Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Pure pathos

I was browsing the other day on my own shop shelves and found this, the tale of little Rose, who lives and works with her elderly grandfather in his failing bookshop.

From the opening chapter: "There was no denying it that the trade was bad in the little tumble-down old second-hand bookshop in a poor street of London. Even little Rose Burnley, a ten-year-old lass, with large, wondering eyes, and a smile which was more often sad than merry, knew that things were not going on prosperously in grand-dad's shop. I think she troubled more about them than he did; for he was always reading. I suppose he thought that, as he could not sell the books, he might just as well read them and make some use of them. It was a pity they should lie there idle. They were not good-looking books; they were old, and grubby, and worn, and had several names of the past owners written inside, and the second-hand price scratched in pencil on the title page. Nowadays, when one can buy new copies so cheaply, these fusty, musty old things do not seem very attractive, do they?"

Hm. Well. The book, for anyone interested in pursuing the story further, is Little Rosebud, or, Things Will Take a Turn by Beatrice Harraden, Dana Estes, 1898. The story is a strange mishmash of elements from Heidi, various Frances Hodgson Burnett stories, and a dash of Tiny Tim for good measure (including: no parents in evidence, a crippled or mysteriously sickly girl who needs a companion, a rich benefactor with a fine library that needs tending, a talking parrot, and a few kindly old gentlemen). The cover of the book isn't pictured here, because it has no relation whatsoever to the story inside. Instead, two little girls are making mudpies in a Jessie Wilcox Smith-ish scene. But I rather like this illustration - little Rose's slumped-over dolls are in the foreground. They are named Jane Eyre and Robinson Crusoe. Thank god this isn't also a Christmas story, it would just be too much.

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