Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My Old Book

These days, I am reading The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. I had started reading it several years ago but didn't make it past the first few chapters. Now, I am determined to read it through.

The edition I am reading is a Harper & Brothers 1922 edition with warped boards and yellowing pages. The first thirty pages or so are distinctly marked with a spill--coffee or tea or stump water, I'm not sure which. My favorite "feature" about this edition is how it was treated by its original owner--Bunny McClelland. She signed it on the opening end sheet.

Below her signature, Bunny McClelland has noted the key characteristics of the main characters. And all through the book, she has underlined unfamiliar words and defined them in the margins, which is helpful because otherwise I wouldn't know that soi-disant means would-be or that purlieu means haunt.

At the bottom of page 121, when Hardy references Correggio (a name I am inclined to skip over because I don't want to have to read with Wikipedia at hand), there is a penned note that reads: "Antonio Allegri (1494-1535). Italian painter--noted for vivid & impulsive expressions & pose." There, now I don't have to look him up. It's like Crib Notes from the past, like some school girl in 1922 did a little bit of research, and now I can read my book in peace.

I imagine that Bunny is no longer alive, that if she were old enough to read The Mayor of Casterbridge in the 1920s, then she would be at least 100 today. I also imagine that Bunny was a pretty conscientious student because her notes run all the way to the end, and I haven't run across sketches of her teachers like in some of the older school books in my collection. And imagine that Bunny wouldn't mind that her old book is in such bad shape, since she didn't mind writing in it in blue ink. And I imagine Bunny is similar to Elizabeth-Jane, new and inquisitive resident of Casterbridge, who wonders about her newly acquired beauty and social position. Bunny wrote that Elizabeth-Jane is considerate, sensitive, and patient.

Here is The Martyrdom of Four Saints (1523) by Correggio. I went ahead and looked him up anyway.


dive said...

Oooo! Oooo! My favourite Hardy!
I haven't read it in decades but I seem to remember shedding a somewhat less than mature tear over it when I was a nipper.
Selling your wife is so much more practical (and profitable) than today's penchant for divorce. I think he was on to something there … hee hee.
And Bunny is a great name.

Although I cannot find reference to a biscuit base or indeed any form of soft cheese in this post, as I was led to believe …

Gina said...

Does it make me a total West-Coaster that I have no idea what stump water is?

Robyn said...

Dive, I really do like this novel. It's clever--although selling the wife IS NOT a good idea, as it haunts him, remember? I'll get that cheesecake recipe.

Gina, I think stump water is a southern term, how we used to describe muddy looking iced tea when I was a kid. When you cut down a rotted old tree and leave the stump in the ground, and then it rains, and water is allowed to sit in the recesses of the stump and collect mold spores and dead flies and old bird feathers--that's stump water.

dive said...

Mmm … Iced tea …
I don't have a wife to sell, Robyn, and at this rate, my only option is to buy one off someone.
Where's Henchard when I need him?

Molly said...

Who needs the internet when you have Bunny McClelland marking up your reading material for you...

Sassy Sundry said...

Here's to Bunny! I like her, I think.

daughter numero uno said...

is that the book in which you sketched long john silver?!

by "these days, i am reading" i'll assume you mean, "i read seven pages two months ago, and every once in a while i glance at it and think, 'i should read that'"

under that definition, i'm "reading" ulysses. i'm standing on my tiptoes and it's still over my head. when it starts to bog me down, jamesy writes something like,

"these heavy sands are language tide and wind have silted here"

and i remember why i wanted to read it in the first place.

Robyn said...

No, smarty, I am actually reading it. Now that Maryann is done, I have time to read during #2's tennis lessons.

This is not the book in which I sketched Long John Silver. I believe that drawing is in a paperback of something I had in highschool.

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