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text 2018-08-15 14:55
Reading progress update: I've read 30 out of 190 pages.
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

"What a blessing it is to love books.  Everybody must love something, and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing returns as books and a garden."

No contest on the books -- and love of flowers ...

 

And Elizabeth has an honest-to-God favorites shelf!  Go figure!

"In the centre of my library there is a wooden pillar propping up the ceiling, and preventing it, so I am told, from tumbling about our ears; and round this pillar, from floor to ceiling, I have had shleves fixed, and on these shelves are all the books that I have read again and again, and hope to read many times more -- all the books, that is, that I love quite the best.  In the bookcases round the walls are many that I love,  but here in the centre of the room and easiest to get at, are those I love the best -- the very elect among my favourites."

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text 2018-08-15 14:46
Reading progress update: I've read 22 out of 190 pages.
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

Aaand there we are -- there had to be a veritable Thoreau eulogy sooner rather than later.  I love the sense of spiritual companionship coming through here, though -- and I love how she is attributing different times of day and environments to different authors.  Ah, the luxury of being able to do that in the first place!

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text 2018-08-15 14:24
Reading progress update: I've read 14 out of 190 pages.
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

"I sometimes literally ache with envy as I watch the men going about their pleasant work in the sunshine, turning up the luscious damp earth, raking, weeding, watering, planting, cutting the grass, pruning the trees -- not a thing that they do from the first uncovering of the roses in the spring to the November bonfires but fills my soul with longing to be up and doing it too.  A great many things will have to happen, however, before such a state of popular large-mindedness as will allow of my digging without creating a sensation is reached, so I have plenty of time for further grumblings; only I do very much wish that the tongues inhabiting this apparently lonely and deserted countryside would restrict their comments to the sins, if any, committed by the indigenous females (since sins are fair game for comment) and leave their harmless eccentricities alone.  After having driven through vast tracts of forest and heath for hours, and never meeting a soul or seeing a house, it is surprising to be told that on such a day you took such a drive and were at such a spot; yet this has happened to me more than once.  And if even this is watched and noted, with what lightning rapidity would the news spread that I had been seen stalking down the garden path with a hoe over my shoulder and a basket in my hand, and weeding written large on every feature!  Yet I should love to weed."

Women's lives in the 19th century -- working class women were working their fingers to the bone ... whereas women in the nobility weren't even allowed to have a hobby if it involved any level of physical labor.  "A great many things" have happened in the interim indeed; let's hope we never even get near this state of things, ever again ...

 

And I love her asides about her tongue-wagging neighbors ... though I wonder whether she'd still hold to her views about the exposure of perceived "sins" being "fair game" with the state of today's tabloid press.

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text 2018-08-15 13:57
Reading progress update: I've read 9 out of 190 pages.
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

"A great deal that is poetical has been written by English people about May Day, and the impression left on the foreign mind is an impression of posies, and garlands, and village greens, and youths and maidens much be-ribboned, and lambs, and general friskiness.  I was in England once on a May Day, and we sat over the fire shivering and listening blankly to the north-east wind tearing down the street and the rattling of the hail against the windows, and the friends with whom I was staying said it was very often so, and that they had never seen any lambs and ribbons.  We Germans attach no poetical significance to it at all, and yet we well might, for it is almost invariably beautiful; and as for garlands, I wonder how many villages full of young people could have been provided with them out of my  garden, and nothing be missed?"

Oh, Elizabeth ... smh -- on so many levels.

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text 2018-08-15 13:50
Reading progress update: I've read 3 out of 190 pages.
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

"Last night after dinner, when we were in the garden, I said, 'I want to be alone for a whole summer, and get to the very dregs of life.  I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to grow.  Nobody shall be invited to stay with me, and if any one calls they will be told that I am out, or away, or sick.  I shall spend the months in the garden, and on the plain, and in the forests.  I shall watch the things that happen in my garden, and see where I have made mistakes.  On wet days I will go into the thickest parts of the forests, where the pine needles are everlastingly dry, and when the sun shines I'll lie on the hearth and see how the broom flares against the clouds.  I shall be perpetually happy, because there will be no one to worry me.  Out there on the plain there is silence, and where there is silence I have discovered there is peace."

So The Solitary Summer was to be von Arnim's Walden ...

 

And I love how she contrasts her own initial gush of enthusiasm with her husband's response:

"'Mind you do not get your feet damp,' said the Man of Wrath, removing his cigar."

And you really wouldn't be able to tell this from the exuberant prose, but this is how the book actually came about (quoting from the introduction by Deborah Kellaway):

"The book was written patchily, and against the odds.  The beautiful promise of summer weather in May that year was followed by ruinous screaming gales.  She did not start writing until July, and in August she took the children away for a seaside holiday.   In September her relations with her husband became so full of 'wrath' that she took herself, alone, to England.  When she returned to Nassenheide, she brought her sister and niece with her; she did not begin to write again until cold November; by December, she discovered her pregnancy with a heavy heart.  But she finished the book in January, corrected the proofs in February, and The Solitary Summer, light hearted and ebullient, was in the bookshops by the following May."

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