James Lackington, Bookseller (1746–1815)

At the time we were purchasing household goods we kept ourselves very short of money, and on Christmas eve we had but a half-a-crown left to buy a Christmas dinner. My wife desired that I would go to the market and purchase this festival dinner, and off I went for that purpose; but in the way I saw an old bookshop, and I could not resist the temptation of going in; intending only to spend sixpence or ninepence out of my half-a-crown. But I stumbled upon Young's Night Thoughts—forgot my dinner—down went my half-crown—and I hastened home, vastly delighted with the acquisition. When my wife asked me where was our Christmas dinner, I told her it was in my pocket.—'In your pocket,' said she; 'that is a strange place! How could you think of stuffing a joint of meat into your pocket?' I assured her that it would take no harm. But as I was in no haste to take it out, she began to be more particular, and inquired what I had got, etc. On which I began to harangue on the superiority of intellectual pleasures over sensual gratifications, and observed that the brute creation enjoyed the latter in a much higher degree than man. And that a man, that was not possessed of intellectual enjoyments, was but a two-legged brute. I was proceeding in this strain: 'And so,' said she, 'instead of buying a dinner, I suppose you have, as you have done before, been buying books with the money?' I confessed I had bought Young's Night Thoughts. 'And I think', said I, 'that I have acted wisely; for had I bought a dinner we should have eaten it tomorrow, and the pleasure would have been soon over, but should we live fifty years longer, we shall have the Night Thoughts to feast upon.' This was too powerful an argument to admit of any further debate; in short, my wife was convinced.

(James Sutherland (Ed), The Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1975, pp. 116-117)