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Dear friends and readers,

Perhaps I should use this diary blog to record the day I got a new computer at last. We bought it about a week and a half ago when my 5+ old computer began to rattle; it was the fan or something more ominous. I had been finding that I was overloading the computer with my saved movies and sometimes it would just freeze up. Not too comforting.

The good news is that while I'm struggling a bit to get used to new icons, more complicated applications (with many more things in them I can do), to re-establish my passwords and usernames on my favorite sites, for the most part this transition has been easy. I have tremendous amounts more of storage room, including a black box for extra storage; the pictures on my screens and the TV are much much clearer; it's now easy to play itunes and use that ipod. Maybe my Luddite tendencies have been overcome -- though much has yet to be learnt.

This weekend we also had our bi-yearly library book sale in our Northern Virginia area at the George Mason Library on Little River Turnpike:  booksellers and book lovers and readers come from far and wide to this potlatch to patronize it for four days. Often I've come away with real treasures, quite a stash. I have such a rich library now it's hard for me to find new things I want and this time I was aware of how I can no longer read much at night. So I bought less, but did come home with two Victorian treasures: a facsimile reprint of Dickens's Nicholas Nickelby from the original instalments. This book really never existed before this because when the installments were printed they were saturated with such ads, but when the first volumed editions were published, the ads were not there of course. In this one we see the ads, the pictures, all the printing stuff that surrounded Dickens's text. It includes a long essay by Michael Slater on the composition and monthly publication of the book accompanied by yet more illustrations and pictures connected to the book, either heads of the characters, or other paraphernalia. Plus immediate context on what Dickens was doing, letters between him and Wilkie Collins at the time. All for $7.

And A. N. Wilson's The Victorians which looks equally educational and very readable. The Wilson book is beautifully produced, sewn, good papers, lots of photographs and illustrations again.

This rare sketch by Canaletto of a gentleman and lady from the back comes from this gathering:


(as will be seen I've not managed to size this one down -- still learning -- yet it is so pretty left larger, no?)

People will say no that's not rare; we see all sorts of such figures in these large panoramas. That's the joy of such a panorama, to pick out the people doing their ordinary things in the midst of life and activity with the vast sky their shelter and order and peace imposed by the perspective and often the larger activity or place painted. Yes, but this is a large sketch, just the lord and lady alone without the paraphernalia.

It comes from the same book I got at that Library book sale I spoke of yesterday morning. As I said, I got picture books. One for the 18th century filled with "vedutas" -- views, beginning in the mid-17th century through the early 19th, with the emphasis on the place of origin, Italy. The first painters were often Dutch. So many artists in it and it covers the period into the early 19th century with French and English painters; lots of Canaletto and his peers of course, and dream landscapes, but many relatively unknown from odd places; all with ordinary people doing their thing within them: Giuliano Briganti, The View Painters of Europe. An early reaction to the vanishing of the religious perspective.  Also a book of photographs, sheerly just photographs of the Lake District so I can dream about that until 3-4 years from now when we go for 2 weeks in the summer.

One book, the old-fashioned kind of biography begun by Strachey and his set (Virginia Woolf), the picture analysis which is not big on facts or daily doings. Geoffrey Scott's Zelide of Madame de Charriere is a famous one; Strachey's savage Eminent Victorians, Woolf on Frye. This is John Harold Wilson (who wrote of the theater): A Rake and His times: George Villiers 2nd Duke of Buckingham.  I hope to get to it before the next 20 years :)  An early Farrar Strauss and Young book.
 
With Downton Abbey in mind (and how hard it is to get a genuine book on the upstairs people of this hous): Amanda Mackenzie Sutart: Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt. It looks a serious biography, very fat. It comes with a blurb from Francine de Plessix Gray which gives me pause as Gray is so reactionary but she can write and recognizes what is decent biography. I peeked in and it's actually a mother-daughter story.  And The Provincial Lady Goes to Russia; or I visit the Soviets. In the 1930s. I recall Alison Light saying the Provincial Lady was far more a depressive and socialistic than people realize. I didn't know she wrote travel books. 

Two weeks to go for this term. I've done it: no teaching this summer and am teaching just one section in the fall, one I've taught before. I'll miss more students and fear I won't be varied across the year. But the gain in time, energy and accomplishment at home (I hope) will be worth it. Putting in for social security in the fall too. Ross Poldark (book and mini-series) went over very well, and now Andrea Levy's Small Island too - with students really liking the funny parts. Very much enjoying talk with Christy about later 18th century novels and memoirs on ECW, and Trollope19thCstudies we seem to be having group reads once again. Am joining in on Inimitable-Boz a bit. I don't get to my TBR pile of women's novels though nor Showalter's Jury of her Peers.

I'm about to write my review of Todd and Bree's Later Manuscripts of Jane Austen, the study of which has taught me a lot.  The onto "Bad Tuesday" in Austen, infamy in Sophie Cottin (if I can manage it -- I'd like to get into some real French reading again), with a reading of Darnton's The Devil in the Water. I was into Italian for my paper on Ann Radcliffe and profited much from the different perspective.  And this summer I will make new pages for my website where I'll gather my foremother poets, my Poldark series, a new Downton Abbey series. Who knows even get back to A Place of Refuge which I must re-see. And send out a good version of my Trollope film adaptations to Literature/Film Quarterly.

In the evenings just now blest with an ability to read Graham's Demelza. The Admiral found a week where optimally we can see a number of plays and operas, rent the landmark place in Vermont, swim in a nearby lake, there's parks nearby to walk in, restaurants. It just outside the Berkshires, say a half hour's drive. Then two days in NYC (take out one to see my mother) and the other two go to the Met museum, Central Park and if any friends can endure us visit.

We've even made a start on making some pretty spots in our garden, and fixing a few things in the house -- found a man who will do medium size jobs!

Sylvia

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