The books—the generous friends who met me without suspicion—the merciful masters who never used me ill! The only years of my life that I can look back on with something like pride... Early and late, through the long winter nights and the quiet summer days, I drank at the fountain of knowledge, and never wearied of the draught.
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The books—the generous friends who met me without suspicion—the merciful masters who never used me ill! The only years of my life that I can look back on with something like pride… Early and late, through the long winter nights and the quiet summer days, I drank at the fountain of knowledge, and never wearied of the draught.

-Wilkie Collins

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MarginaliaSometimes the notes are ferocious,skirmishes against the authorraging along the borders of every pagein tiny black script.If I could just get my hands on you,Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,they seem to say,I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" -that kind of thing.I remember once looking up from my reading,my thumb as a bookmark,trying to imagine what the person must look likewho wrote "Don't be a ninny"alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.Students are more modestneeding to leave only their splayed footprintsalong the shore of the page.One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's.Another notes the presence of "Irony"fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,Hands cupped around their mouths.Absolutely," they shoutto Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.Yes." "Bull's-eye." "My man!"Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation pointsrain down along the sidelines.And if you have managed to graduate from collegewithout ever having written "Man vs. Nature"in a margin, perhaps nowis the time to take one step forward.We have all seized the white perimeter as our ownand reached for a pen if only to showwe did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;we pressed a thought into the wayside,planted an impression along the verge.Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoriajotted along the borders of the Gospelsbrief asides about the pains of copying,a bird singing near their window,or the sunlight that illuminated their page-anonymous men catching a ride into the futureon a vessel more lasting than themselves.And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,they say, until you have read himenwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.Yet the one I think of most often,the one that dangles from me like a locket,was written in the copy of Catcher in the RyeI borrowed from the local libraryone slow, hot summer.I was just beginning high school then,reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,and I cannot tell youhow vastly my loneliness was deepened,how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,when I found on one pageA few greasy looking smearsand next to them, written in soft pencil-by a beautiful girl, I could tell,whom I would never meet-Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love.

-Billy Collins

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