Day memorable to me because this evening before dinner I finished Act II of the play the idea for which had forced me to break my oath never to write another play.
To the rest of the British world, however, the day was memorable as being Election Day. I went to an enormous election party in the evening and found dozens of people seriously disturbed at the mere possibility of Labour getting a clear majority. The rancour and asperity of party politics was exposed naked in speech, tone, and gesture. Still the food and the champagne were admirable.
Some people have reproached me for being too concerned with rare editions, first editions, beautiful editions, the argument being that such matters have no relation to literature itself, and that what counts in a book is the stuff in it, not the presentation of the stuff in it. To my mind the argument is ridiculous. A book is a physical object as well as a medium for the transmission of thought, emotion, and information. And the attributes, including the historical attributes, of the physical object react upon the person to whom the thought, emotion, or information is being transmitted.
Many people read Dickens with joy, still more people assert (without adducing proof) that they read Dickens with joy. But it is an absolute certainty that the first category, if not the second, would be tremendously diminished if Dickens were only published in folio volumes like pulpit bibles - were the price per volume only sixpence, were even the volumes given away.
But even were the argument not ridiculous, it would still be beside the point. The point is that our age is a collecting age. And why should it not be? Only rare, beautiful, historical, odd or scandalous objects are collected. To collect them is a virtue - for which the next generation will thank us.