Sometimes a collection of books arrive and I feel a trifle spoiled.
Collections are not something I could ever hope to afford or even justify the expense of these days, though I am trying to gather in really good editions of favourite books.
But I feel sure I might have been seriously tempted by one or two of these from Virago even though I have the originals
But love these as I do there is something about my 'old' collections that still hold enormous appeal, something about the memories the books evoke, and thinking so much about that past 'me' after reading The Sense of An Ending, I can almost imagine walking along with the 'me' (in my Size 10 loon pants...yes really) that bought and read this collection of H.E.Bates back in the 1970s.
I remembered that I had said this about these very books, (which set me back £3.45 back in about 1973 and the loon pants were £1) in that essay She is too Fond of Books which I wrote for The Reader recently...
You could read in quiet moments on night duty too, if you sat in the line of greatest visibility through the ward, you could easily tuck a book inside the bib of your apron when Night Sister came round. Curiously the books that provided a welcome relief or distraction then, now seem to call back those times, full of what I thought I was escaping. As William Hazlitt said of favourite books:
‘They are the pegs and loop on which we can hang up, or from which we can take down, at pleasure, the wardrobe of moral imagination, the relics of our best affections, the tokens and records of our happiest hours... they give us the best riches... and transport us, not over half the globe but over half our lives, at a word’s notice.’
As I gaze at the cracked spines of the 30p Penguins, the Francoise Sagans, the Margaret Drabbles and the H.E.Bates, I am back there in a heartbeat, my older feet aching in sympathy with my younger ones...
I was sent scurrying to H.E. Bates corner by the arrival of another book, also by Herbert Ernest B and part of another growing and very precious collection, Through the Woods published by Little Toller Books, an imprint of The Dovecote Press.
French flaps for a start and you know how we all love a French flap, and a gorgeous cover illustration by Nicholas Hely Hutchinson which he can only have painted in 'our woods' just twenty minutes walk up through the fields behind the house.
This is a beautiful collection of writing about a woodland, accompanied by some exquisite woodcuts by Agnes Miller Parker (1895-1980). The pieces span April to April following the wood through the year, so perfect to read in the way that I read Roger Deakin's Notes From Walnut Tree Farm, seasonally and with relevance to what is happening outside the window.
The book has a really fine introduction by Laura Beatty (who I think I met at Port Eliot, more about her book Pollard eventually) and some interesting thoughts on nostalgia...
'We have a horror of nostalgia now. We think it better to concentrate on the concrete rather than the emotional or the purely aesthetic... But if we called nostalgia 'home sickness which is what it really is (nostos, a return home; algos. pain or grief) would we be less ashamed to confess it? Home is where we grew up and where we belong. Home is what produces us. It is ourselves in the end.'
I like that... so 'our woods' (they are not exactly 'ours' I should add) will be the place that I go to as I follow H.E.Bates and his woodland year...
and this will be the view when I turn around and look back the way I have walked...
It's all enough to make me go the whole nostalgia hog and revisit H.E.Bates again having only re-read The Triple Echo in recent years, so I am planning a re-read of these old Penguins if the glue will hold, but I'm wondering about your 'collections' too... do you have any precious accumulations of special books that seem to hold a bit of your DNA between the pages??