William Darling (politician)

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Sir William Young Darling CBE FRSE LLD MC (8 May 1885 – 4 February 1962) was the Unionist Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons for the Edinburgh South constituency from 1945 to 1957. He was a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland from 1942 to 1957.


The Bankrupt Bookseller (1947)[edit]

  • My arrangement of my shelves may earn me a reputation for untidiness among the unthinking, but I am indifferent to these. From natural laziness – if you like – from sheer inability to discover any congruity between one book and another – I will not classify. There they are – as they come – as they go – in serried shelves – all happy with the fortuity of things – there are my books from the lowest shelf – to reach which the seeker must go (as he ought) on bended knees – to "the dust and silence of the upper shelf," as Lord Macaulay put it – there they are – awaiting the touch of the discerning hand and the light of the critical eye.
    The Bankrupt Bookseller by Will Y. Darling, Robert Grant & Son Ltd, Edinburgh, 1947, p. 28.
  • I am an unrepentant book lover, and so soaked am I in the love of books that I feel – poor twentieth-century shopkeeper that I am – I feel that Pliny is a man I know, for all the eighteen centuries and more that lie between us. Pliny used to say (you will see it in a translation I have on my shelves) that no book was so bad that some good might be got out of it, and that is my feeling. I – and Pliny – born and bred so differently, feel the same about books and it gives me a flattering sense of rightness – sitting here in this shop among books that Pliny could not have imagined – books written in a language which was not then evolved – the thought makes me feel thrilled. There is no other word for it, but I dare not tell it to anyone. It is an astonishing secret to me that I must enjoy alone. (p. 30)
  • I replace Hergesheimer's book and feel again the immensity of my little business – how it makes its master willy-nilly a veritable time-traveller though he never leaves his shop! Where is there a day's work that can connect Pliny and Hergesheimer as mine has done without an effort this afternoon? (p. 31)
  • A fair exchange is so difficult to understand. How much do these inscrutable customers of mine desire my books? What would be a fair exchange? There are no balances in which such bargains can be weighed, for I don't think I ever parted with any book from all my stock but with a feeling of regret – without a sense of loss – even although I knew that I might replace the dear departed with another by return of post from the publishers. (pp. 34–35)
  • A cat is the ideal literary companion. A wife, I am sure, cannot compare except to her disadvantage. A dog is out of the question. It may do at a butcher's – it would be out of place in a bookseller's. A cat for a bookseller is a different creature temperamentally from the same animal at a fishmonger's or a baker's. In these shops the cat is a useful animal – I suppose it is employed to eat fish entrails or to keep down rats and mice – but in my shop its function is that of a familiar. It is at once decorative – contemplative – philosophical, and it begets in me great calm and contentment. (p. 48)
  • A wicked generation seeketh ever some new thing and the publishers must publish and the bookseller must book-sell in order to live. (p. 56)
  • Anarchism being immediately impracticable, let us have a government which governs as little as possible. Lord Melbourne's attitude of mind should be commended for imitation to all Prime Ministers. On being pressed by less wise members of his Cabinet to further certain legislation, he replied, "Must we really do something – why not let well alone?" (pp. 119–20)
  • That frivolous young widow ought to have paid for the solace she declared so often she found in books. "I must read to forget." All very well, but she should not forget to pay for the means of forgetfulness. The waters of Lethe may be waters bought without money and without price, but my books ought to be paid for in cash. (p. 178)
  • The world is so full of wonderful things that at this stage in its history there would seem to be no justification for aught else than that we should just wonder and give thanks. (p. 231)
  • War is not horrible all the time, as pacifists seem to believe. There are compensations for everything, and there is compensation in comradeship, intimacy, freedom from economic anxiety, the knowledge that once one's mind is adjusted to the worst that can happen – and that is a pretty bad and bloody wound or swift and sudden death – one settled down to existence as an Infantryman. Man is an adaptable animal – I acknowledge that myself. I adapted myself more easily to the environment of the trenches with its lice, filth, heat, stench, flies, dysentery, danger – I adapted myself to these more successfully, I repeat, than I have been able to adapt myself to this life as a shopkeeper. (p. 239)

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