Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Where, when, and how much?

Bought in Portland, Maine, at a shop that has since closed, about twelve years ago, for five dollars (marked down from nine dollars). Another decorative cover:

The Silver Domino; or Side Whispers, Social and Literary. Anonymous. Twenty-third edition (Lamley and Co., London 1895). Full black cloth binding, fading in places to dark brown. Silver decoration and lettering. Near fine condition.

Who was The Silver Domino? I don't know. He or she says, in the introduction to this later edition, that "...I am not what I seem, and that up to the present, so far as my personality has been hinted at, or even boldly asserted, such suppositious 'clues' are all random shots and fall wide of the mark. With the utmost civility, I beg to inform you, dear friends and enemies alike, that in this trivial matter of 'guessing,' you are all, every one of you, - wrong!" Very Scarlet Pimpernel-ish indeed.

The main text of the book consists of often catty and always gossipy tales about authors and socialites, and their various satellites. Here's a sample from one of the chapters about poets, specifically about the work of that late Victorian/early Edwardian British Raj mainstay, Sir Edwin Arnold (pp. 252-253):

"All the religious ladies read it because it is so very unexciting and heavenly and harmless, and because, like all pious poetry, it preaches virtue that no one ever dreams of practising. It is a capital book for school prizes, too; it will not hurt any boy or girl to read it, and it may providentially check them in time from trying to write verse themselves."

Ouch! Strangely enough, I just brought almost all of my Edwin Arnold books from home back to the shop. I priced them and put them out in the poetry section. I kept them for years first, though, because I, ummm, liked the covers.

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