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Welcome to Prospero's Blog! My wife Mollie and I work together in our Rough Magic studio on the coast of Maine. I've always loved old books, memorabilia, curiosities and Americana (especially 19th century dramatic literature) and am happy to share my discoveries in my Etsy Shops. Please come by and browse ~ there's just no telling what you'll find!

April 7, 2011

These Simple Things

These Simple Things
Spring cleaning has its advantages.  The other day I found this little book that I never remember seeing, and yet there it was on a dusty shelf.  It seems that back in the early 1960s the editors of House and Garden thought that it would be nice to commission well-known writers to write essays on some of  "the older, simpler, humbler things about us."  I suspect that the essays appeared in issues of House and Garden, and in 1962 they were collected into this little book--about 5" X 6 1/2".

The writers you will recognize, the subject matter of their essays is even more familiar: The Teakettle, Stove, Knife,Coat Hanger, Spoon, Grass, Light Bulb, Glass, Water, Salt, Bread.

Elizabeth Bowen, that English lady, started off by explaining  the value of the Teakettle as distinct from the Teapot.  With a certain righteous indignation, born of her English upbringing, she points out the difference between boiling the necessary water and the later infusion of the tea.  With a little history and her own sophistication she writes a charming essay.

My other favorite among the eleven authors' work is Aldous Huxley's essay on Salt.  Beginning with  his own very young experiments following the instructions of others on catching birds by putting salt on their tails (complete failure for this small boy in either catching birds or understanding the joke of it all), Huxley progressed to the later acquired epigram that "kissing a man without a mustache was like eating an egg without salt'--never abandoning his theme.  His erudition takes him to the Bible , Plato and others on the necessity of salt in the human diet. More meaningful to adult life, perhaps, he furthers his thesis by explaining that the word "salary" finds its root in the word "salarium" which describes the allowance for the purchase of salt accorded to Roman soldiers.

Essays may have lost their appeal to a population nurtured on short stories and comics,  but they are wonderful sources of humor, instruction and leisurely charm.

1 comment:

Julie Magers Soulen said...

Fascinating collection. A piece of Americana for sure.

Julie Magers Soulen Photography

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