The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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March 12, 2013

A finer thing

It might be argued fancifully that Edith Wharton's best contribution to fiction in the spring of 1909 was the part she innocently played in Henry James's story 'The Velvet Glove.' After reading it Edith wrote James to say that it was 'really good,' and to this James answered that two American periodicals had turned it down, which was like 'declining you, since bien assurément the whole reeks with you -- and with Cook and our Paris (Cook's and yours and mine) so no wonder it's 'really good.'
from Edith Wharton:  a biography, by R.W.B. Lewis

Edith and Henry and Cook and Paris. When I read this paragraph last weekend {and the next one, including a mention of  'muffled envy and apprehension' from Henry toward Edith}, bien assurément I wanted to read it.  The story wasn't included in any of the books I have, but five minutes of intensive scholarly bibliographic research :)  told me that it was published in a collection of Henry's short stories called The Finer Grain, and that the college library's copy of the book was not checked out.

My intensive scholarly bibliographic research probably would have told me this, if I had paid attention, but when I found the book this afternoon it was clearly old, with worn edges on the spine, embossed gilt letters on the front cover, and an ornate bookplate inside  that announced that it was the gift of James Hazen Hyde and the class of 1898.  The due date slip on the inside back cover showed that the book hadn't been checked out since I was 19 {about the time I first met Edith and Henry} and of course, it turned out to be a 1910 edition.

It's a little thing, but it made me happy!


JoAnn said...

How wonderful to have a job that allows for "intensive scholarly bibliographic research" (clearly I chose the wrong field of study)... I'm dying to know what you thought of the story!

Audrey said...

No, I just pretend that it does. :)

Thank you for visiting!

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