Boasting is tiresome and bad form, but we are honour bound to tell the world that Saturday evening the Mercantile Library went way beyond its mission, which is to be the literary center of our region, as it became the literary center of the solar system as Seamus Heaney came calling with the Niehoff Lecture tucked in his bag. Some four hundred literate Cincinnatians tucked into a candlelit dinner with the poet who had brought his kind and wise wife with him, and when the pudding had been dished out, everyone leaned back to listen to Mr. Heaney read from his work. He’s a fine writer and a fine reader, and he had the big hotel room in the palm of his hand. No one there will forget it.
Nights with Nobelists don’t just happen, of course. The Niehoff family, as is their wont, generously supported the event, as did a staggering list of private individuals and corporations. And a doughty committee of members pitched in with the Library’s small staff to assure that the evening would be comfortable, nourishing, easy on the eye, and intellectually satisfying. All of which it was.
Mr. and Mrs. Heaney wanted to see the Library, so Sunday morning we unlocked the place and gave them the tour. They thought it was grand.