Letter: Cheap books need not be nasty

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The Independent Online
Sir: James Fenton might be on to a good thing with his Unpopular Classics, but he is too severe on Steele and Lamb. How can he dismiss the former's Roger de Coverley, a man unafraid to speak his mind, as when he tells the proprietress of the Spring Garden that 'he should be a better Customer . . . if there were more Nightingales, and fewer Strumpets'.

As for Lamb, his 'things in books' clothing' could describe some of Mr Fenton's list, and if his style has not everywhere worn well, his thoughts can still strike home. 'Newspapers always excite curiosity,' he says in Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading. 'No one ever lays one down without a feeling of disappointment.'

Yours faithfully,


Hawkhurst, Kent

7 March