Sutherland: Toys in the Attic, My Bibliophile Heritage

 kidnapped2I went through some boxes of books up in my attic the other day and was amazed at what I found…

 Culled from the libraries of various family members and friends, all now departed, I see that I have enough to keep me busy reading for the rest of my life.  I was also touched by the depth and seriousness of the tastes and interests of people I never knew or knew only in some role other than that of serious reader.

I found, for instance, Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped” and Thomas Hardy’s “Return of The Native” with my grandfather’s name, “Robert Sutherland,” written on the fly-leaves.  He was an eighth grade dropout from Garnett, KansasFrom the dates these editions of the books were published, he was a young man working in Kansas City when he bought them.  They were not something he read because he was required to for high school or college because he never went to high school or college.

I see complete sets of Shakespeare and Dickens, Jane Austen and the Bronte’s, all heavily used and underlined.  I found the works of my favorite British authors like Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh, each acquired as they were written as revealed by the inscriptions inside.

There are dozens of books of Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and William Faulkner.  There is an early edition of “The Education of Henry Adams,” which some consider the best non-fiction book ever written by an American as well as volumes of his correspondence with other luminaries of his time.  There are numerous volumes of history, by historians renowned and obscure, and beautifully bound nineteenth century editions of poetry.

Proust

Proust

There is a complete set of Proust, both in the original French edition and the first—and some think still the best—English translation by C.K. Scott Moncrieff.  There are not just the recognized classics but quirky, yet fascinating, tomes like “Vases and Volcanoes.”  Published by the British museum it is a paper-bound coffee table book with beautiful photos of the paintings and antiquities collected by Sir William Hamilton.  A British diplomat during the Napoleonic era, his wife was a famous courtesan and mistress of Lord Nelson.  I stayed up quite late last night reading an acid-tongued political polemic called “The Strange Death of Liberal England.”  It is a cautionary tale of how a political party can come to grief at the hour of its greatest electoral triumph.

These are all books purchased by their past owners while they were running businesses, ranching or farming, or practicing law or medicine.  They read these books during the times of their lives while they were working and raising families.  I hope forty or fifty years from now some grandchild or family friend gets the same pleasure and knowledge from my books.  I hope my choices of what to read prove to be of such lasting value.

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3 Responses to Sutherland: Toys in the Attic, My Bibliophile Heritage

  1. John Altevogt says:

    Perhaps Harley will chime in if someone goes to the trouble to explain to him what a book is.

  2. paulwilsonkc says:

    Dwight, it had escaped my memory, but a few years back I bought a 40 acre farm in Garnett, out on the reservoir, 1700’ of shore line. Not great farming, but that’s not why I bought it, it was the shore line and views of this incredible 750 acre lake it sat on. Mr, Ellentein, across the road, the only neighbor for a few miles, was quite a historian and retired Navy man.
    He was telling me stories about the area one day, the Amish population (the “Yoder” family mowed my field in exchange for the hay) and mentioned other Kansas City “folk” who’d been down there.
    I didn’t know anything of you, at the time, but he mentioned one of the Sutherlands “from the lumber yard family” was from there. Interesting…
    Enjoy the heck out of your stories.

  3. the dude says:

    Get them books out of the attic right now!

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