Wednesday, 7 October 2009


When I used to post to the other blog, I told a story of a wonderful shop that had opened on the route back home from the field, so convenient is it, that it's practically a sin not to visit regularly. It's a shop selling mostly junk, furniture and the occasional treasure from house clearances. I've found a few really nice pieces, including some gorgeous china cups and a dear little flowered egg cup, not to mention the sponge mincer with attachments for £1.00!

At first glance, this was just a pretty little book on gardening, called 'Pot Pourri from a Surrey garden' by Mrs C.W.Earle. I've tried to find a publishing date, but the only dates mentioned were references in the appendix of 1894 and 1897. A very old book in any case with pages as delicate as a butterfly's wing.

It was only after carefully separating the first page from the cover that I discovered little verses and notes from the book's owner. If you click on the pictures you may be able to make out some of the words.

The newspaper clipping is a letter to a paper arguing quite strongly against 'The Spinster's Empty Years'! Below it was this quote that touched me so deeply,

'In life, how hard it is that every unhappiness seems to be invited towards the close of our journey - pain, fatigue and want of spirit.'

Throughout the book, pages are marked, corners turned over and the occasional remark in pencil in the margin. The more I read this book and focus on the paragraphs highlighted, the more this lady's life seems to reveal itself to me. Deep within the book is a 'favour' from a Christmas cracker, so unlike the vacuous drivel we accept these days, this one speaks of a meaning far deeper and all the more important for being hidden within treasured pages.
It reads:

'Come back to me, Oh love, with a spirit pure,
And keep once more thy watches by my side,
Lest, like the barque upon the stormy sea,
My heart is wrecked by passion's throbbing tide.'

One would assume that he didn't return, for whatever reason, and that is how the dear lady came to spend her life as a Spinster.

On the back pages, more notes, a little picture and a recipe for hair tonic. The writing is less tidy and harder to read, maybe as age made her hand less sure.

I do so love finding little treasures like this, and will keep this book safely with me until I decide to pass it on. My daughter has already earmarked it for her own, recognising in it the same magic that I can see. Also, on a practical note, it has some wonderful recipes for pot pourri, tips on growing plants month by month and of course, what every family needs a chapter covering 'A Woman's Vocation, Delicate Girls, Children's Tempers and What Young Girls Should Read.' What more could I ask for :)


PG said...

The very best kind of treasure, how wonderful! And how she would have been thrilled and amazed to know that not only is her book still in existence and being loved by someone else, but that it is being shared all around the world - on the internet!

I looked it up on a bookselling site, and it seems to be a classic - still in print today.

If you trawl through the many pages, (ignoring the modern editions) you can estimate that the market value of yours, considering its condition, is about 10-15 pounds - though the very things that bring its retail value down are the things which make it so precious to you.

Yarrow said...

Wow, I'll have a look at that Gretel, how interesting. I wouldn't part with the book, though, it's so lovely :)

Elizabeth Rhiannon said...

Ooohhhh, I LOVE that! First of all, finding treasure, then the mystery of a voice and a life from the past...wonderful!

Danielle Barlow said...

Oh how magical to find the book. It's like finding a private window into someone else's life.

Tammie Lee said...

hello, it has been too long since i have visited. it looks as though you have found a treasure, the cover itself looks like magic to me. it feels as though it speaks to you! i once had an old book full of notes, it sat on my shelf for a decade. I was guided to give it to some people. later they called and announced with great excitement that this book had once belonged to their grandfather and all the markings were his notes. This touched, quite deeply their entire family as though the grandfather had personal messages for each and everyone of them within the pages of the book. thanks for reminding me!

Leanne said...

kim, green with envy here!! how i wish i'd found this small book! however, seeing as i didnt, i am glad you did, as i know you will treasure it like i would have done!!!
what a poigant and fascinating glimpse into another soul.

Leanne x

Yarrow said...

Thank you for the replies, I'm glad there are other such sentimental souls as myself and who can see the worth of a thing far beyond monetry value :)


Bovey Belle said...

What a gem to find in that little shop. How lovely to have that connection in spirit with the lady who wrote those little vignettes and opened her soul to you. I think it was just there waiting for you to find it . . .

Kim said...

What a find, a glimpse, a snapshot of someone else's life - inner life at that. It is the kind of treasure that value cannot be estimated, it is in the eye of the beholder.
Kim xx