Quotable Elizabeth Von Arnim

006“What a blessing it is to love books. Everybody must love something, and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing returns as books and a garden. And how easy it would have been to come into the world without this, and possessed instead of an all-consuming passion, say, for hats, perpetually raging round my empty soul! I feel I owe my forefathers a debt of gratitude, for I suppose the explanation is that they too did not care for hats. In the centre of my library there is a wooden pillar propping up the ceiling, and preventing it, so I am told, from tumbling about our ears; and round this pillar, from floor to ceiling, I have had shelves fixed, and on these shelves are all the books that I have read again and again, and hope to read many times more – all the books, that is, that I love quite the best. In the bookcases round the walls are many that I love, but here in the centre of the room, and easiest to get at, are those I love the best – the very elect among my favorites.” -from The Solitary Summer

Isn’t this a great idea? Do you have any “pillar” books? Which ones are the very elect among your favorites? My pillar authors are Elizabeth Von Arnim herself, Barbara Pym, Mary Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Bowen, Willa Cather, and my Persephone collection.

22 thoughts on “Quotable Elizabeth Von Arnim

  1. What a lovely quote! Classic crime like Christie and Sayers would be on my pillar – and also Colette and Virginia Woolf. I don’t know if I could actually just confine myself to one pillar, though…. 🙂


  2. Wonderful quote! (What is it from, by the way?) My pillars would include Robertson Davies, Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula K. LeGuin, C.S. Lewis, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, and Elizabeth Gaskell.


  3. You brought this quote to mind:

    “While I dress it is my habit to read. Some book is propped up open against the looking-glass, and sometimes, for one’s eyes can’t be everywhere at once, my hooks in consequence don’t get quite satisfactorily fastened. Indeed I would be very neat if I could, but there are other things … “

    From ‘In The Mountains by Elizabeth Von Arnim.

    My own pillars would include Agatha Christie, George Eliot, Margery Sharp, Wilkie Collins. Margaret Kennedy ….


    1. I love that quote! I have to admit I’ve done this myself. I’ve also brushed my teeth while reading because I don’t want to lose valuable time. 🙂
      It is so interesting to see everyone’s pillar authors.


  4. Always glad to meet a fellow Elizabeth Von Arnim fan. And would you believe, that very quote made an impact on me when I initially read the book? I never forgot it and sent it on to another blogger-slash-book-lover and turned her onto Elizabeth Von Arnim books. Such a great link with readers and lovers of books through time. I would add to that list “Howards End” – a book I’ve read several times and is one of “the very elect among my favorites.” Also “Imaginary Crimes” by Sheila Ballantyne which was one of those books that may not be the best novel ever written, but just hit me at the right time and forever stays with the books that I love best. (Side note: there was a movie based on the book “Imaginary Crimes” starring Harvey Keitel and although I loved the movie too, it did leave out a lot of the book, however, both stand equally well on their own in my opinion.)


    1. I am a recent Elizabeth Von Arnim fan, but I love her ardently. She is so witty and intelligent. Howards End! Yes, I would include that too. I can’t believe I left E.M. Forster off of my list.
      I’ve never heard of Sheila Ballantyne, but now you have me intrigued…


  5. I remember when I first read that passage, I started thinking of my pillar books! Jane Austen would definitely be on there, and I think Anthony Trollope – though not all his books! Laura Ingalls Wilder & Louisa May Alcott. I think some Georgette Heyer too. And Dorothy Dunnett.


  6. That’s a great quotation – I shall think in terms of ‘pillar books’ from now on. I suspect that many of my pillar books would turn out to be the most comforting and comfortable reads – many children’s books, some not-very-brutal crime, many books about food. Hmmm. You’ve given me a lot to think about!


  7. I would add Rosamunde Pilcher, Miss Read, and a wonderful Christian author – Maureen Hay Read. Now to add some new to me authors to my LIST!!


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