12 JANUARY 2002, Page 30

100 years of solitude

From Mr Benedict King Sir: We are not all impoverished by the government's library policy ('An axe to the roots of our culture', 15/22 December). A couple of months ago, as I was passing one of the few bookshops in Oxford that has not yet been turned into a sandwich bar or a themed pub. I noticed six volumes of Byron's collected letters and journals sitting in the window — John Murray 1898. I have been on the lookout for these for years and picked them up for a snip at £60. They were in almost mint condition and did not appear, on the evidence of the resistance they offered to the operation, to have been opened once in the 103 years of their existence.

Only when I got home did I notice that below the title and author on the spine, beautifully embossed in gold, was the shelfmark 826BYR and then inside — London Borough of Lambeth Central Reference Library. Let's not be pious about this: if the good citizens of Lambeth couldn't be bothered to read them once in the whole of the 20th century, they don't deserve them.

Benedict King