Thursday, June 11, 2015
"This is a diminutive letter, but you excuse duodecimos in summer." From Volume IV of The Letters of Horace Walpole (p.2). This post will be necessarily short as well, since I am preparing for one of my annual painting trips. Art supplies yes, but what to pack for books? The question looms. More Walpole...? This Walpole shelf houses the set I am slowly reading my way through. As you might guess from this picture, I am in the midst of Volume IV:
And it is absolutely riveting! I have no time to get into the details, but will say that the letters amble quietly along for a while, then BOOM, all hell breaks loose! (Okay, okay - Walpole's beloved cousin gets kicked out of the army and out of parliament, and Walpole defends him, and the ensuing letters and Walpole's own footnotes with all the backstory - very meta indeed - kept me reading late into the night - I know this sounds dry as dust, but not so! trust me!) But, back to packing for my trip - do I want to drag Walpole off to a tiny island where I won't be doing much reading anyway? And, then, there is this to consider - the seven cartons of books we bought at the village book, plant, and bake sale last weekend includes the following, which have somehow formed my next to-be-read, or at least to-be-browsed pile:
There are some tempting diversions in this stack - new reads and re-reads both! Thus I am experiencing an internal struggle - a literary tug o'war - about whether or not to allow any of these books to derail me from the Walpole set before I'm even at the halfway point. A slippery slope, to mix metaphors. I'll confess that I've already read one book from the booksale - this shabby charmer:
Round About Chatsworth by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (Frances Lincoln 2005), aka Deborah Mitford. Such a pleasing little picture book, illustrating long walks from the main house to each of the points of the compass, in all seasons, replete with quirky landmarks, outlying cottages and farm buildings, and generally gorgeous English countryside. The Dowager Duchess has opinions about historic preservation and bureaucracy and doesn't hesitate to share them in her to-the-point text. Not that she's acerbic, exactly, I mean, look at her, there on the back cover:
But she does have decided opinions, based on hard-won experience. Isn't she dear, in the bracken? I remind myself that reading her book was not, in fact, straying far from Walpole at all, since he himself visits Chatsworth in Volume III, and gossips about the Duke of Devonshire and many other Cavendishes all throughout his letters. One of his female relatives also married a Cavendish, come to think of it.
Well, I remain undecided, although I'm leaning toward packing Volume V and my diary and calling it good. The other books will wait for me, I hope. As I continue to get ready for my trip, I'll close with a bit more from Walpole (Volume IV, p.102):
"I always find it worth my while to make journies, for the joy I have in getting home again."