William Gladstone, four time Prime Minister of Great Britain was an avid reader of books. He loved books so much that he wrote a book “On Books and the Housing of Them” on how best to house them. He personally amassed 32,000 books in his home at Hawarden Castle, which he had transferred to a public library during his old age.
Today, Gladstone’s Library is a tourist attraction situated at Hawarden in Flintshire, Wales. Together with its historical affinity with the British Prime Minister, the library is active in the local community, making much of its collection available to the public for perusal within the building and lending. The instructions found in this essay influence to this day the management of Gladstone’s book collection. Gladstone’s Library is the UK’s only residential library
Gladstone was eager to make his personal library accessible to others; the first step towards fulfilling this vision was taken in 1889 when two large iron rooms were erected with six or seven smaller rooms to act as studies. Gladstone, over eighty years old, was closely involved in the transfer of 20,000 of his books from Hawarden Castle to their new home a quarter of a mile away, undertaking much of the manual labour himself, helped only by his valet and one of his daughters. He unpacked them and put them onto shelves using his own catalogue system.
His desire, his daughter Mary Gladstone said, was to
“bring together books who had no readers with readers who had no books”.
Ryan Holiday, in his book, Stillness is the key, shares the following on Gladstone reading habits:
Gladstone’s arboreal activity was a way to rest a mind that was often wearied by politics and the stresses of life. During his final three terms as prime minister, from 1880 to the early 1890s, Gladstone was out in the woods inspecting or chopping more than three hundred times. Nor was an axe the only tool he used to relax or be present.
Gladstone was also said to enjoy vigorous hikes, and mountain climbing well into old age, and the only thing that appears in his diary more than tree felling is reading. (He collected and read some twenty-five thousand books during his life.) These activities were a relief from the pressures of politics, a challenge for which effort was always rewarded and with which his opponents could not interfere.
He collected and read some twenty-five thousand books during his life.
In his Book, the 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less, Rich Koch commented on Gladstone love of books and use of time:
Gladstone was not constrained by his political duties, or, rather, was effective at them because he spent his time pretty much as he pleased in an amazing variety of ways. He was an inveterate tourist, both in the British Isles and overseas, often slipping over to France, Italy, or Germany on private business while prime minister.
He loved the theater, pursued several (almost certainly non-physical) affairs with women, read avidly (20,000 books in his lifetime), made incredibly long speeches in the House of Commons (which despite their length were apparently compulsive listening), and virtually invented the sport of modern electioneering, which he pursued with enormous gusto and enjoyment. Whenever he felt even slightly ill, he would go to bed for at least a whole day, where he would read and think. His enormous political energy and effectiveness.
Gladstone read avidly 20,000 books in his lifetime
If a Prime Minister as busy as Gladstone could read that many books and leave his collection to benefit humanity, what is your excuse for not reading? Gladstone was Great Britain’s Prime Minister for 12 years and also served as Chancellor of the Exchequer four times. What an inspiring man! He did not just read, he used what he learnt from reading to lead the British Empire during the heights of the nations power.
All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.