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The Delicious Vice   By: (1853-1932)

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Pipe Dreams and Fond Adventures of an Habitual Novel Reader Among Some Great Books and Their People

By Young E. Allison

Second Edition

(Revised and containing new material)

CHICAGO THE PRAIRIELAND PUBLISHING CO. 1918 Printed originally in the Louisville Courier Journal. Reprinted by courtesy.

First edition, Cleveland, Burrows Bros., 1907.

Copyright 1907 1918



It must have been at about the good bye age of forty that Thomas Moore, that choleric and pompous yet genial little Irish gentleman, turned a sigh into good marketable "copy" for Grub Street and with shrewd economy got two full pecuniary bites out of one melancholy apple of reflection:

"Kind friends around me fall Like leaves in wintry weather,"

he sang of his own dead heart in the stilly night.

"Thus kindly I scatter thy leaves on the bed Where thy mates of the garden lie scentless and dead."

he sang to the dying rose. In the red month of October the rose is forty years old, as roses go. How small the world has grown to a man of forty, if he has put his eyes, his ears and his brain to the uses for which they are adapted. And as for time why, it is no longer than a kite string. At about the age of forty everything that can happen to a man, death excepted, has happened; happiness has gone to the devil or is a mere habit; the blessing of poverty has been permanently secured or you are exhausted with the cares of wealth; you can see around the corner or you do not care to see around it; in a word that is, considering mental existence the bell has rung on you and you are up against a steady grind for the remainder of your life. It is then there comes to the habitual novel reader the inevitable day when, in anguish of heart, looking back over his life, he wishes he hadn't; then he asks himself the bitter question if there are not things he has done that he wishes he hadn't. Melancholy marks him for its own. He sits in his room some winter evening, the lamp swarming shadowy seductions, the grate glowing with siren invitation, the cigar box within easy reach for that moment when the pending sacrifice between his teeth shall be burned out; his feet upon the familiar corner of the mantel at that automatically calculated altitude which permits the weight of the upper part of the body to fall exactly upon the second joint from the lower end of the vertebral column as it rests in the comfortable depression created by continuous wear in the cushion of that particular chair to which every honest man who has acquired the library vice sooner or later gets attached with a love no misfortune can destroy. As he sits thus, having closed the lids of, say, some old favorite of his youth, he will inevitably ask himself if it would not have been better for him if he hadn't. And the question once asked must be answered; and it will be an honest answer, too. For no scoundrel was ever addicted to the delicious vice of novel reading. It is too tame for him. "There is no money in it."

And every habitual novel reader will answer that question he has asked himself, after a sigh. A sigh that will echo from the tropic deserted island of Juan Fernandez to that utmost ice bound point of Siberia where by chance or destiny the seven nails in the sole of a certain mysterious person's shoe, in the month of October, 1831, formed a cross thus:

while on the American promontory opposite, "a young and handsome woman replied to the man's despairing gesture by silently pointing to heaven." The Wandering Jew may be gone, but the theater of that appalling prologue still exists unchanged. That sigh will penetrate the gloomy cell of the Abbe Faria, the frightful dungeons of the Inquisition, the gilded halls of Vanity Fair, the deep forests of Brahmin and fakir, the jousting list, the audience halls and the petits cabinets of kings of France, sound over the trackless and storm beaten ocean will echo, in short, wherever warm blood has jumped in the veins of honest men and wherever vice has sooner or later been stretched groveling in the dust at the feet of triumphant virtue... Continue reading book >>

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