children

Found in the Christmas 1930 issue of The Bookmanis the following account by Thurston Hopkins of some famous men’s responses to his questions about the books they recall reading in childhood. There is even a facsimile of a fragment of the letter Shaw sent to Hopkins dated 29th  December 1929.


In an introduction to his survey Hopkins regrets the passing of the ‘ mainstays ‘ of popular children’s literature—Robinson Crusoe and Hans Christian Anderson’s Tales—in favour of thrillers and mystery stories. Luckily, some of the old favourites do feature in the choices made by these eminent men.


Rudyard Kipling


Mr Kipling was probably born with a taste for curious and out-of-the-way books. At fourteen he was in the editor’s chair of the United Services College Chronicle, and was allowed the run of the head master’s study—-that ‘brown-bound, tobacco-scented library’ that he speaks of with such reverence in his chronicles of school boy life. Kipling stolidly read his way through the whole library. There were many of the ancient dramatists, a set of the ‘ Voyages of Hakluyt’, a literary treasure which do doubt supplied Kipling with much information that he makes us of in his later books; French translations of the Muscovite authors, Pushkin and Lermontoff; the ‘ Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’, afterwards parodied by him in ‘Departmental Ditties ‘; there were volumes of Crashaw, Dryden, Alexander Smith, L.E.L., Lydia Sigourney, Fletcher’s Purple Island, Donne. Marlowe’s Faust, Ossian, ‘The Earthly Paradise’, ‘Atlanta in Calydon’ and Rossetti. Continue reading

The Open Window 1905

Not sure where this came from or what it was. It appears to be a literary magazine but is not the literary magazine  The Open Window published in London by Locke Ellis  from 1910 onwards with contributions by Edward Thomas, E.M. Forster, George Bourne, Katherine Mansfield,  Maxwell Armfield, Douglas Goldring, W.H. Davies, Geoffrey Whitworth, Lord Dunsany, John Drinkwater, Walter de la Mare and Vivian Locke Ellis etc., The article, of some competence, quotes among other George Borrow, Kipling, W.E. Henley and F. Marion Crawford...

On the “Joie de Vivre.”

There could hardly be a more fitting time to say something about this primitive impulse than now, when maps and guide-books are taken down from shelves; when bicycles, botanical vascular, and geological hammers are brought out from their places of concealment, and we lift up our eyes to the hills.
  The true “joie de vivre” I take to be the satisfaction of an instinct for communion with Nature, an instinct which, implanted in the bosoms of our ancestors during the long ages before cities were existent, has not yet died completely away in their more artificial descendants, and which, at certain periods, seizes upon some of us with an almost irresistible power.
  After living during many months in dingy offices or class-rooms, poring over musty tomes, and hearing through our windows nothing but the lugubrious cry of the coal man, the discordant tinkle of the barrel-organ, or other of the multiform phases of the “brouhaha des rues”–sounds having relation to nothing more than the distracting life of this “man-made” town–suddenly some small note may be heard, or an odor of spring may be felt, or a green blade seen growing in a cranny of the wall–some sight or sound, small in itself, but mighty in the mental effect it  evokes; for, in a moment, this ancient primaeval instinct grips us by the heart-strings, and we resolve–to take a holiday.
  In Marion Crawford’s “Cigarette Maker’s Romance” there is a wonderful passage describing the annual wild rush of the reindeer to drink the salt water of the Arctic Sea. As their blood cries out for the essential chloride, so in spring does that of the city-dweller for the ozone of the hills.
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