Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bea’s Books (5)

On her bookshelves, Bea has art books, poetry books, Sigmund Freud, Henry James, and classics, like Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. I can tell where she bought Don Quixote by Cervantes because it is stamped “Sold at retail by Macy’s.”

I open what must surely be one of Bea’s oldest books: Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. She has pasted a frontispiece on the back of the cover. It shows a dog and two deer dancing under the stars while Pan plays a flute. I read, “This book belongs to Beatrice W. Chinnock.” Her name has been written in blue ink, using a script similar to the printed words. How exquisite the lettering! She must have labored intensely to get it just right.

“Le Chemineau” has lost its cover. Bea read the play for French at Vassar in 1930. I know because she has left us this message and added, “Liked it!”

Another well-read book is The Education of Henry Adams. Inside, Bea signed her name and October, 1932. She has taken copious notes, scribbled here and there. (Rereading the book in 1962, Bea writes, “Note: Time distance between church action on Bruno & Galileo was 30 years, the same as the span of time between my purchase and beginning of comprehension of this book.”)

At about the same time, Kitty and Nancy gave their friend The Diary of Samuel Pepys’ Esquire. They have written, “I hope you read all of this sometime.” Curious! Here Bea has spelled her name “Bee.”

It is spelled the same way on the first page of The Poetical Works of John Keats, published in 1926. The decades of dust on its pages make me sneeze. She must have felt very proprietary to sign all her books this way.

Bea loved poetry. I find a dedication she wrote to my father in a book of Chinese love poems: “To Paul. Happy Birthday, February 14, 1943. ‘Why should I climb the look-out?’” I examine the book, searching for a reference to a lookout and find none. It will remain their secret …


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