Thursday, February 14, 2008


etaoin shrdlu

From the rediscovered cache, another Morley book today: John Mistletoe (Doubleday 1931). The outside of the book is a pleasing tannish-green buckram. And inside, what a fine title page - green and black ink, a nice clean spacious layout, and another thriving tree of knowledge, this one discreetly encircled by the letters ETAOIN SHRDLU:

Oh, how dear. I deeply love that ampersand, too, with its brave little flourish. This copy is a first edition inscribed and signed on the front free endpaper, to Olive L. Booth ("Aunt Olive" - I'm not sure if she was really his aunt, or an old family friend - perhaps someone who has actually read the 1976 biography of Morley will enlighten me), with Morley's name written in a way I've not seen elsewhere - and I have a lot of signed books - with his childhood nickname, Kit:

I see from my pencil code inside the back cover that I paid the princely sum of twelve dollars for this book, eight years ago. I think I bought it at a used bookshop in Boston, but I can't remember which one. This copy has no dust jacket - there's just one lone jacket flap tucked in the back of the book. Enough about the external form of the book; here's a brief taste of the bildungsroman-memoir inside (p.441):

"I am glad it was raining, cold steady downpour, sweet to taste. It washes a Long Island dogwood tree, it washes the stone walls of Stratford church. It would soon sodden to pulp the pages of all these books. Wash out cheap ink and glue and leave bare feeling. I never knew about rain until that night. I saw the blowing storms of the world sweep into the dusty rooms of literature, whirling aside our little notes and memoranda, stripping us down to laughter, pity, and need."

Nothing else to say, after that. Except that now I want to re-read the whole book. And, wouldn't FRUCTUS QUAM FOLIA be a good name for a bookshop, full of wonderful obscure stuff... I'd say call it ETAOIN SHRDLU, but that would only confuse people.

"Aunt Olive" is probably Morley's aunt-in-law. He married a Helen Booth Fairchild (not to be confused with the nurse by the same name who died during WWI).
Thanks, anon, I appreciate it. Sometimes I tend toward effusion-without-the-facts. (Is that a writing style...?)
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