Society’s silent auction provokes outrage

Thomas A. Reisner, Professor of English Literature (retired) Université Laval

I am sure I speak for many readers of the Chronicle when I express outrage and revulsion at what can only be characterized as the rank hypocrisy of David F. Blair’s apologia for the silent auction currently under way at the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec.

David Blair’s sententious invocation of the Bard, as well as his subsequent grandiose reflection on the need for periodically weeding out a library collection in order “to make sure it continues to grow and to enlighten,” does nothing to mitigate, and can hardly be reconciled with, the quality and importance of the literary and historical works that have been condemned to fall victim to this pointless and barbarous purge.

A mere glance at the contents of just two of the more than 100 boxes of books doomed to unceremonious disposal at the whim of Blair’s censor librorum reveals collected works (mere trash, no doubt) by such authors as S. T. Coleridge, Thomas De Quincey, William Cowper, Thomas Hardy, Jonathan Swift and Henry Newbolt, among others far too numerous to mention.

(To do the censors justice, I might add that the novels of Danielle Steele and other masterpieces of that order, as well as the entire collection, I presume, of the Harlequin Romances, have been, providentially, spared, thanks no doubt to the Caring Gardener.)

Worse still, that all this should be accompanied by Blair’s glib assurance that “this is no ‘mindless’ sale but the result of a well thought out process” only exacerbates the wrong by adding premeditation and malice prepense to culpable ignorance.

Still, perhaps it is not too late for Blair and his omniscient library sidekicks to read and derive profit from one of the volumes sadly condemned to the axe in this sale: namely, De Quincey’s Letters to a Young Man whose Education has been neglected (1860).

Thomas A. Reisner
Professor of English Literature (retired)
Université Laval