THESE pieces of moral prose have been written, dear Reader, by a large Carnivorous Mammal, belonging to that sub-order of the Animal Kingdom which includes also the Orang-outang, the tusked Gorilla, the Baboon with his bright blue and scarlet bottom, and the long-eared Chimpanzee.
Trivia by Logan Pearsall Smith, 1917
WHAT funny clothes you wear, dear Readers! And your hats! The thought of your hats make me laugh! And I think your sex-theories quite horrid.
Thus across the void of time I send, with a wave of my hand, a greeting to that quaint, remote, outlandish, unborn people whom we call Posterity, and whom I, like other very great writers, claim as my readers––urging them to hurry up and get born––that they may have the pleasure of reading 'More Trivia.'
More Trivia by Logan Pearsall Smith, 1921
If the two pieces above sound familiar, you might be one of the 1365 viewers who have read my August 11, 2009 post, "Kings of Persia. It's on my Bibliophiles in My Library blog. Logan Pearsall Smith gave this short manuscript titled "Kings of Persia" to his friend Christopher Morley––when, I don't know. But Morley gave the piece to someone at Doubleday and Company––possibly to his friend Nelson Doubleday himself–– on July 25, 1947. The piece was first published in More Trivia back in 1921 under the title, "Things to Write." It reappeared in All Trivia in 1933. Smith revised the wording of the piece each time it was published, He was always trying to improve upon the things he wrote. That was his style.
Here is the manuscript of "Kings of Persia:"
Smith reworded "Things to Write" in More Trivia, published in 1921, and reworded it again in All Trivia, published in 1936.
Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946) might not be a household name to you. But you should recognize some of the names of his friends, acquaintances and relatives: Christopher Morley, Walt Whitman, Bertrand Russell, Bernard Berenson, Henry James, George Bernard Shaw, Gertrude Stein, Cyril Connolly, Hugh Trevor Roper, Robert Gathorne-Hardy, Max Beerbohm, Robert Bridges, Henry W. Fowler, Edmund Gosse, George Santayana, R. W. Chapman, and Virginia Woolf, just to name a few. He grew up in the Quaker suburb of Germantown, Pennsylvania. His father was a Quaker minister. He declined to work in the lucrative family glass business, choosing instead to become a writer. His father gave him $25,000 in 1888 and Logan purchased an annuity to live on until he could begin earning money as a writer. He became a British citizen in 1913 and spent most of his adult life as a man of letters in England.
I have many books by and about Logan Pearsall Smith:
And I'm not the only one who collected Logan Pearsall Smith's books. These books belonged to Mary Hyde!
I can thank the late Gabriel Austin for Mary Hyde's books. He was living at Four Oaks Farm when she passed away in 2003.When I was corresponding with Gabe, we would recommend authors to each other. I recommended Logan Pearsall Smith. Gabe, however, never commented on my suggestion. But when he sent me some of Mary Hyde's books, I found out why.
The Youth of Parnassus and Other Stories, published in 1895, was Logan Pearsall Smith's first book. Here is Mary Hyde's copy, first edition, first issue, with her initials on the front pastedown:
And here is my copy, dated 1895 as well, but definitely not the first issue:
Here are both books side by side. The Hyde copy is thicker because it was printed on heavier higher quality paper. The only thing that can be said about my copy is that it was well-read before I acquired it.
The Youth of Parnassus and Other Stories were stories about an American student attending college at Oxford. Smith might have been writing from experience since he attended college at Oxford. The book received good reviews when it was first published, but it was the worst thing that Logan Pearsall Smith ever wrote. It would have been impossible for Mary Hyde to read her copy. All the signatures were unopened at the top and some were unopened at the side.
Logan Pearsall Smith's next book was Trivia, 300 copies of which were printed at the Chiswick Press in 1902. In its June 2, 1902 issue, the St. James's Gazette, reported that Smith's book of fragmentary essays and sketches would bring sympathetic interest "to personal friends, though hardly to the public at large."
I have No. 82 of 100 copies of the signed deluxe edition published by Doubleday, Page & Company in 1917.
There are two blindstamps in the book which read,
BOUGHT FROM LINDMARK'S BOOK SHOP POUGHKEEPSIE NEW YORK.
There is a hell of a story about the demise of Lindmark's Book Shop, and I'll provide a link to it at the end of this post.
Logan Pearsall Smith was now popular on both sides of the Atlantic. And numerous editions of Trivia were published. Besides the 1917 edition, I also have a 1928 edition of Trivia that was published by Doubleday, Doran & Co. in 1928:
There were several sequels to Trivia. More Trivia was published in New York by Harcourt Brace and Company in 1921 and by Constable and Company in London in 1922. Afterthoughts was published by both Harcourt, Brace and Company, and Constable and Company in 1931. Constable published All Trivia in 1933, and Harcourt first published it in 1934. All Trivia contains Trivia, More Trivia, Afterthoughts, and a new section, Last Words, all of which are very good reading! Here's my copy of the Constable edition:
My copy has a news clipping dated 3-3-46 from the London Observer that is glued to the front pastedown.
I like the news reporter's expression on the fourth line above: Smith linked "words with wit." It shows in his Trivia books, and in his books about aphorisms, idioms, and about the English Language. Smith's book, The English Language was first published in London and New York in 1912. I have two undated later editions, one published by Henry Holt in New York:
And one published by the Oxford University Press in London:
The Oxford University Press edition is interesting because it was supplied to Lancaster University during or shortly after WWII in the Emergency Training College Program to train teachers.
Logan Pearsall Smith was a member of the Society for Pure English, a group of writers and scholars who sought to improve upon the purity of the English Language and prevent its mutilation. The society published 66 tracts and Smith was the author of at least five tracts. I have two of them:
In Tract No. III, Smith made suggestions regarding linguistic usage of the following topics: I. The Naturalization of Foreign Words. II. Alien Plurals. III. æ and œ. IV. Dying Words. V. Dialectal and Popular Words. Smith wrote a brilliant essay for Tract No. XLVI on what fine writing really is, how one can achieve it, and who the fine writers are.
I have to rebind the next book because its cover does not do its contents justice. The cloth on the spine has been long gone but the words and idioms inside the book will last a lifetime. Constable and co. first published Words and Idioms in 1925, and then republished it as part of its Miscellany series in 1928, which is the edition I have. A former owner lent the book to a friend in 1959 and the friend returned the book with thanks written on a postcard.
Mary Hyde's copy of A Treausry of English Aphorisms is one the left and my copy is on the right. Both copies were published by Constable and Company in 1928. But the Hyde copy has an enviable provenance history, a testament to the popularity of Smith's book on english aphorisms.
It was formerly owned by Gilbert MacSwiney whose ancestral home was Doe Castle in Donegal and whose armorial bookplate is pasted on the front pastedown. It was also formerly owned by the literary biographer Lord David Cecil (1902-1986) who signed his book on the front free endpaper in 1961.
Mary Hyde didn't sign her name or paste her bookplate in the book, but both she and Lord David cecil wrote notes in the book, with his notes on the rear free endpaper and her notes on the rear pastedown. The notes on the paper might be Mary Hyde's as well.
It is anybody's guess whether it was Gilbert MacSwiney, Lord David Cecil, Mary Hyde, or all of the above, who marked their favorite aphorisms in the book.
My copy of A Treasury of English Aphorisms contains no marks of ownership. It does, however, possess the severely faded ticket of The Times Book Club 42 Wigmore Street, W.1. Below the book's ticket is a much better-looking ticket found on Google Images.
In her book, The Feminine Middlebrow Novel, Nicola Humble describes the Times Book Club as more of a lending library than a book club. Originally open only to Times subscribers (Virginia Woolf was one of the subscribers), it was eventually opened to everyone.
Constable and Company published Smith's book, A Treasury of English Prose, in 1928 as well, and in a binding strikingly similar to that of A Treasury of English Aphorisms.
But in Aphorisms, Smith wrote a fifty-page introduction that left no question unanswered about aphorisms or the people whose pens they came from. Smith wrote no introduction for his Treasury of English Prose and therefore, nary a word about the authors or their pieces of prose. Disappointing.
The Clarendon Press at Oxford published two of Smith's books about English clerics in similar bindings: Donne's Sermons: Selected Passages with an Essay by Logan Pearsall Smith [Yay!] (insertion mine) in 1919 and The Golden Grove: Selected Passages from the Sermons and Writings of Jeremy Taylor in 1930. The latter book not only contains a fifty-eight page introduction to the book, it contains a bibliography of Jeremy Taylor's works by Robert Gathrone-Hardy.
Smith's friend, Virginia Woolf, published Stories from the Old Testament Retold by Logan Pearsall Smith at the Hogarth Press in May 1920. And Henry W. Luce published the same book in Boston in March 1921. I have the Luce edition, an ex-lib copy discarded by the Minnehaha School Library.
The cover of the next book, like the cover of Words and Idioms, requires replacing. On Reading Shakespeare was published by the Chatauqua Press in Chatauqua, New York in 1933.
Surprisingly, Logan Pearsall Smith was not a lover of Shakespeare. And he devotes an entire book to not liking and liking Shakespeare. His first chapter is titled "On Not Reading Shakespeare." Smith feels that reading Shakespeare takes up too much of his time. And he ends the chapter with this diatribe:
Yes, on the whole I feel that I am against Shakespeare––the vast subject is too vexatious, too intricate and baffling. Though I may not join with Tolstoy and Bernard Shaw, and shout 'down with Shakespeare!' in the streets, I shall nevertheless keep well aloof from the grounds of that great lunatic asylum, that dark domain of ghosts and pedants, of blatherskites, monomaniacs, fanatics and fools.The next paragraph is from the first chapter ,"On Not Reading Shakespeare," as well. And if a title of this paragraph were required, I would title it, "The Dangers of Reading Great Writers."
The works of great writers doze with their backs to us on our shelves for years, but they are dangerous company. Potent spirits lie imprisoned in those leather bottles. The names inscribed upon them are names which have defeated time, and may exert a formidable spell on us. Opening a volume of this kind in an idle moment, we may be seized upon, be-jinned and captured. We want only to look up a quotation perhaps in some old author, but we must go on, page after page, and then go on to read all the books we can find about him. The reader becomes a student, the student a bigot, and what is justly called a blind admirer, for his eyes are blinded by gazing on the object of his worship. Blemishes and merits are all blurred together, and faults seem to him perfections. Such a specialist is the last person in the world to give a measured and rational judgment on his special subject.
I must include one more paragraph from Smith's book on Shakespeare, and from another chapter this time (The Great Reward). Although it describes Shakespeare's method of writing poetry, it reveals Smith's own philosophy on how to attain excellence in writing:
There are two main methods of attaining excellence in writing, two ways of attempting to reach the peaks of Parnassus. The poet may attempt to fly thither on the wings of meaning, hoping that his high thoughts will float him aloft; or he may, step by step, cut his way thither with toil and labour. He may––to change the metaphor––begin by pressing out from life and experience the juice of meaning, and then find a receptacle to hold it; or the goldsmith's art may be his first preoccupation: he may carve and chisel and adorn his work with jewels, till at last the wine of imaginative meaning begins to fill the empty, elaborated cup. Shakespeare's early work shows that the latter mathod was his method. At the age of thirty, he was still a euphist, a lover of words for the sake of words, delighting in their sounds and rhymes and overtones in 'taffeta phrases, silken terms precise,' and, like Armado in his early play,In regards to Logan Pearsall Smith, I have proudly gone through all the stages of those who have read the works of great writers. I want to read almost everything by or about him. Case in point: Logan Pearsall Smith attended Haverford College, as did his friend Christopher Morley 25 years later. And yes, I have a copy of the Biographical Catalog of the Matriculates of Haverford College:
One whom the music of his own vain tongue
Doth ravish like enchanting harmony.
Smith's book, Reperusals and Recollections, published by Constable and Company in 1936, contains essays published in the Times Literary Supplement or the New Statesmen as well as articles originally written as introductions for his other books. But they were significantly expanded for this book. For instance, the introduction for his book on English Aphorisms was fifty pages long; his essay on English Aphorisms is eight pages long.
Reperusals and Recollections is another one of Mary Hyde's books that I acquired from Gabriel Austin. Again, there are no marks of provenance, and no notes this time. The book might even have first belonged to her husband Lord David Eccles. Mary Hyde saved the remnants of the dust jacket. And there were three newspaper clippings of reviews of the book. I know that Mary Hyde collected news clippings. But I think her husband Lord David Eccles inserted the clippings in this book.
The Times Literary Supplement Sep 12, 1936 Review by G. E. Moore
The Saturday Review Oct 10, 1936 Review by Christopher Morley
The Saturday Reviews Feb 6, 1937 Review by William Rose Benét
Logan Pearsall Smith's Trivia books was his most popular series, but his autobiography, Unforgotten Years, was his most popular book. I have Mary Hyde's copy of the 1938 Constable and Company London edition.
There is marginalia written in this copy and I always thought it was written by the hand of Mary Hyde; but looking at it again, it was definitely not written by her hand. It is very likely that this was her husband Lord David Eccles's copy, and the marginalia was written by his hand.
There is a newspaper clipping in the book about Smith's brother-in-law Bernard Berenson. And it is inserted next to a page that mentions Berenson. And since Lord Eccles may have written the marginalia in this book, I believe he may have inserted the clipping.
I have two copies of Unforgotten Years that were published in America. Unforgotten Years was published by Little, Brown and Company in January 1939. It was reprinted at least twice in 1939 (my copy is the second reprinting). The Book of the Month Club selected two books for January 1939, and Unforgotten Years was one of them.
The only difference between the two American editions is that the Little, Brown and Company edition has the price on the dust jacket and the publishing history on the copyright page. There is no tell-tale blind stamp on the lower right-hand corner of the rear board.
I mentioned that Unforgotten Years was a Book of the Month Club selection for January 1939. Logan Pearsall Smith's friend, Christopher Morley, wrote the review which appeared in the December 1938 issue.
Morley's review was reprinted and inserted into the copies of Unforgotten Years.
And that's the end of the books I have by or about Logan Pearsall Smith that were published during his lifetime. But that's not all of the books I have about him.
Robert Gathorne-Hardy had a close and intimate eighteen-year friendship with Smith, and shared his recollections of Smith in his book, Recollections of Logan Pearsall Smith. I have an ex-lib edition of the Macmillan Company edition published in New York in 1950.
In November 1950, the Dropmore Press published 450 copies of A Portrait of Logan Pearsall Smith Drawn From his Letters and Diaries1: Selected and Introduced by John Russell. One can argue that this book consists of a thirty-one page introduction (the portrait part) and one hundred and thirty-six pages of extracts from letters and diaries. But I believe a person's letters provides a better portrait of a person than an autobiography does.
In 1984 John Russell wrote the Forward to A Chime of Words: The Letters of Logan Pearsall Smith edited by Edwin Tribble and published by Ticknor & Fields in New York. I have Mary Hyde's copy which was bought in England for £16.50
The epigram included in the front matter of the book explains the reason for the title of the book:
Two weeks before Logan's death a friend asked him half-jokingly if he had discovered any meaning in life. "Yes," he replied, "there is a meaning, at least for me, there is one thing that matters––to set a chime of words tinkling in the minds of a few fastidious people."
in the New Statesman and Nation
March 9, 1946
The next four books are about Logan Pearsall Smith's family, including biographies of his two brothers-in-law Bernard Berenson and Bertrand Russell.
I have yet to add a book to my library that was formerly owned by Logan Pearsall Smith, but I just might someday. I have had my chances but the timing of the purchase just wasn't right. Here are two E. M. Lawson & Co. bookseller catalogues of books from the library of Hugh Trevor-Roper which contained several books that Logan Pearsall Smith presented to him.
Speaking of booksellers, here is the hyperlink to The Demise of Lindmark's Book Shop, Poughkeepsie, New York.
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