OF course, in studying books of our own or even of the Library, it does little harm, and sometimes much good, to call attention to the important passages by a pencil-mark. But in works of fiction many dash their pencils recklessly along a paragraph that strikes their fancy at the moment. This is almost always done when alone in a sort of friendly social feeling toward the next reader, and because there is no one present to share the reader's delight! Did you ever see a man mark a book? No, because if any one is present, the passage is read aloud and gives the reader as much, or rather more pleasure than marking it would.
I have a marked book before me, and the passages clearly indicate that "the good work was done by different hands, each striving to complete the work of his predecessor and to prevent his successor's receiving mistaken ideas of his capacity, - just as if one ever knew who marked a book. Here are a few of the selected bits marked in the book before me.
"I ain't in the habit o' tellin' much to the women-folks, they make such a darned gabble." Can't you see here the verdant Freshman or more experienced Soph who has spent his summer with his pretty cousins, and accordingly "understands the ladies"?
"She can be charming or sunny as the day; but if she be not so to me for my own merits, what care I how transcendentally agreeable she be"? Here's the Junior, feeling his dignity as an upper class man, and determined not to waste his sweetness on the desert air.
"Bessie, for a woman who crimps her hair and looks awfully superficial, you can occasionally evince an uncommon amount of practical wisdom." There 's the Senior, experienced in the real value of the fair sex, and determined every one shall know that he, too, sees the good so often hidden from the world by the crimps.
Does any one suppose that the person reading a marked book is impressed by the deep insight into human nature manifested by the marker! "O, no!" says Jones, who habitually marks the fine (?) parts of a book because he never wrote anything readable in his life, "but it calls attention to the beautiful passages." So it does, but only for a moment; and the reader wonders "what idiot marked that, as if I could n't find out the fine bits for myself."
In fiction, the finest passages are seldom selected by the ordinary vandal; here, at least, he marks the best known parts, avoiding love passages lest he may seem sentimental.
Won't college men give up disfiguring the books they read?