Books Have Their Destinies
Habent Sua Fata Libelli by Maurice Baring was a fascinating work of literature from an author who specialized in Drama, and this work was no exception. Found in the London Mercury, the title can be translated from Latin as, “Books have their Destinies” which hints at the important role books will play for our main characters. Maurice Baring, who’s work saw only limited success, is far from a household name, although his contributions are still perhaps worth mentioning. His life had a rich history, as he served in the Royal Air Force during WWI. After his time as a pilot, Baring began to focus more on writing, and made a career out of being a dramatist, although he also wrote a number of short stories, novels, and more. The story is told from the perspective of an officer in the army, who is recounting the story to a fellow soldier as they sit by a fire. It revolves around the Library of Alexandria, which in this work of fiction, was secretly transported to Africa instead of being burned in Greece. After much adventure and discovery, the main character and his companion, a Russian man named Ivankoff, attempt to take evidence of their discovery back to England. Unfortunately, no one believes their claims to have made such a miraculous discovery, and instead they laugh at them. Instead of letting someone else get credit for their discovery, Ivankoff and the main character drunkenly decide to burn the entire library to ashes. After reading through the story a few times, and doing extensive research on Mr. Baring and his life, I began to hypothesize a few claims or points that he was trying to make about society when writing this book. My main argument ended up being that Maurice Baring, a staunch anti-intellectualist, wrote Habent Sua Fata Libelli to prove a point about how the elites stifle the potential creativity of the lower class and can slow down or hinder the growth of society as a whole.
Carpenter, Calvin, "Books Have Their Destinies" (2019). Modernist Short Story Project. 24.