Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Voice Out of the Past-

One of the best things about old books bought at Antique shops or estate sales or used bookstores are the old notes found tucked inside. I find old letters in cookbooks recommending a particular recipe to a friend or thanking them for their hospitality.

I was looking for a quote in Francis Parkman's "History of France in the New World", and this fell out of "The Conspiracy of Pontiac". I bought the Parkman set at the Bellevue Antique Mall about ten years ago. I paid $100 for it. It would still be worth that, or more, if a beagle had not chewed up the cover of "A Century of Conflict".

This set was published in 1904, and the "drayman" Marguerite asked Mrs. Clark to pay might have been someone local delivering to the house. The UPS man of his day. Anyone reading this might remember the wonderful scene in "The Music Man" where the Iowa townspeople await the Wells Fargo Wagon singing "It could be something very special for me".

No matter what the drayman brought, Marguerite did not have the change to pay him. Fifty cents must have gone farther and put a bigger dent in the pocketbook than it does today. And not a clue here as to what Mrs Clark could expect to come on that wagon. Whatever it was Marguerite would explain it later-

Marguerite, home at seven, lived at that address. So apparently, did Mrs Clark. Was Mrs Clark the housekeeper? Was she the proprietor of a boarding house for young ladies? Those existed into the 1960's. I know this because I once lived in one in Hanover, New Hampshire for a brief time before I went to nursing school.

And who tucked this note into "The Conspiracy of Pontiac"? Who was reading a history studded with names and places such as Fort Pitt and Oswego and the settlement of old Detroit? Not light reading then. Not light reading now-

Maybe there are more old notes. Whomever read this Parkman took a gentle pencil to it to note passages he or she found important. Here is one:

"The subject to which the proposed series will be devoted is that of "France in the New World'-the attempt of Feudalism ,Monarchy, and Rome to master a continent where, at this hour, half a million of bayonets are vindicating the ascendancy of a regulated freedom".

Francis Parkman wrote this in 1865. He dedicated the book to Theodore Parkman, Robert Gould Shaw, and Henry Ware Hall- each "slain in battle."

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