Posted by: penpatience | April 2, 2014

DISCOVERING OLD GOLD

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Writers Words: “It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.  How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?  For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone.  That is where the writer scores over his fellows:  he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.”                 ~ Vita Sackville-West

 

APRIL 2014 MONTHLY MUSING

 

DISCOVERING OLD GOLD

 

Lucky Me! When my partner and I moved into our winter home in Southeast Florida, we inherited a treasure trove of old, hard cover books. After an initial scrutiny, many were returned to the shelves with discards donated to local libraries and charities. Over time, I became immune to their presence, dusting them as I would the office furniture. However, one day after sprucing up the office, I discovered Gold.

Earlier this month, I watched a special TV series on the Alaskan Gold Rush. While searching for a topic for this month’s musing, I found myself rummaging through bookshelves hoping for a topic that would interest my readers. After noticing an interesting title on the spine of a book, inspiration struck. What I found was gold– not Alaskan Gold, but gold from the California Gold Rush. I pulled from the shelf “Bret Harte’s Tales of the Gold Rush illustrated by Fletcher Martin.” After removing the book from its tan hardboard cover, I ran my hands over the embossed brown and beige covers and opened the book’s initial pages. On the third page was a beautifully written (not printed) copyright “The special contents of this edition are copyright, 1944 by George Macy Companies, Inc.” A six page Introduction written by Oscar Lewis followed.

An exerpt: “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” the four thousand word short story that made its author famous, was published in 1868, and for the next thirty-four years Bret Harte’s name was a household word throughout the English speaking world.”

Before reading further, I stopped and read Bret Harte’s story on the California Gold Rush. I enjoyed his writing so much I dropped everything and read the rest of the book. I enthusiastically agreed with Oscar Lewis’s comments on the last page of his introduction:

“For Harte had one important advantage over all but a few of his contemporaries: he knew how to write. Let the reader open this collection of his stories and begin reading at random. If he is at all discerning he will discover that after only a few paragraphs that here is a man who has mastered the technique of his trade, who knows what effect he wants and how to go about getting it….he knows how to construct a story and how to extract from it whatever dramatic and emotional values his material offers…..Writers on the evolution of the short story credit him with having[pioneered a new type of fiction, the story of local color, and he remains today a master of this field. The California Gold Rush is everywhere looked on as a singularly adventurous and romantic period, one of the most stirring episodes of human history. That it is so regarded is due, more than to any other factor, to the stories of Bret Harte, who lived in the gold towns for a few months during his youth, and who wrote about them all the rest of his life.”

I slipped the book back into its sturdy, hardboard cover, returned it to the shelf and continued to “pan for more gold.” I found it. The gold was encased in different colored, hardboard covers, the books inside beautifully embossed and bound with artful illustrations and photographs within the chapters. A few more found nuggets:

  • Two Years Before the Mast- R.H. Dana-Copyright, 1947
  • The Mill and The Floss-George Eliot-Copyright, 1963
  • Poor Richard’s Almanacks: Benjamin Franklin: Poor Richard The Almanacks for the Years 1733-1758, Copyright 1964
  • Emma- Jane Austen, Copyright, 1964
  • The Histories, The Comedies, The Tragedies-William Shakespeare, Copyright 1958

     

    There will always be something special about these old tomes. They have musty, aged smells that enhance the richness of their contents; words are carefully and artfully formatted on each page and written by talented authors of their eras.

     

    Have you searched for gold lately? Perhaps you may discover your own Gold Mine?

     

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Responses

  1. Thank you, Gaye. Enjoyed your “Finding Gold” posting so much. I love the thought of finding the treasure inside the old, dusty-smelling tomes. I found gold of a different type this morning: I took a “virtual” tour of the Cowan Pottery Museum in Ohio. There I found an elegant stag, done in white, and looking back. It has become the subject of an ekphrastic poem I’m writing. (Our local library inspired me. This is Day Two of their poetry month celebration at the end of which I’ll hear Pinsky read some of his poems.) Do you enjoy poetry? If so, perhaps we can exchange a poem and comment on it.

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  2. Hi Carole, it seems we find “gold” in many different places. Thank you for your comment. I look forward to reading one of your poems. I’m actually bringing one my found “nuggets” back to NY with me to read. Best wishes, Frances

    Like


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