Elizabeth Goudge on the profession of bookseller

“It is the most friendly vocation in the world,” he announced…“A bookseller is the link between mind and mind, the feeder of the hungry, very often the binder up of wounds. There he sits, your bookseller, surrounded by a thousand minds all done up neatly in cardboard cases; beautiful minds, courageous minds, strong minds, wise minds, all sorts of conditions. And there come into him other minds, hungry for beauty, for knowledge, for truth, for love, and to the best of his ability he satisfies them all…Yes…it’s a great vocation.”

“Great than a writer’s?” asked Felicity.

“Immeasurably,” said Grandfather. “A writer has to spin his work out of himself and the effect upon the character is often disastrous. It inflates the ego. Now, your bookseller sinks his ego in the thousand different egos that he introduces one to the other…Yes…Moreover, his life is one of wide horizons. He deals in the stuff of eternity and there’s no death in a bookseller’s shop. Plato and Jane Austen and Keats sit side by side behind his back, Shakespeare is on his right hand and Shelley on his left.” He paused for a moment while Felicity took Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights gently away from him. “Yes. Writers, from what I’ve seen of them, are a very queer lot, but booksellers are the salt of the earth.”  

 Elizabeth Goudge, A City of Bells

The above could easily have been written of Katherine Downs, my beloved mentor and patron saint of the bookshop. For those who’ve never read it, here is my little tribute to the woman who helped turn my love of books into an absolute consuming passion. Blessed be her memory…

3 Responses to “Elizabeth Goudge on the profession of bookseller”

  1. JJ says:

    Yes. Writers, from what I’ve seen of them, are a very queer lot – but we love them the more for it, and our lives would be so dull without their inspirations! A beautiful passage from Goudge, and I thoroughly enjoyed rereading your tribute to Mrs. Downs.

  2. I came across your wonderful website quite by chance, browsing articles about Elizabeth Goudge. I have just set up and am currently running the offical Elizabeth Goudge Society website. One of our first articles was written by the Independant Bookseller of the Year, who was inspired into her career by reading City of Bells, so as you can imagine your piece really caught my attention. What a wonderful painting, what’s it called? and who painted it?
    Would it be possible please to add a link from our site to your own? It seems on my first all to short visit to be just the sort of place I and fellow Goudge lovers would love to “walk around.”
    regards Deborah Gaudin

  3. Absolutely, Deborah! 🙂 And I’m thrilled to hear that there is an entire site devoted to our dear Elizabeth!