The Pequod Review:
This engaging diary from the early 1900s could have used a bit of editing — too many of its entries are focused on mundane day-to-day concerns — but it is otherwise a very good memoir of an intelligent young naturalist (W.N.P. Barbellion, the pen name of Bruce Cummings) whose life was tragically cut short by MS at the age of thirty. Some of the best parts of the diary explore Barbellion's candid and heartfelt thoughts of his impending mortality:
I have reveled in my littleness and irresponsibility. It has relieved me of the harassing desire to live, I feel content to live dangerously, indifferent to my fate; I have discovered I am a fly, that we are all flies, that nothing matters. It’s a great load off my life, for I don’t mind being such a micro-organism—to me the honor is sufficient of belonging to the universe—such a great universe, so grand a scheme of things. Not even Death can rob me of that honor. For nothing can alter the fact that I have lived; I have been I, if for ever so short a time. And when I am dead, the matter which composes my body is indestructible—and eternal, so that come what may to my “Soul,” my dust will always be going on, each separate atom of me playing its separate part—I shall still have some sort of a finger in the Pie. When I am dead, you can boil me, burn me, drown me, scatter me—but you cannot destroy me: my little atoms would merely deride such heavy vengeance. Death can do no more than kill you.
He also has an appreciation for the thrill of knowledge and discovery:
An appetite for knowledge is apt to rush one off one's feet, like any other appetite if not curbed. I often stand in the in the center of the Library here and think despairingly how impossible it is ever to become possessed of all the wealth of facts and ideas contained in the books surrounding me on every hand.
The porter spends his days in the Library keeping strict vigil over this catacomb of books, passing along between the shelves and yet never paying heed to the almost audible susurrus of desire- the desire every book has to be taken down and read, to live, to come into being in somebody's mind. He even hands the volumes over the counter, seeks them out in their proper places or returns them there without once realizing that a Book is a Person and not a Thing.