The Recommending of Books and Friends
—I find there is very little use in recommending one’s favorite books to grown-up people. If the volumes are, in the nature of things, congenial to them, they will have found it out before; and if they are not congenial, they are not, and “there’s an end on’t.” A friend, whose judgment about authors I respect very highly, advised me to read a certain novel that begins with an Irish ball, and ends — upon my word, I already have forgotten how. I knew I ought to like it, but if I could n’t, how could I ? At about the same time I recommended to this friend, as a book that had tickled me immensely, Tartarin sur les Alpes. I have no doubt it was read faithfully, at my suggestion ; but I have hardly less doubt that “ still the wonder grows ” as to what I saw in it.
The truth is, people have their fixed affinities, like chemicals. It is as if oxygen, in a burst of enthusiasm, should advise nitrogen to unite with carbon. “ I can’t,” protests the helpless element; “ we have n’t any affinity.”
Nor are these native impossibilities confined to our relations with books. Is it not precisely so in our relations with each other ? It is quite useless for our friends to recommend their friends to us. If we have not found out for ourselves that we belong together, we probably belong apart. In the case of some people, we might be stirred up together in the alembic of circumstances, with the spoon of opportunity, for years, and the two chemicals would lie inert and isolated. With others, it is a fizz and a union at the very first contact.