Monday, October 24, 2016


spending money on books

Again!  Help!  It keeps happening.  And I let it.  A brief break from Lees-Milne and Frances Partridge and diaries in general to speak instead of recent book purchases.  This weekend we visited a few local antiques shops, where used books are also known to lurk.  I bought some interesting but common books to browse in then resell, one inexpensive art book to read and keep, and one other, to read and treasure.  The last of these is this little item:

A hardcover first U.S. edition of one of Vita Sackville-West's books of poetry - King's Daughter (Doubleday, Doran 1930).  Black cloth covers, paper label on the front cover, with a lovely little device of two birds in a potted plant, which is repeated on the title page, and of course has me thinking something along the lines of A book in the hand is worth two in... the shop?  Back to the shop - we had circled the place, both floors, without finding anything we needed or wanted, then on our way out, in a glass case near the entrance, Ryan spotted this.  The only book in the case.  With a little flag that said signed by author.  I asked to see it, held it, wanted it, pined even.  Then I said I'd think about it, and handed it back to the proprietor.  We left the shop.  I was of course furiously thinking about it.  We got in the car and Ryan, prince that he is, immediately said, "I can't believe you're not going to buy that book!"  I looked straight ahead and said, to myself as much as to him, "I really should buy that book."  He said, "Get it, get it!"  So I walked back into the shop and said, "I thought about it.  I'll take it."  I wrote a check for a hundred and twenty bucks and we brought the book home to stay.

Sackville-West's travel and gardening books all survived the big book room sort/divestation of last month.  I love her travel narratives Twelve Days and Passenger to Teheran, and own a first U.S. edition of the former and a reprint of the latter.  Until now I had only seen her handwriting reproduced in other books, but here it is now, up close, in our very own home:

I am attempting not to gloat (it's not an attractive trait, is it? but still, justified sometimes...?).  Signed on the front free endpaper, inscribed to a student at the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts when Sackville-West was speaking there.  On the pastedown Ms. Allen tipped in her bookplate, the glue of which has registered a faint ghost, but nothing major.  Bought and read on Saturday, admired on Sunday, and re-read on Monday.  I have a very long convoluted story, involving several books, a few people, and a certain place, about why Vita Sackville-West means a lot to me, above and beyond her writing, but I will save that for another day.  Meanwhile, I'm simply enjoying this new addition to the book room.  It's very thin and small, too, so it hardly takes up any shelf space.

But I almost forgot to mention the text itself, the contents!  The book contains poems mostly from a he to a she, or a she to a she, that point isn't specified.  Love poems they certainly are, however, and darkly sweet.  A taste (p.24):

"Onyx is counted black, and marble white;
Peaches that ripening hang on a sunny wall
Are counted soft and downy to their fall.

So may they be, yet I will not compare
Her heart to onyx, throat to marble fair;
Nor say, 'Beside her skin, are peaches rough.'
She is herself, and that shall be enough."

So, a bit of advice, for when you are hesitating, book in hand, thinking, This is self-indulgent, I don't need this book, I own so many already, and the money, o the money, what to do, what to do...  Give in.  Spending money is for spending.  BUY THE BOOK.

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