“The Art of Bookkeeping”


How hard, when those who do not wish
To lend, that’s lose, their books,
Are snared by anglers — folks that fish
With literary hooks;

Who call and take some favourite tome,
But never read it through;
They thus complete their set at home,
By making one at you.

Behold the bookshelf of a dunce
Who borrows — never lends;
Yon work, in twenty volumes, once
Belonged to twenty friends.

New tales and novels you may shut
From view — ’tis all in vain;
They’re gone — and though the leaves are “cut”
They never “come again.”

For pamphlets lent I look around,
For tracts my tears are spilt;
But when they take a book that’s bound,
‘Tis surely extra guilt.

A circulating library
Is mine — my birds are flown;
There’s one odd volume left, to be
Like all the rest, a-lone.

I, of my “Spenser” quite bereft,
Last winter sore was shaken; Of “Lamb”
I’ve but a quarter left,
Nor could I save my “Bacon.”

My “Hall” and “Hill” were levelled flat,
But “Moore” was still the cry;
And then, although I threw them “Sprat,”
They swallowed up my “Pye.”

O’er everything, however slight,
They seized some airy trammel;
They snatched my “Hogg” and “Fox” one night,
And pocketed my “Campbell.”

And then I saw my “Crabbe” at last,
Like Hamlet’s, backward go;
And as my tide was ebbing fast,
Of course I lost my “Rowe.”

I wondered into what balloon
My books their course had bent;
And yet, with all my marvelling, soon
I found my “Marvell” went.

My “Mallet” served to knock me down,
Which makes me thus a talker;
And once, while I was out of town,
My “Johnson” proved a “Walker.”

While studying o’er the fire one day
My “Hobbes” amidst the smoke;
They bore my “Colman” clean away,
And carried off my “Coke.”

They picked my “Locke,” to me far more
Than Bramah’s patent’s worth;
And now my losses I deplore,
Without a “Home” on earth.

If once a book you let them lift,
Another they conceal,
For though I caught them stealing “Swift,”
As swiftly went my “Steele.”

“Hope” is not now upon my shelf,
Where late he stood elated;
But, what is strange, my “Pope” himself
Is excommunicated.

My little “Suckling” in the grave
Is sunk, to swell the ravage;
And what ’twas Crusoe’s fate to save
‘Twas mine to lose — a “Savage.”

Even “Glover’s” works I cannot put
My frozen hands upon;
Though ever since I lost my “Foote,”
My “Bunyan” has been gone.

My “Hoyle” with “Cotton” went; oppressed,
My “Taylor” too must fail;
To save my “Goldsmith” from arrest,
In vain I offered “Bayle.”

I “Prior,” sought, but could not see
The “Hood” so late in front;
And when I turned to hunt for “Lee,”
Oh! where was my “Leigh Hunt!”

I tried to laugh, old care to tickle,
Yet could not “Tickell” touch;
And then, alas! I missed my “Mickle,”
And surely mickle’s much.

‘Tis quite enough my griefs to feed,
My sorrows to excuse,
To think I cannot read my “Reid,”
Nor even use my “Hughes.”

To “West,” to “South,” I turn my head,
Exposed alike to odd jeers;
For since my “Roger Ascham’s” fled,
I ask ’em for my “Rogers.”

They took my “Horne” — and “Horne Tooke” too,
And thus my treasures flit;
I feel when I would “Hazlitt” view,
The flames that it has lit.

My word’s worth little, “Wordsworth” gone,
If I survive its doom;
How many a bard I doted on
Was swept off — with my “Broome.”

My classics would not quiet lie,
A thing so fondly hoped;
Like Dr. Primrose,
I may cry, “My ‘Livy’ has eloped!”

My life is wasting fast away —
I suffer from these shocks;
And though I fixed a lock on “Grey”
There’s grey upon my locks.

I’m far from young — am growing pale —
I see my “Butter” fly;
And when they ask about my ail,
‘Tis “Burton” I reply.

They still have made me slight returns,
And thus my griefs divide;
For oh! they’ve cured me of my “Burns,”
And eased my “Akenside.”

But all I think I shall not say,
Nor let my anger burn;
For as they never found me “Gay,”
They have not left me “Sterne.”

— Anon., From The Monthly Magazine, quoted in Museum of Foreign Literature and Science, Vol. 17, 1830

Posted by

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is edmarklaw@learnfunfacts.com

10 thoughts on ““The Art of Bookkeeping”

  1. During the peak of my borrowing and lending days, I used to keep a written list of what went out and to whom, and I wouldn’t let go of the book until I’d written the information down. My friends laughed about it, but I’m the only one of all of us who’s not only remembered which person had which book, but has gotten all mine back.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Neither a borrower, nor a lender be. I learned that the hard way after some treasured books were cleverly taken (stolen, really) from me in my naïve youth. 🤶 Well written and insightful of Mr/s Anon!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very clever poem and I feel sad for you with so many of your friends from the book shelf disappearing. I ever only had very few gone as they have been returned. Books become your friends, well most do, the others can walk.:)
    Maybe you need some sort of library card system..😊

    Liked by 1 person

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