A local used bookstore recently closed after 25 years. They had a fantastic going-out-of-business sale. While part of me feels “guilty” for taking advantage of their sad circumstances, the rest (and logical) part of me knows that they needed to sell as many books as possible. Through these books, a bit of their entrepreneurial and intellectual spirit will live on. With that idea in mind, I’m doing a limited-run series where I’ll spotlight each of the volumes I “adopted” from this sweet little shop. Shine on, you bookish gems!
Today’s selection? Boswell’s London Journal.
Boswell’s London Journal
TITLE: BOSWELL’S LONDON JOURNAL 1762-1763
AUTHOR: JAMES BOSWELL
YEAR PUBLISHED: 1950
MCGRAW-HILL PUBLISHING/YALE UNIVERSITY
PREFACE: CHRISTOPHER MORLEY
“NOW FIRST PUBLISHED FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT”
Title: By Permission of Heaven The True Story of the Great Fire of London
Author: Adrian Tinniswood
Year Published: 2003 (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group)
Year Purchased: 2005
Source: The Book Loft, Columbus, Ohio
About: London was devastated by a fire on 2 September, 1666. By Permission ofHeaven chronicles the confusion, terror and panic that befell the city’s inhabitants during the fire and its aftermath. He continues the story through the re-building that set the stage for the modern London that we know today. It’s riveting, nail-biting, human history at its best. I’ve written several times about the challenge of making history seem alive, present and tactile for readers. Fear not, because Tinniswood is a master. Challenge achieved.
Motivation: I’m an Anglophile and I particularly love the history of London. I’m weird that way.
Times Read: 1
Random Excerpt/Page 43: “At some point Hanna was badly burned. But she managed to scramble to safety along the eaves with her father. They were followed by the manservant. Only the maid was left in the house, too frightened of heights, or too confused by the noise and the smoke to escape. As the easterly gales whipped across the rooftops, she died there–the first victim of the Great Fire of London. No one even knows her name.”
About: This is a biography/history of a very specific time and place. What was it like to live in London at the start of the eighteenth century? If you had walked its streets and slept in one of its tall, cramped terraced houses, what could you expect from life? What did you eat and drink? What did you do with your scant leisure time? What did you wear and how did you worship? Waller addresses as many of these questions as possible, bringing us several paces closer to knowing what life was like as a Londoner three centuries ago.
Motivation: History. London. Rinse and repeat; you’ve all read this explanation before.
Times Read: 1
Random Excerpt/Page 57: “For babies of poorer parents left behind in the disease-ridden capital with its smoke-choked skies and contaminated water, life was just as perilous. Many died from neglect, the unsanitary conditions, and from being smothered in bed by their mothers-whether by accident or intent it was never easy to determine.”
About: A city is a living, breathing, changing thing; it makes sturdy sense to give the biographical treatment to one of the world’s leading capitals. At nearly 800 pages, this account of London from pre-history to the late twentieth century is exhaustively comprehensive. Ackroyd manages to keep the pace quick without sacrificing detail or context. This is as good as anything he’s ever written, which is large praise indeed.
Motivation: Anglophile in the house here. I’m also a life-long history nerd.
Times Read: 2
Random Excerpt/Page 51: “On either side of the southern entrance to that bridge, there now rear two griffins daubed in red and silver. They are the totems of the city, raised at all its entrances and thresholds, and are singularly appropriate. The griffin was the monster which protected gold mines and buried treasure; it has now flown out of classical mythology in order to guard the city of London. The presiding deity of this place has always been money.”
Happiness Scale: 9 1/2
The Great Fire of London destroyed 80% of the city in 1666. The Guildhall was damaged in this and other great fires. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
About: A photograph-rich travel book that blends traditional history with paranormal research.
Motivation: I’m a history-mad Anglophile with a penchant for off-the-beaten-path adventure.
Times Read: 1
Random Excerpt/Page 23: “A forerunner of London’s grand hotels, the Langham Hotel was built in 1864. Its Victorian splendor was host to such famous names as Mark Twain, Arnold Bennett, Napoleon III of France, and the composer Dvorak -who managed to offend the sensibilities of the management when, in an attempt to save money, he requested a double room for himself and his adult daughter.”