Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Oxford Companion to English Literature

"The Oxford Companion to English Literature has proved a good companion to me, and I hope it will to others, though I trust its reader will not become quite as obsessed by it as I, necessarily, did.  The volume of work was enormous , and I was to be seen at times literally running round the central catalogue of the British Library Reading Room in my haste to check  the spelling of a title or a variant of a date.  There were moments of intense frustration when I would stand under that vast dome knowing that somewhere on those shelves was the answer to, for example, the connection between Paracelsus, the Rosicrucians, gnomes, sylphs, and Pope's The Rape of the Lock,  and simply not knowing where to begin to look.  It wasn't as though I had time to pursue every clue: in all, the new volume contains (I am told) 9,017 entries, which meant that I had to learn to improve on my starting time of a couple of entries written or edited a week.  And now it is all packed into one neat volume, and I can consult my own references without scrabbling through piles of files and typescript.  Despite the new technology, there is nothing as convenient as a book."

Margaret Drabble 1985

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