Mason Weems, Bibliopolist


The Bible remained the base of Weems’s business; but he knew there must be different models for different markets: “I tell you this is the very season and age of the Bible, Bible Dictionaries, Bible tales, Bible stories—Bibles plain or paraphrased, Carey’s Bibles, Collin’s Bibles, Clarke’s Bibles, Kimptor’s Bibles, no matter what or whose, all, all will go down—so wide is the crater of public appetite at this time. God be thanked for it.” He would cram Bibles down the national maw; he would force America to read—and, in large part, he did.

Despite his own belief that he could unite wealth and piety, God’s propagandist remained underpaid—a blessing in disguise, since it kept him scribbling and scrambling for our good. He thought he deserved better, and he did; but who can imagine Wilkins Micawber either prosperous or satisfied? These rare spirits are sent to enrich other lives with their comic agony. They are not the less admirable for being ridiculous.