A Latter-day Bluestocking

For the love of reading

Category: Literature

My Christmas Wish List 2013

fezziwig-all-night-raveDear Santa,

I’ve been very good this year. Especially when it comes to reading, I’ve been reading voraciously all year. And I’ve been especially good because I have tried very hard to save my pennies by borrowing from the library as well as from family and friends rather than buying the books.

So all I want for Christmas this year are the following titles:

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang

The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley

Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge

A History of Britain in Thirty-six Postage Stamps by Chris West

Reprobates: The Cavaliers of the English Civil War by John Stubbs

Thanks for considering my list.

Love,

A Latter-day Bluestocking

PS. Cookies and milk will be left on the table as always. As well as carrots for the reindeer.

 

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Jane's quill

Emma as a Microcosm of English Society and other Matters

emmaMay 4th was a lovely spring day, the air was warm, the sun was shining, and the campus of Columbia University was abuzz with activity. I was there to attend the Spring Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and hear the lecture “Emma as a Microcosm of English Society”. The speaker was David M. Shapard who has published the annotated versions of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion. His The Annotated Northanger Abbey will be released on September 13, 2013. And can one assume that he is hard at work on the annotated Mansfield Park? Let’s hope so!  [hint, hint Mr. Shapard]

Emma is my least favorite of all of Jane Austen’s books. I can’t stand the title character, she’s annoying, self-righteous, and a meddler. Austen herself wrote, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like” to describe her irritating protagonist. I’ve always wanted to throw this book across the room with violent force but now having heard Mr. Shapard speak, and so passionately about, I am desiring to re-read the book and perhaps re-examine the microcosm of society which Austen presents.

JASNA Lecturer, David M. Shapard

JASNA Lecturer, David M. Shapard

Emma is the only Austen novel named for its main character. Shapard suggests this is by design as she is the novel’s primary focus, Emma is the most flawed of all of Austen’s heroines and her failings affect herself as well as lead to detrimental situations for others. Her missteps, of which she is totally oblivious of, is what drives the plot. “This concentration, and the dominance of the action by a flawed heroine, allows for a superb joining of plot, character, and theme” [Shapard: Introduction The Annotated Emma, page xxv]. Each action within the novel evolves the plot revealing her character and her moral irrationality. And all the while as I read the book, I want to punch Emma in the nose because I see that she is being an idiot as we are meant to. Well, perhaps Austen didn’t envisage her readers wanting to do violence to her heroine but she did intend for us to notice her folly as Emma herself does not.

market-day-at-chilhamMr. Shapard then turned his focus to the main idea of his discussion, the book’s depiction of the society in which Emma lives. Highbury boasts a complex society, its nuances properly understood and accepted by  Austen’s contemporary readers:  who was genteel, who was not, who has fallen from the refined life and those who have risen to it, those of questionable birth, those who work the land, those in trade, the nouveau riche and those in need. Austen describes a stable society and one in which the social hierarchy is marked and described in detail. There is limited social change and forms the important backdrop for the action of the novel and gives the reader a real sense of place and the day-to-day of country living.   Mr. Shapard maintains that the novels dual focus of the individual and the social world reinforces each other “the precise delineations of the world around the heroine make her misjudgments of that world more vivid for the reader.” [Shapard: Introduction The Annotated Emma, page xxix].

It was an informative lecture and one that opened my mind about how I should read Emma. Mr. Shapard has convinced me that, perhaps, I have underestimated Emma, my good judgment clouded by my displeasure of Emma’s lack of insight.  I will read it again.

Reginald HillThe rest of the meeting was given over to the discussion of a short story “Poor Emma” written by the late Reginald Hill and published in his book There Are No Ghosts in the Soviet Union.  I do not know much about Reginald Hill except that his genre was crime writing and he was a purported “Janeite” so I was quite eager to read his sequel to Emma.  I have to say I was absolutely horrified by it which my marginalia on the copy I read will greatly attest.  As I was reading I could not help think what a travesty it was.  And that’s saying something because, as I said earlier, Emma is my least preferred book.  My favorite character, Mr. Knightley is now a drunken, obese, slothful, and loutish wretch of a man.  In a few years of marriage Mr. Knightley has turned his back on responsibility and become a truly debauched individual, a complete 180° in temperament and character.  But as I continued to read I began to take the story for what it was, a parody, and one which was written tongue in cheek.  I was even able to laugh at the story and myself for my severe reaction.  I am not a fan of Hill’s Mr. Knightley (or his Emma for that matter) but it is clever how he used his crime writing skills to exploit Emma’s habitual convention of scheming and manipulation and using her machinations, for once successful, for the most diabolical (and amusing) of ends.

The meeting ended with lots of catching up and talking Jane with my fellow enthusiasts, cucumber sandwiches and tea, and having David Shapard sign my copy of The Annotated Emma and being totally awkward as I told him that I bought his annotated P&P for my niece.  It was the perfect spring day with an abundance of delightful diversion.

cucumber-tea-sandwiches-bridge-recipes-mdn

The Public Library: A Sanctuary since ca. 1974

Library_ShelvesI just read Five Times A Library Changed Me by Rachael Berkey about the mental, emotional, and spiritual growth libraries provide her.  I silently chuckled reading about the pride she had in getting her first library card, riding her bicycle to the library and attempting to bring home a shelf-load of books, the competitiveness of school reading challenges, and the complexities of navigating her college library mostly because I have many parallels in my own life.  It was a bit uncanny.  We love, crave even, the company of books and we live with the idea that the library is a home away from home.

I was inspired to write of my most potent memories and reflect on how a library was an important entity in my formative years.  Thanks Rachael for the idea:  imitation is, afterall, the sincerest form of flattery.

First Memory of a Public Librarylibrary-pockets

My first memory of a library is of my mother taking me on a very wet and dreary day, it was after a swim lesson, my belly full of pizza and myself physically exhausted [and probably cranky].  The building was diminutive, the exact size to inspire interest without being overwhelming to a 5 year old. It was divided into two wings, one side held the Juvenile books and the other the Adult books and in the middle overseeing all was the Librarian’s desk with all her pretty cards and stamps.  What a haven of serenity.  I received my first library card here.  What source of power, this simple manila heavy card stock, possessed.  I was left to roam the shelves and pick the books I wanted to check out.  I remember the smell of the books, a scent recollection so stimulating that the remembrance of it brings back floods of happy thoughts.

There were so many books!!  How was I to choose?  I couldn’t and boy, was my mother shocked by the small tower of books I had decided upon.  She didn’t flinch however as she guided me to the Librarian to have them checked out.  Thanks Mom for understanding the stirrings of what would become my lifelong affair with the written word and even encouraging it.

I Can and Will Read More Than Youreading medals

Yes, that sounds obnoxious but blame the philosophy of a late 70s and early 80s educational system.  It has established in me that reading for mere enjoyment and interest alone is not enough; that it can, and is, a competitive sport.  That practice, begun in grammar school, continues with Goodreads and their annual reading challenge.  I am currently at 29% of my 2013 reading goal having finished 26 books of the 90 I intend to read.  Cool right?

I remember my first official reading challenge.  The local library called it The Reading Olympics and depending on how many books you read you could earn a bronze, silver, or gold medal.  It won’t take too much stretch of the imagination to know what medal I not so secretly coveted.  I remember taking home the log sheet in which we were to write the books we had completed with the start and end dates.  The mostly self-inflicted pressure was intense but like any well-trained athlete I was sure that I had what it takes to win gold.  I paced myself, slow and steady will win the race, gradually picking up the pace until I had filled out that sheet.  I was so proud when I handed in my sheet knowing I had won gold exceeding the 25 book minimum.  A few weeks later I received that medal and reveled in all its shiny plastic dazzle.  [cue Olympics Theme music now]

Mom’s Library at Collegepaper-chase-lecture

When I was about 7 or 8 years old my mother began her collegiate academic career.  This was awesome for many reasons but mainly because on days when we had to accompany her Mom would leave us at the campus library with the strict orders that we were to behave.  We always did.  Nothing was cooler and it was from this moment that I knew I wanted to go to college too.  When you are in 5th grade and a veracious reader there is nothing like it.  I roamed the stacks for hours never getting bored pretending that I was a college student like those in the television show The Paper Chase.

I once had to do research for a class project.  We were studying medieval Europe and I decided I wanted to do my presentation on heraldry.  I looked up books in the card catalogue, pulled the necessary books from the shelf, and spent every dime I had photocopying a small forest worth of pertinent literature.  Mom even checked out books for me.  I don’t remember what grade I received but I sure do remember having lots of fun doing the research.

Libraries are wonderful places, temples of wisdom and bastions of human intellect.  I love to go to my local library and look at the books and I always inadvertently walk out with an armful of books to add the myriad others I have not read.  Oh well, it only helps me with my Reading Challenge goal!

It’s National Libraries Week (April 14-20) so get out there, get your library card, and start reading!!

Beach Reading Reviews 2012 Part 2

Here’s the second half of my beach reading reviews.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

A simply monstrous story, a young man trades his soul for eternal youth and leads a sordid dual life, indulging every impulse and desire maintaining all the while a gentleman’s facade.  As Dorian Gray’s portrait exhibits the sins of his sinful life he moves on to ever more unspeakably and horrifying transgressions.  A page-turner and frightening.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

A beautiful story of a man’s struggle against nature written in Hemingway’s characteristic style free of superfluous words.  He simply and elegantly the old man’s determination in the face of defeat.  Powerful!

The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Kantor

Absolutely awful.  Nonsensical clap-trap about how to achieve happiness in love by following the example of Austen’s heroines.  Preachy, thus annoying.  Not recommended.

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

Despite being over 1000 pages long, an engaging tale.  This is the fourth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series relating the quest for domination of the Seven Kingdoms.  If you are a fan of the fantasy genre definitely a must-read.

Downton Abbey Inspired Reading

Downton Abbey

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Today the New York Times published the article, If You’re Mad for ‘Downton,’ Publishers Have Reading List which describes the phenomena of “Downton Fever” and how booksellers and publishers hope to cash in with Downton-related books convinced that viewers of the program are likely to be great book readers as well.

I am one of those mad people who when I become obsessed with something I tend to run out and devour every book I can lay my hands on, whether it be history, fiction, or pictorial.  I enjoy reading the contemporary authors of the time.  The period covered in Downton Abbey is an especially fruitful period in English literature with such authors as Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Ford Madox Ford, James Barrie, Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells, E.M. Forster, Kenneth Grahame, and A.A. Milne leading the pack.

But the books I really love to read are the books on the history of a certain period.  I religiously buy or borrow books to enhance my experience of a work of fiction or film or to learn more.  For example my shelves are filled with books on the Regency because of my love of Jane Austen and I read any book that crosses my path on Tudor history because of my admiration for Elizabeth I.  Downton Abbey has had a similar effect with one small twist; I already own many books about the period.  Of course, I can always use more and I have recently placed on my “to-get” list:  Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey:  The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Dutchess of Carnarvon, Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate, Parade’s Endby Ford Madox Ford, and The Great Silence:  Britain From the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age by Juliet Nicolson.

Inspired by the article in the Times I thought it would be fun to share some of the books from my personal library that I think will bring enjoyment and understanding of the society, politics, and history of the period inhabited by the characters of Downton Abbey.

The Proud Tower and The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman are two tome-like volumes which wonderfully describe the world during the years 1890–1914 and the years during World War I.  They are highly readable despite their daunting size and I recommend them highly.

The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson is a well-written history of the English summer of 1911 before the world changed forever with the advent of World War I.

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire 1781–1997 by Piers Brendon a book which describes how after the loss of the American colonies Britain rebuilt itself to become one of the greatest and most diverse empires the world has ever seen.  It is the Empire that the aristocratic families of the Downton Abbey era would have known and would have believed to be unassailable in world authority and power.

The Long Week-End:  A Social History of Great Britain 1918–1939 by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge is a book describing the social history of Britain between the wars.

The Edwardians by Roy Hattersley is about the brief but golden period during the reign of Edward VII (r. 1901–1910).  It was an era of stellar personalities, social and political change, advances in technology, and flourishing literature and music.  A perfect back-drop to Downton Abbey.

The Polite Tourist:  Four Centuries of Country House Visiting by Adrian Tinniswood recounts the history of tourism to England’s country homes.

The history of housekeeping in a large country house is the topic of Behind the Scenes:  Domestic Arrangements in Historic Houses by Christina Hardyment.  Many of the details in this book would be quite familiar to Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes, Anna and the other servants of Downton Abbey.

The conventions of country house lifestyle and culture fill a few very informative chapters in British Tradition and Interior Design by Claudia Piras and Bernhard Roetzel.

And for an enticing smorgasbord of beautiful images and information about Seasons 1 and 2 of Downton Abbey and its era The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes is a must!

Happy Reading!

The King’s Library at The British Museum

Bookcases in the King's Library, The British M...

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George III (1738-1820, reigned 1760-1820) was by no means an intellectual monarch but through a well-rounded education he developed an appreciation for learning. As Prince of Wales, heir presumptive, he was tutored in a broad range of subjects. He became well-read in literature, both English and non-English, spoke many languages, was interested in theatre, music, architecture, astronomy, and agriculture. Not only did he read and study these things but also contributed to various periodicals of the day, especially on topics of husbandry.

Upon ascending the throne in 1760, George III discovered that there did not exist a royal library. There had been an ‘Old Royal Library’ that had been added to since the 15th century but since the late 17th century was largely neglected. It had been given to the British Museum in 1757 by his grandfather George II. Almost immediately upon coming to the throne George III began an intense policy of collecting.

George III: Book Collector and Building the Collection

Bust of King George III outside of the King's ...

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George III sought to found a Royal Library following a very distinct protocol. He did not just want a library of self-aggrandizement of his reign but one that followed the principles of Enlightenment, a ‘universal library’. He sought a collection which transcended genres, languages, periods, and subjects and through the study of its books would add to scholarship and not constrain or restrict.

The King spared no expense and working with his librarians sought the best from all over Europe and England. Early in his reign he acquired with the intent to build up the collection and did so without a disciplined approach. Still, some very important additions to the Library were made at this early stage of collecting. In 1762 he acquired the Thomason Tracts, a series of broadsides and pamphlets made during the Civil War and Commonwealth periods (1640-60) and in 1763 acquired from the collection of the British consul in Venice, Joseph Smith, many printed editions of Italian literature and history. Besides printed material, the King also collected drawings, prints and paintings.

The Enlightenment Room of the British Museum, ...

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By 1767, the adding to the Royal Library was approached in a more methodical manner. Intending the Royal Library to be a working library, the King avoided the mundane list of written material and instead sought English literature, early English printing, philosophy, and the classics, Italian, French, and Spanish literature, geography and topography, architecture, painting, and sculpture. Two magnificent acquisitions at this time were the Gutenberg Bible produced in Mainz, c. 1455 and Caxton’s edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales printed in Westminster, c. 1476 the first book to be printed in England. The King also included books on subjects which interested him personally, including agriculture, astronomy, and the natural sciences.

It was also a well-known fact that the King was advised by Samuel Johnson (1709-84) who met with the King at the Library in 1767. He suggested material in the classics, literature, law and topography. He also advised against the purchasing of whole library collections thus preventing the unnecessary acquisition of duplicates. It is a testament to Johnson’s knowledge of the world of letters that his advice for the collecting of material for the King’s Library was heeded.

Sir Frederick Augusta Barnard (1742-1830), the King’s librarian after 1774, was given the task of scouring the booksellers of France, Germany, Italy, and the Low Countries, in addition to the purchases being made in the London book trade. By 1769 the collection kept at Buckingham House (the future Buckingham Palace) numbered over 10,000 books.

The Use of the Collection

As the Royal Library was established as a working scholarly library, it admitted those whose genuine credentials as scholars to use the collection. George III was especially generous by allowing even those he did not particularly agree with to have access to the library. Two such figures were the scientist Joseph Priestley (1773-1804) whose radical ideas of theology and politics were opposed to those of the conservative King and his former enemy, the American revolutionary and founding father, John Adams (1735-1826). Adams was deeply impressed by the Library and exclaimed his disappointment that he didn’t have more time to read in it.

Gift to the Nation

The King’s Library was built up solely from George III’s upon his own resourcefulness and solely with funds from his won privy purse but always with the intent to its use as a ‘national resource’ as a scholarly universal library. By the time of George III’s death in 1820 the library consisted of over 65,259 printed books, supplemented by periodicals, pamphlets, prints, drawings, musical scores, maps and topographical drawings, as well as coins and medals.

His son and heir, George IV (1765-1837, reigned 1820-1837), made it known that he wished to present the library to the British nation. On January 15, 1823 George IV wrote to the Prime Minister stating his intentions and the stipulation that it be housed at the British Museum and the library was to be ‘kept entire, and separate…in a repository to be appropriated exclusively for that purpose’.

The British Museum found its original building to be too small to accommodate the collection. A building project was undertaken. The King’s Library was the first wing to be designed and built by Sir Robert Smirke (1780-1867). It was completed in 1827 and is the core of the familiar Quadrangle building.

 

King George III library at British Library

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The King’s Library Today

The King’s Library has been housed since 1997 at the British Library at St. Pancras. It inhabits its own space at the heart of the building called the King’s Library Tower. It still maintains its function as a working library.

The rooms built for it at the British Museum are now used as a gallery space, still called the King’s Library, and houses the permanent exhibition Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century.

Sources:

Jefcoate, Graham. “‘Most curious, splendid and useful’: the King’s Library of George III”, Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century (London, The British Museum, 2003)

Lady Vernon and Her Daughter

Lady Vernon and Her Daughter by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway is the cleverly developed and expanded story of Lady Susan by Jane Austen. Austen’s posthumously published melodramatic and insufficient novel depicts “the most dangerous coquette in England”, a self-serving and selfish heroine. The title character, Lady Vernon, is redeemed in this well-written and researched adaptation.

Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775-1817) probably wrote Lady Susan between 1793-4 during the same period she wrote Elinor and Marianne and First Impressions, her first attempts at what would become Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Lady Susan was written in the epistolary style, or in the form of letters, popular during the 18th century. This faulty mode of expression is problematical as it is unable to establish nuances in characterization and storyline being limited to the letter writer’s particular point of view. This may explain why Jane Austen abandoned the form and never sought publication of the story although she did take the trouble to make a fair copy in 1805. It was published in 1870 by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh along with his memoirs of his aunt.

The heroine is one of Austen’s most egotistical, self-serving, and narcissistic; a deliciously established villainess. She blatantly revels in her actions which go against all of society’s observations and rules. She is a young and beautiful widow who prowls for a suitable gentleman to marry her daughter to while simultaneously and heedlessly attracting the attentions of men to herself. Like Catherine, or The Bower this story serves as a link between Austen’s Juvenilia and her later books. Her writing still tends to be exaggerated but begins to display the subtlety and maturity of characterization familiar in her later published books.

Adaptation in Lady Vernon and Her Daughter

In the adaptation Lady Vernon and Her Daughter the authors’ abandon the letter-writing format. The story they tell preserves Jane Austen’s original plot but because it is no longer restricted to the epistolary framework they are able to establish the character’s motives and sentiment beyond what is written in letter form. The third person narrative satisfactorily expands the story beyond the affected and limited conventions of Lady Susan and allows for a satisfying unfolding of action devoid of melodrama.

Lady Susan, now correctly titled Lady Vernon (as established by the English conventions of given titles), is still a vibrant character. She maintains all her strong-willingness, recklessness, and maliciousness but the justification of her actions in the end absolves her of any truly unethical motives. She is a widow and mother who realizes the importance of prudent marriage for herself and her daughter to avoid penury, a theme cultivated and consistent in Austen’s later novels. The selfishness and self-serving of the original novel survives simply as misunderstanding, conjecture, and malicious gossip.

What Would Jane Have Done?

In most of Jane Austen’s published novels her heroines, although beloved, are not the “pictures of perfection” that made Austen “sick and wicked” but rather each has her flaws. In each of the mature novels the young women eventually achieve a self-awareness and overcome their shortcomings. The back drop to these realizations are most commonly formed within a quest for one acceptable object – a suitable marriage.

Rubino and Rubino-Bradway rehabilitate Lady Vernon’s seemingly mercenary behavior by emphasizing her comprehension of the realities of her world. They endow her with the understanding that advantageous marriages for her and her daughter will save them from a life of poverty and humiliation. This does not mean that the character believes in an attachment devoid of affection. In true Jane Austen fashion Lady Vernon pursues marriages but only if accompanied by similar sentiment and love.

This adaptation is well researched and written and reads as Jane Austen herself may have envisioned and re-worked the story had she lived longer. We’ll never know what Jane Austen had intended for her heroine but adherents to her novels will enjoy the efforts and understanding offered by the authors of Lady Vernon and Her Daughter.

Primary Sources: Austen, Jane. Lady Susan/The Watsons/Sanditon. (New York: Penguin Classics, 1974); Rubino, Jane and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway. Lady Vernon and Her Daughter. (New York: Crown Publishers, 2009)

Secondary Sources: Le Faye, Deirdre. Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 2002); Poplawski, Paul. A Jane Austen Encyclopedia. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998)

 

A Book: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

It has been several days since Christmas and the flurry of paper and string and bows have had time to settle, candy canes have been eaten, the tree has become a tinder box, and finally I can settle down to read the books I received as gifts.  I love receiving books (or money so I can purchase them on my own).  I remember at a young age being thrilled to find books in my stocking; even once reading a tome in its entirety in the wee hours before waking my mother at a more civilized hour.  Yes, my sister and I were quite courteous on Christmas morning!

This year, without fail, I found a few books under my tree and in my stocking.  My loved ones certainly know that diamonds may be a girl’s best friend but there is nothing like a book to make this girl’s heart skip a beat.  So, here it is my Christmas books and with any luck I’ll be engrossed in one of these as the ball falls in Times Square to ring in 2012.  (Hint:  It will most likely be the P.D. James).

Firstly, everyone knows my obsession with Jane Austen so it wouldn’t truly be a MERRY Christmas without a little Jane.  Lady Vernon and Her Daughter by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway is a wonderful re-working of Austen’s epistolary novella Lady Susan.  I have read this before (I borrowed it from the library) and enjoyed it so much that I recommended it to be read by my Jane Austen reading group.  I suppose Santa thought I should have my own copy.  I also received from a friend, who occasionally leaves offerings of books, the recently released murder mystery by P.D. James Death Comes to Pemberley.  Clearly he understands that goddesses (or undervalued administrators) need to be kept happy.  Thank you so much, it is much appreciated.

A very fun book which will have pride of place on my coffee table is The Word Made Flesh:  Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide.  All I have to say is WOW!!  Were I to get a tattoo (read lack of bravery here) it would definitely have to be something literary inspired because I have never seen anything so cool.

Cover of "Tinkers"

Cover of Tinkers

Because everyone should read a Pulitzer prize winner and it was my pick from the Christmas book swap I have Tinker by Paul Harding.  Flipping through the pages it promises to reaffirm my love of the written word.  This is a first novel, and a seemingly powerful one.  The first line is staggering, “George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.”

I also received and already finished The World of Downton Abbey.  There isn’t really much to say here except the book is a wonderful companion piece to the television series.  I love this book.  Just turning its pages brings me much joy and happiness.

My obsessions with Jane Austen and Downton Abbey are mediocre compared to that with good penmanship.  I am always cursing the decline of the art of writing (with a pen and paper); for crying out loud they don’t even teach children cursive writing anymore in schools!  It is an abomination.  Needless to say I am obsessed with handwriting.  I practiced for hours as a child and pride myself on my penmanship to this day.  I insist on using fountain pens and writing (almost daily) in my Moleskine journal and handwriting notes and cards.  I am quite snobbish about this so it is with great delight that I have received Script & Scribble:  The Rise and Fall of Handwriting.  Kitty Burns Florey is a kindred spirit in that she too professes to be a “penmanship nut”.

And because a girl cannot live on books alone I will get frequent use from reading my 2012 Zagat Guide for New York City.

Truly, books are the gift that keeps on giving!

Quote of the Day: Charles Dickens

Copy of a Photograph of Charles Dickens

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! ” ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

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