A Financial Times essay by Harry Eyres describes clearing out his parents’ home, saying “It may sound trite, but the house, and our lives in it, would not have been the same without books…. The rooms suddenly look diminished, denuded, uncomfortably bare”:
Books Do Furnish a Room is the oddly memorable title of one of the volumes in Anthony Powell’s “A Dance to the Music of Time”, a sequence of novels about the goings-on among a group of toffs, literati and others before and after the second world war. The statement (made in the novel by a character called Bagshaw, the editor of a post-war literary journal) has an undertone of surprise: how can books furnish a room, when they have no obviously practical value, in the way that chairs and tables and sofas and curtains do?
I always rather took it for granted that books furnished a room. The only rooms in our house without books were the dining-room and the bathrooms. Otherwise there were books everywhere: in all the bedrooms (and one of the pleasures of sleeping in different bedrooms was finding books I hadn’t seen for decades, like old friends), in the drawing-room – where the books seemed more formal and unapproachable – and in the piano room-cum-office which became my parents’ comfortable winter snuggery.
I confess I raised my eyebrows when I got to “The only rooms in our house without books were the dining-room and the bathrooms”: can you really call yourself a book lover if there are any rooms without books? (I’ll never forget the day my younger grandson, exploring the bathroom, opened the bottom drawer to find, yes, a little stack of books—he let out a delighted “Ah!”) Thanks, Paul!