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A Journey to the Interior of the Earth

Interesting Conversations With Icelandic Savants
Dinner was ready. Professor Liedenbrock devoured his portion voraciously, for his
compulsory fast on board had converted his stomach into a vast unfathomable gulf. There
was nothing remarkable in the meal itself; but the hospitality of our host, more Danish
than Icelandic, reminded me of the heroes of old. It was evident that we were more at
home than he was himself.
The conversation was carried on in the vernacular tongue, which my uncle mixed with
German and M. Fridrikssen with Latin for my benefit. It turned upon scientific questions
as befits philosophers; but Professor Liedenbrock was excessively reserved, and at every
sentence spoke to me with his eyes, enjoining the most absolute silence upon our plans.
In the first place M. Fridrikssen wanted to know what success my uncle had had at the
library.
"Your library! why there is nothing but a few tattered books upon almost deserted
shelves."
"Indeed!" replied M. Fridrikssen, "why we possess eight thousand volumes, many of
them valuable and scarce, works in the old Scandinavian language, and we have all the
novelties that Copenhagen sends us every year."
"Where do you keep your eight thousand volumes? For my part--"
"Oh, M. Liedenbrock, they are all over the country. In this icy region we are fond of
study. There is not a farmer nor a fisherman that cannot read and does not read. Our
principle is, that books, instead of growing mouldy behind an iron grating, should be
worn out under the eyes of many readers. Therefore, these volumes are passed from one
to another, read over and over, referred to again and again; and it often happens that they
find their way back to their shelves only after an absence of a year or two."
"And in the meantime," said my uncle rather spitefully, "strangers--"
"Well, what would you have? Foreigners have their libraries at home, and the first
essential for labouring people is that they should be educated. I repeat to you the love of
reading runs in Icelandic blood. In 1816 we founded a prosperous literary society; learned
strangers think themselves honoured in becoming members of it. It publishes books
which educate our fellow-countrymen, and do the country great service. If you will
consent to be a corresponding member, Herr Liedenbrock, you will be giving us great
pleasure."
My uncle, who had already joined about a hundred learned societies, accepted with a
grace which evidently touched M. Fridrikssen.
 
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