|The Hughes' London home|
Currently, I'm in the middle of two massive classic books for online readalongs -- Villette and The Three Musketeers. Last weekend I really needed a break, something shorter that I could finish quickly. I settled on A London Child in the 1870s by Molly Hughes, which is a nonfiction memoir about her childhood in Victorian London. It was both delightful and charming -- I loved it. Molly grew up with four older brothers and it sounds like she had a lovely and idyllic childhood.
I have really been on a roll with the Persephones lately -- since Persephone Reading Weekend, I've been so inspired by all the great book reviews. After finishing A Woman's Place, I had to make a special trip to the Coates Library at Trinity University here in town (one of the nicest college libraries I've ever seen, by the way) and after making my return, I naturally had to browse through the Persephones in the collection. And I couldn't help checking out two more! I worry sometimes that books are neglected and unloved on the shelves, and that if nobody checks them out the library will just decide to chuck them. I'm sure academic libraries aren't as ruthless as public libraries need to be, but it is still my duty to keep them circulating.
But, back to A London Child. I think my favorite parts of the book were her descriptions of the summer vacations at her grandfather's farm in Cornwall. There's a chapter devoted to the railway journey -- it sounds like her mother had to manage alone with the five children! The farm sounds like a lovely place to spend a summer. Here's one of my favorite passages in the book -- as a dog lover, I found this particularly amusing.
Only one dog do I remember. I think he was so dear to everyone that when he died the family could never bear to have another. Theo was a great shaggy Newfoundland, who joined in all our childish games as well as he ever could, being treated as a member of the family. The old cook was heard to say one day, as she stooped to pick up his dish, 'Have you finished, please, Master Theo?' Barnholt [Molly's nearest brother in age] once offered him a bite of his bun, but Theo did not understand the limits implied in the word 'bite', and the whole bun disappeared.
It was quite a short book, only 173 pages, plus my edition included photos of Molly's family which I just loved. What made reading this particular copy even more special was that it was a first edition from 1934! I felt honored just being allowed to check it out -- I feel like I should wear gloves while I read it.
This book was the first of three volumes written by Molly Hughes, and I'll have to track down the other two so I can find out what happened to her and her family. It was just a great read.
|The endpapers from the Persephone edition, a reproduction of William Morris wallpaper from the 1860s|