My Five-Foot Shelf of Classics

The Freshman Scrapbook May 1926

My Five-Foot Shelf of Classics


The year is 1940.  I am a wealthy manufacturer.  I am showing a visitor through the home which I have built with the profits gleaned from my internationally-famed moans for saxophones.  We are in my library, the pride of my heart, the pet of my fancy, and my best friend during the years in which I have struggled to gain world renown.  I thrill with pleasure as I exhibit to my wondering friend the treasures which I have hoarded within the four walls of my library – treasures to be valued by a greater standard than gold, the memories of the harder days that I have weathered.  I am speaking, as usual.

            “The binding on this set of books is my own idea.  Genuine Javanese batik.  This is the original Doomsday Book.  What is it valued at now?  I couldn’t say for sure.  Just the other day I was offered a cool million for it.  Do I ever read any of my antiques?  Yes, occasionally; but you have no idea how tiring it is to read Anglo-Saxon, Arabic, and Sanskrit….”
            We stop before a highly ornamented shelf of books.  My visitor inquires, “And is this your five-foot shelf of classics?”

            “In a way, yes.  It holds all the books that I used during my first year of English in university.”  My visitor beams and murmurs something about school books being one’s dearest possession.

            I continued my interrupted flow of speech.  “They are quite valueless.  It has taken me twenty years to find out that I can’t even give them away.  I have at last accepted the decrees of fate, and deciding that this is my punishment for indulging in the wanton pleasures of an English course, have vowed to carry this, my chain of sinful indiscretions, with me to the grave.”


Paul Schaupp, The Freshman Scrapbook, May 1926