Despite having a stack of varied and engrossing books on the go I suddenly felt the need to break into more of that tempting display of Hesperus books I waved in front of you last week.I decided on comfort zone, familiar territory and readable in one sitting because those sort of reads offer a unique experience, it was to be The Touchstone by Edith Wharton.
The house was quiet, which is rare at the moment, but the kitchen was a bit of a mess, which is not rare. I'd been left strict instructions not to waste precious home-alone time clearing up but to indulge in other more pleasurable tasks.
Who am I to disagree? So I closed my eyes as I walked through, made a pot of tea and settled down with Edith.
I hadn't read The Touchstone before but I knew, just knew, that I was in the familiar waters of an Edith Wharton read.
Down on his beam ends Glennard has failed to cadge a free night out from amongst his wealthy friends
"As he turned into Fifth Avenue he caught the wet gleam of carriages on their way to the opera, and he took the first side street, in a moment of irritation against the petty restrictions that thwarted every impulse. It was ridiculous to give up the opera, not because one might possibly be bored there, but because one must pay for the experiment"
Who else writes about New York society like our Edith?
In a previous life in the UK, Stephen Glennard has been the object of infatuation of a celebrated lady novelist. Eventually fleeing the continent to escape the unwanted attentions of Margaret Aubyn of whom Glennard felt "genius is of small use to a woman who does not know how to do her hair" the letters of adoration appear thick and fast and all unrequited.
Following her death Margaret Aubyn has become a national treasure and the public is hungry for anything and everything about her. With this sudden interest in her life comes a call for any available letters and of course Glennard has drawers stacked with them.
Selling anonymously he may as well have sold his soul as the full extent of his turpitude and perfidy (I've lifted these two wickedly expressive words from Salley Vickers foreword and plan to use such gems on a daily basis) becomes apparent to all and sundry who read the book of letters when it is published.
This is vintage Edith with a fascinating debate about some of the moral issues surrounding the publication of personal correspondence and having read Salley Vickers foreword and then substituting George Eliot for Margaret Aubyn I saw the book in a whole new light.
Lest I stood accused of perfidy and turpitude myself I did wander off and sort out the kitchen but hardly noticed I was doing it as I pondered this remarkable little book.