'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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March 12, 2014

Only connect {again}: Henry and Isabella




If it hadn't been {briefly} warm and sunny {at the same time!} on Tuesday, and if I hadn't promised myself that I would go outside at lunchtime come whatever, and if I hadn't decided to walk down to the Square, and if I hadn't ended up in the bookstore, and if I hadn't made one more sweep through the biographies, and if I hadn't looked as closely as I did at the Henry shelf, I would never, ever have known about this book, because there was only one copy and surely the very next person who saw it would have snatched it up and gotten their Amex out as quickly as I did. Right? :)

I had been lucky enough to get a ticket to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for the day when it reopened after renovations a few years ago, and in one of the small rooms there was an exhibit of books and letters and other little papers belonging to Mrs. G., including a letter or two from Henry.  I don't think I realized until then that they knew each other. Since then I've come across them together, but a whole book full of his letters to her makes me very happy. This is such a pretty little book, too, rosy pink cover, beautiful paper, about the size of an index card. 

I've only dipped into it a little, enough to read that they bonded over art, with Henry escorting Isabella to art exhibitions and introducing her to artists; he brought Isabella to John Singer Sargent's studio in 1886 to see his scandalous portrait of Madame X, two years before Sargent painted the portrait of Mrs. Gardner that's on the cover of the book.



3 comments:

JoAnn said...

What a lucky find... and such a beautiful edition, too. Glad all those conditions aligned so perfectly ;-)

Anonymous said...

Reading Washington square at the mo and loving it
Sharon

Vintage Reading said...

That book was calling your name:)
Never read Henry James (blush) but enjoyed your post.

Thank you for visiting!

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