Bronson Alcott’s favorite book of a lifetime was John Bunyon’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. He discovered it when he and his cousin William had begun to search through the homes of their neighbors for discarded books in order to create their own library. As a small child, tracing his letters in the sand on the floor, his mind became “fired with the love of letters.” Visiting his uncle Tilly, Bronson saw his first wall full of books. The lifelong love affair had begun.
He found his true love while assembling his library with William. He wrote the following about it when he was nearly forty:
“O charming story! dear delightful book! This book is one of that few that gave me to myself … It is associated with reality. It unites me with childhood and seems to chronicle my Identity, How I was rapt in it How gladly did I seat myself, after the days labours on the farm, in the chimney niche, with the tallow candle in my hand, and pore over its enchanting pages until late in the night! That book was incorporated into the very substance of my youthful being, I thought and spoke through it.” (from The Alcotts: Biography of a Family by Madelon Bedell, pg. 11)
How well Bronson expressed the love story with books that we as readers experience. My little “chimney niche” is the corner of the couch where I have a reading lamp and a stack of pillows to lean on as I read. I also have a special reading chair in my son’s old room in the basement, an overstuffed Laz-e-boy recliner, when I really want to retreat from the world.
Bronson passed down his love to his children, helping to form one of the world’s most beloved writers of children’s books. If that is his only legacy (and it’s not), that’s a fine one indeed.
Where is your “chimney niche?” What book(s) did you read as a child that became your true love?
Have you read The Pilgrim’s Progress? What did you think of it?
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