'How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare that after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.' No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest of some amusement. — from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
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February 5, 2011

My first Persephone

In anticipation of Persephone Reading Weekend, coming up soon, and in ongoing envy of all the Persephone reading going on around me, and because I enjoy food writing, I ordered Agnes Jekyll's Kitchen Essays.  I noticed the lovely smooth paper and a hint of gray around the edges (like my hair, all too often), but where was the distinctive and elegant gray cover? Where were the beautiful endpapers, waiting to be revealed? Where was the bookmark? I was a little disappointed.

But I've now realized that what I bought was a Persephone Classic, a little bit of a Persephone Lite, looks-wise. But that's okay, because I'm smitten with the few bits I've read at random, and reading about it on the Persephone website {where I went to investigate} makes it even more enticing:
The author of Kitchen Essays (1922) was sister-in-law to the great Gertrude Jekyll, whose biographer wrote that if she 'was an artist-gardener, then Agnes was an artist-housekeeper.' Agnes was a famous hostess (the guests at her first dinner party included Browning, Ruskin and Burne-Jones) and her home, Munstead House, 'was the apogee of opulent comfort and order without grandeur, smelling of pot-pourri, furniture polish and wood smoke'...
During 1921-2 (the now) Lady Jekyll wrote unsigned essays for The Times with titles such as 'Tray Food' and 'Sunday Supper'. The Observer Food Magazine commended 'lovely Persephone Books' for reprinting Kitchen Essays, India Knight in The Shops called it 'beautifully written, sparkling, witty and knowing, an absolute delight to read', while the BBC Food Magazine praised 'this exquisitely reprinted period piece'. To listen to some extracts from Kitchen Essays, read by Helen Garlick for the website Talking of Food, please click here. {And so I did.}
And all this means is that my first gray-covered, gray-spined, bookmark-included Persephone is a pleasure still waiting to happen. Is it wrong to pick Persephones based on which endpapers you like best? If it isn't, I'll be reading one of these...




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7 comments:

Carolyn said...

Oh I'm so happy for you, a first Persephone! They are lovely and it feels like some little book blogger rite of initiation to start collecting them. The first one I bought only last year was Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, also in the Classic edition. The first grey one I ordered was Tea With Mr. Rochester, which I adore, such sweet short stories. I don't recognize any of those end papers, but they look lovely, which are they for?

Also the kitchen essays sound interesting, even though I am not at all a cook. Persephone reading weekend will be lovely.

Bellezza said...

I remember feeling the same sort of disappointment when I'd ordered a Persephone Classic; it was rather like receiving something from Disney with all that color on the front! ;) I ordered Kitchen Essays for my dear friend Lesley (www.lesleysbooknook.blogspot.com) as she loves cooking as well. I love cooking, but I think I'd rather read fiction. Anyway...it will be a fun weekend come the end of February! Perhaps you have time to order one with endpapers you especially adore?

Penny said...

You've solved a mystery for me! My row of Perspehones is 'sullied' by a couple of coloured spines! I couldn't understand this, as I thought the idea was that they were in a uniform grey cover. Mystery solved!

I'm catching up on a few of your posts, here... I have a Kindle (Christmas present from DH) and am reading The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes on it. Enjoying it all the more this time round because of the modern version we've recently enjoyed on television. I wonder if Girlebooks are available in the UK...

Vintage Reading said...

Nothing wrong with enjoying the aesthetic pleasure of beautifully presented books! I have a mixed relationship with Persephone. Loved three or four of their titles and was disappointed by a couple.

Joan Hunter Dunn said...

Thinking of choosing your Persephone reading by the endpapers made me smile. Happy Persephone Reading.

Frances said...

This just means that you still have something really special ahead of you! And this book sounds delightful to me especially as it is one I have not heard anything about before this. And of the three books I have picked out for Persephone Weekend, one of them is a Classic. So glad you are participating!

Victoria said...

They are just lovely aren't they? I don't own any myself, but I also stare lustily at them when I see them and scour their website too :)

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