November 1, 2016

A happy coincidence ...



All Hallows
November 1st
20 Geo. II
1746

I

The brig Henrietta having made Sandy Hook a little before the dinner hour -- and having passed the Narrows about three o'clock -- and then crawling to and fro, in a series of tacks infinitesimal enough to rival the calculus, across the grey sheet of the harbour of New-York -- until it seemed to Mr. Smith, dancing from foot to foot upon deck, that the small mound of the city waiting there would hover ahead in the November glooms in perpetuity, never growing closer, to the smirk of Greek Zeno -- and the day being advanced to dusk by the time Henrietta at last lay anchored off Tietjes Slip, with the veritable gables of the city's veritable houses divided from him only by one hundred foot of water -- and the dusk moreover being as cold and damp and dim as November can afford, as if all the world were a quarto of grey paper dampened by drizzle until in danger of crumbling imminently to pap; -- all this being true, the master of the brig pressed upon him the virtue of sleeping one further night aboard, and pursuing his shore business in the morning. (He meaning by the offer to signal his esteem, having found Mr. Smith a pleasant companion during the slow weeks of the crossing.) But Smith would not have it. Smith, bowing and smiling, desired nothing but to be rowed to the dock. Smith, indeed, when once he had his shoes flat on the cobbles, took off at such speed despite the gamboling of his land-legs that he far out-paced the sailor dispatched to carry his trunk -- and most double-back for it, and seizing it hoist it instantly on his own shoulder -- and gallop on, skidding over fish-guts and turnip leaves and cats' entrails, and the other effluvium of the port -- asking for directions here, asking again there -- so that he appeared most nearly as a type of smiling whirlwind when he shouldered open the door -- just as it was about to be bolted for the evening -- of the counting-house of the firm of Lovell & Company, on Golden Hill Street ...

from Golden Hill, by Francis Spufford

I do seem to have good luck when I let my library books' due dates choose what I'll read next, but then again I love the total randomness of starting this book today.  And from this opening (and from the blurb on the cover that says that this is 'the best 18th-century novel since the 18th century'),  I think I could be in for something good. :) 



{18th-century New York engraving found here.}


3 comments:

JoAnn said...

A perfect coincidence...and a good omen, I think. Enjoy!

Jane @ Beyond Eden Rock said...

I looked at this and at the library and wasn't sure about it - if you think well of it I might have to take another look.

Audrey said...

Hi, Jane,
I'm only 30 or so pages in, and not much has happened yet, but the writing is very descriptive and I'm drawn tothe setting... I'll let you know if it lives up to its early promise. :)