Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hold that thought

On the morning of my late maternal grandfather's funeral, when I and others came back from the cemetery and were allowed into his room to select a single keepsake apiece, I quietly plucked his reprint of Thwaites and Kellogg's 1905 Dunmore's War from his book shelf to take home; 15 years earlier, he had gently intimated that he would donate it to the public library instead, by way of expressing disapproval of my youthful personal life. Tonight, at my son's request, I ordered something for him for Christmas that I trust an apt descendant will take from his bookshelf on the morning of his passing, about 65 years from now, though with the donor's previous blessing: the Odes of Pindar. Fourteen years ago, at age five, Mark came home from kindergarten, face aglow, reciting "A-a-apple...buh-buh-ball," fascinated by phonics and the power it gave him to unlock texts for himself; within months, he looked over my shoulder, spotted the Norton Critical Anthology of Swift's writings on the bookshelf behind me, and triumphantly sounded out, "The Witches [Writings] of Joe-Nathan Swift!"

I like to discover personal inscriptions in old copies of books. My copy of Richard Halliburton's Royal Road to Romance, which I picked up in a street fair a few years ago for a dollar, is inscribed "Ada Norfleet Fuller, 1930"; Mrs. Fuller was a Memphis socialite of the early 20th century. More surprising was the inscription in a copy of the 1834 novel Alice Paulet, which I have been reading online: about a quarter of the way through the book, some 19th-century reader warns us, in antique penmanship:

Kind reader if you have endured this book to this point, do not proceed further for it grows no better.

Actually, that reader picked an odd place to break off; his or her warning comes immediately after a country clergyman is murdered and before a duel and a suicide; in any case, I'm about halfway through it, so I think I'll continue.

© Michael Huggins, 2008. All rights reserved.

2 comments:

William Thompson Fuller, III said...

Found your site by doing some family research. I am the great grandson of Ada Norfleet Fuller. I have recently been going through a ton of her stuff after assisting my grandparents in their move to Florida. If you want any more of her books (tongue in cheek), let me know, and I'll see what I can do.

Michael Huggins said...

Thanks! I was very sorry when her wonderful old house on Central Ave. was demolished some years ago.