Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmases in our Past



“We have a Chinese General in our Christmas Tree!”


Red Square at Christmastime

            We ought to be pretty good at celebrating Christmas.  Our first Christmas in Moscow, during the days of the Soviet Union, I was the naval attaché for the United States. It was 1981. President Reagan was in office.
            The representative of the People’s Liberation Army in Moscow was a plump, cheerful fellow, wearing a Mao suit with a pen in the left breast pocket.  The pen showed that he was a Major General; the PLA didn’t mess with stars and insigne, but they all knew he was a general, and that was what mattered.
            The General came to return the call that I had made upon him, and he brought his faithful assistant, who translated between Chinese and English and Russian.  The General spoke only Chinese.

 Builder from New Hampshire, on right, in Moscow, 1981
(Also shown are Sam, Mark and John Coulbourn)

                Builder from New Hampshire.  Our cousins from New Hampshire, Nancy and Ron Pomerleau, and their two daughters were visiting us for Christmas.          
            I introduced Cousin Ron to foreign officials as my friend, a “Builder from New Hampshire”.  In fact, Ron had built many houses, even whole developments, in New Hampshire.  He looked quite prosperous in a fine, dark suit.  This day I invited Ron to join me as the Chinese General paid his call.
            We had a very pleasant visit. At that time relations were strained between the Chinese and the Russians, which meant the Russians seemed to be suspicious of any meeting between the Chinese and the Americans.  Of course, the Russians were suspicious of most everything.
            Knowing that it was Christmastime for us, the General had brought a gift of a whole box of very elaborate feather decorations suitable for a Christmas tree.  He didn’t just give me the gift, though.  He wanted to hang them on our tree himself. He’d perhaps never even seen a Christmas tree! 
            The next thing we knew, he was deep into our tree, busily hanging these brilliant feathered birds and decorations.
            We estimate that the Soviet intelligence people assigned to listen to everything that went on in our living room were really straining to find out the “real story” of what the Chinese General was up to and who was this “Builder from New Hampshire”?

Caviar and pickled herring with the Builder from New Hampshire. In between the steady stream of Christmastime parties I remember one quiet night at our apartment.  Actually it wasn’t quiet, because our two sons and daughter had a gang of kids in the front of the apartment, sitting around exchanging thoughts. There was Ned, son John’s traveling buddy, and Anne and Sue, cousins from New Hampshire.  The boys had met other foreigners when they went to play a pickup game of basketball over at Moscow University. There was a Swedish girl, a dedicated Communist, committed to spreading the gospel, even here in the American Embassy.  There was a pretty Finnish girl, daughter of the Finnish Military Attaché-- she was son Mark’s girlfriend.  Also two Italian boys, a Yugoslav, an Australian girl, daughter of Australia’s Ambassador, and an Albanian and a Turk—both boys. 
            In the kitchen, cousin Ron and I sat at the kitchen table and drank vodka and feasted on caviar left over from the various parties we had hosted, and opened a bucket of pickled herring that we had bought in Helsinki. We also had a bowl of pickled garlic, and some Russian black bread.  It was a typical Russian evening, with just two of us Americans enjoying it!  Our wives were visiting in another part of our large apartment.
            Finally, after absorbing enough vodka, we retired for the night.  The ladies came to bed a bit later. When Marty entered our bedroom she said there was a “blue pall of garlic” in the air as she entered.

Swedish Julaften

Christmas Eve with the Swedes.  Our friends Nils and Elizabeth Hellström, (he was the Swedish Naval Attaché), invited our whole extended family of ten to a typical Swedish Christmas Eve.  The Hellströms lived in one of the few wooden frame houses in Moscow, and what a special house it was.  It was built by Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, for his residence while he worked with the Russians in Moscow, and then it became a part of the Swedish Embassy.  Nobel first came to Russia from his native Sweden in 1842, when he was nine years old. His father had a plant constructing land mines for the Russian government.
            The Swedish Christmas eve celebration, Julaften, goes back to Swedish peasant tradition.  As guests, we went first to the kitchen, and were introduced to a richly laid Smorgåsbord— pickled herring, meatballs, ham, and much more, and lots of akvavit to drink.  Akvavit has an effect like sticking an electric drill in your ear.
            The tradition called for guests to move from room to room, tasting different foods in each room, and more akvavit, and finally a table of rich desserts and coffee.
            We enjoyed that feast, and then left our six young people to join the Hellström kids for a wild swing around Moscow at midnight.  We went home to bed, and with the akvavit, that was enough.

            A Drive To Zagorsk in the Snow.  The Communists had been trying to make religion go away for decades, but in Russia, many centuries of the Russian Orthodox faith was so deeply burned in the Russian soul that it just would not go away.      When we were there, there were beautiful Russian churches, even though the parishioners were mostly old women.  For an upwardly-mobile Soviet male, it was not “cool” to show up in regularly in church. 

Cathedral of the Assumption, Zagorsk (75 km north of Moscow).

            At Christmastime we drove 75 kilometers north of Moscow to visit the holy city of Zagorsk.  It was very snowy, and the temperature was 0°F. outside and not much warmer inside as we stood in the Cathedral of the Assumption. A whole column of Russian Orthodox monks filed in.  The church was full of the faithful, and the priests, in rich robes, were chanting in that deep, throaty richness; everyone was crossing themselves, over and over. The smell of incense filled the cathedral. 
            What  a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of Christ!
 It was a good Christmas.


[Parts of the foregoing Blog were originally published June 20, 2011.  It has been modified for re-posting for Christmas, 2012.]

Here are a few books and papers from The Personal Navigator:

Dainty Dames of Society: Four small leather volumes
(Left to right: 8306,8307,8308, 8309)

Dainty Dames of Society: A Portrait Gallery of Charming Women; Fanny and Adelaide Kemble, Countess of Cork, Anne Benson Procter  by W. Willmott Dixon (Thormanby)  ca. 1903 London, England: Adam & Charles Black. 156 pp. 9.5 x 14.9 cm. One of a set of four small volumes about Charming women. This volume includes tale of the Kemble family, in particular Fanny and Adelaide, also Mary Monckton, Countess of Cork, and Anne Benson Procter. Includes engravings of Frances Kemble and The Countess of Cork and Orrery. Portraits and illustrations from rare and famous pictures by masters of British and French Schools.        Green leather on board with elaborate gilt printing on spine, circular emblem on front. Heel and toe of spine worn, inside front hinge partly cracked, good. (8306) $40.00. Biography
Dainty Dames of Society: A Portrait Gallery of Charming Women; Clarinda and Other Edinburgh Belles, Burns and Scott, Hon. Mrs. Graham, Jane, Duchess of Gordon and Countess of Suffolk by W. Willmott Dixon (Thormanby) ca. 1903 London, England: Adam & Charles Black. 155 pp.  9.5 x 14.9 cm.   One of a set of four small volumes about Charming women. This volume includes story of the loves of poets, including Robert Burns' attraction for Alison Rutherford, also Bess Burnet, Maggie Burns, and Clarinda. Clarinda was Agnes Maclehose, of whom Robert Louis Stevenson claimed she was the best woman Burns every encountered. Also Jane Maxwell, Duchess of Gordon-- tale of chasing an old sow through the streets of Edinburgh in 1759. Also Henrietta Howard Countess of Suffolk. Engravings of Duchess of Gordon and Mrs. Graham, as well as other illustrations. Portraits and illustrations from rare and famous pictures by masters of British and French Schools. Green leather on board with elaborate gilt printing on spine, circular emblem on front. Heel and toe of spine worn, Front cover blemished, inside front hinge  cracked, fair. (8307) $40.00. Biography
Dainty Dames of Society: A Portrait Gallery of Charming Women; The Hornecks, "Little Comedy" and the "Jessamy Bride"; Margaret Power, Countess of Blessington; Catherine Hyde, Duchess of Queensberry; Mary Isabella, Duchess of Rutland  by W. Willmott Dixon (Thormanby)        ca. 1903 London, England: Adam & Charles Black. 152 pp. 9.5 x 14.9 cm. One of a set of four small volumes about Charming women. This volume includes Story of Catherine and Mary Horneck, who charmed Edmund Burke, Joshua Reynolds and Oliver Goldsmith. Gossipy narrative about "The Jessamy Bride" and "Little Comedy", Oliver Goldsmith and the rest. Margaret Power, daughter of a disreputable, dissipated Irish squireen. Also Catherine Hyde, Duchess of Queensbury--skittish, eccentric, witty, warm-hearted, and beautiful. Lady Mary Isabella Somerset married Charles, Duke of Rutland, Viceroy of Ireland. Portraits and illustrations from rare and famous pictures by masters of British and French Schools. Green leather on board with elaborate gilt printing on spine, circular emblem on front. Very tight, neat and clean copy. Very good. (8308) $46.00. Biography   
Dainty Dames of Society: A Portrait Gallery of Charming Women; Two Duchesses of Devonshire, "Sacharissa", Lady Holland by W. Willmott Dixon (Thormanby)         ca. 1903 London, England: Adam & Charles Black. 156 pp. 9.5 x 14.9 cm. One of a set of four small volumes about Charming women. This volume provides a Foreword in which author declares that the Dainy Dames he describes are all endowed with Charm.  They may not be beautiful, or famous, or witty, or good, but they all possess Charm. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire captured the attention of Gainsborough, who preserved her features on canvas, and an engraving of that famous portrait is included here. Elizabeth, Duchess of Devonshire. "Sacharissa", the sweetest of the sweet, was Dorothy Sidney, born in 1617. Finally, Elizabeth Vassal Fox, Lady Holland.  Portraits and illustrations from rare and famous pictures by masters of British and French Schools.        Green leather on board with elaborate gilt printing on spine, circular emblem on front. Spine damaged, left side of cover split, fron cover barely attached. Poor. (8309) $40.00. Biography             

Humourist's Own Book, The; A cabinet of original and selected anecdotes, bons mots, sports of fancy, etc. 1835 Philadelphia, PA Desilver, Thomas & Co. Small book loaded with humorous stories: Whitfield, Union of Literary Compositions; Pun by the Ettrick Shepherd; Daft Willie Law; Scarcity of Asses; Timber to Timber; Peter Pindar, many more. 284 pp. 8 x 13 cm.  (6434) $40.00. Humor 

My Wife's Fool of A Husband, illustrations by True Williams by Berkeley, August 1890 Hartford, CT: American Publishing Company Author has a marvelous wit-- his story of his life is funny a century later. 471 pp. 15 x 23 cm. Cloth on board, cover soiled, lightly frayed, inside front hinge partly torn. Fair condition. (1819) $30.00. Humor/Biography. 
One of drawings from Hull's set shows melee against the "Chinee", above

Plain Language from Truthful James (The Heathen Chinee) by Francis Bret Harte (1839-1902);Table Mountain, 1870
Collection of nine drawings by Joseph Hull, published by the Western News Company, Chicago, 1870.  This collection dramatizes the racial prejudice against Chinese brought to America to work on the railroad in the 19th century.  Note the eighth drawing in the series, showing an all-out melee against the “Chinee”. Nine prints, matted. 20 x 25 cm. Set of nine prints, matted in blue cardboard matting. Title card is not present. Lightly soiled. Print No. 6 has 1 x 1 cm tear in lower left hand corner. Good.(7093) $85.00. Humor/Poetry..

Ponkapog Papers, First Edition by Aldrich, Thomas Bailey 1903 Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co. Former editor of Atlantic Monthly published this delightful, if scattered, collection of thoughts, comments and witticisms, written on former Indian reservation near Boston. 195 pp. 11 x 19 cm. Cloth on board, excellent. Ex-lib: Oak Grove School Library. (1242) $28.00. Humor/Literature. 
Rejected Addresses: or the New Theatrum Poetarum,  Tenth Edition 1813 London, England: John Miller, 25, Bow-Street.  Collection of bizarre "addresses" on the occasion of the reopening ofDrury Lane Theatre, completely rebuilt after a fire. Funny, disrespectful, shameless humor.  It is interesting to see how much of this is still funny, nearly two centuries later!  In "'Hampshire Farmer's Address"  there's reference to cheap soup: "soup for the poor at a penny a quart, ...mixture of horse's legs, brick dust and old shoes." 'England is a large earthen-ware pipkin.  John Bull is the beef thrown into it. Taxes are the hot water he boils in. Rotten boroughs are the fuel that blazes under this same pipkin..." 127 + 5 pp. adv. 10 x 16.2 cm. Quarter leather, marbled boards, worn. On front pastedown is bookplate (oriental motif)  of Russell Gray pasted over fine signature of Henry Wilkinson, and on front free endpaper is name, "Russell Gray 1883--" [Russell Gray was Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, noted for his ruling granting citizenship to the children born in the U.S. to Chinese immigrants working on the railroads.]  Good. (5246) $30.00. Humor

American Mercury, The,  A Monthly Review Edited by H.L. Mencken & George Jean Nathan, January 1924; Vol. I No. 1, First Issue Mencken, H.L., Editor 1924 New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. With Mencken as editor one might expect brilliance, and this inaugural  issue has it. The Editorial announces the intent of the new magazine to devote itself pleasantly to exposing the nonsensicality of hallucinations of utopianism and the lot.  The lead article "The Lincoln Legend" by Isaac R. Pennypacker, gives a new and more robust look at the life of President Abraham Lincoln.  His forefathers were iron-masters, capable leaders in their communities, giving a lie to the myth of the simple rail splitter.  As a war leader, Pennypacker compares him with Jefferson Davis, and Lincoln comes up far superior. "The Drool Method in History" by Harry E. Barnes is a humorous attack on purveyors of "pure history" --- the superiority of the Aryans, the discovery of America was by well-meaning religious people; the sole cause of our ancestors' embarking upon wintry seas to come to the New World was religious freedom; Loyalists in the Revolution were a gang of degenerate drunkards and perverts, etc.  "The Tragic Hiram" by John W. Owens is contemporary political commentary, about Borah, La Follette, Hoover and Harding-- but skewering Johnson.  144 pp. 17 x 25 cm. Magazine, writing on advertisement, first page of magazine: "Ruth Schliveh's shower Jan. 19, 1924"… and "Bill Paxton Brown U. 1924."  Very good. (7663) $76.00. Literature/History

Biographical and Critical Miscellanies, New Edition by Prescott, William H. 1859 Boston, MA Phillips, Sampson & Co., No. 12 Winter Street Collection of literary essays, the last, about Spanish Literature, is new to this edition. Also: Charles Brockden Brown, Bancroft, Sir Walter Scott, Irving's Conquest of Granada, Moliere, Italian Poetry, Da Ponte. 729 pp. 15 x 24 cm. Quarter calf with marbled boards, Very good, bright, clean copy. Minor wear to leather spine, corners. mep. Contains portrait of author with tissue guard. (1871) $50.00. Literature/Educational/Criticism. 
Golden Thoughts on Mother, Home and Heaven 1878 New-York, NY: E.B. Treat, 805 Broadway.  Introduction by Rev. Theodore L. Cuyler calls this  a collection of "golden gleanings". Excellent example of widely sold sentimental volume, collection of many well-known authors in poetry on prose in three sections: Mother, Home and Heaven. After title page is page "Presented to:” in elaborate illumination, for some lucky mother. (Not filled in). Includes the maudlin poems of death of small children that was so much a part of this era.   Writings by Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Joanna Baillie, Saxe Holm, E.L. Cassanovia, Fanny Crosby, Mrs. L.H. Sigourney, Phillips Brooks, Daniel Webster, Noah Porter, D.D., Joseph Addison, many more. 414 pp. 16 x 23 cm. Decorated brick red cloth on board with elaborate gilt and black design, very slight signs of wear on cover; frontispiece engraving and title page foxed. No dj. Book is clean and tight, very good. (5379) $29.00. Literature/Poetry/Religious

Little Men: Life at Plumfield with Jo's Boys, First Edition. by Alcott, Louisa M. 1871 Boston, MA: Roberts Brothers Louisa May Alcott's classic about playful, mischievous, energetic boys. With 4 pp. of publisher's advertisements inserted between the front end papers. 376 pp. 11 x 17 cm. Cloth on board with gilt lettering on spine and cover; cover faded and water stained, Heel and toe of spine frayed, bottom of front cover frayed, corner bumped. Binding tight. Text block very good. Overall good. (1363) $60.00. Literature/Fiction. 

 Frontispiece and Title Page, Scelta di Favole

Scelta Di Favole; Raccolte da' più celebri Autori Francesi, e Rese in Italiano Da Maria Raffaela Caracciolo de' Duchi di Rodi Per uso de' suoi Fratelli, coll' Aggiunta 1816 Napoli, Italia: A. Garruccio Stampatore. 110 pp. 14 x 21.5cm. Collection of Stories chosen from the work of the most celebrated Author, Signor de la Motte Fenelon (1671-1715). François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon was a French Roman Catholic Archbishop, theologian, poet and writer.  Booklet by Raffaele Caracciolo de Duchi di Rodi is dedicated to his parents, and is for the edification of his younger brothers.  Stories are: La Prefazione; La Vigna ed il Vignjuolo; Il Cane colpevole; Il Zoppo, il Gobbo,il Cieco; Il Pazzo, Socrate, ed un suo Scolare; La Pecora, ed il Cane; I Pastori; La Pernice ed i suoi Figli; La Morte; Giove e Minosse; Il Cardellino; L'Orso giovine ed il di lui padre; I topi giovini, ed il lor padre; and One-hundred six  Massime scelte (Selected Maxims), rendered in both French and Italian. Includes frontispiece engraving, "La Tranquillità" showing young woman seated beneath a tree with three lambs nearby. Truly a delightful little booklet.  Fair condition, paper bound, very rough cut. Engraved illustration as frontispiece. At top left of frontispiece page is small pasted stamp with library information. (0184)  $185.00. Literature/Morality

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thinking about Murmansk

A Trip to the Soviet Arctic

            Today, the sun didn’t even appear in Murmansk.  As a matter of fact, it won’t come up until January 12, 2013, and then it’ll set 55 minutes later. 
            I was thinking about Murmansk today, remembering the time Marty and I visited that Russian seaport, right near the top of the world, far beyond the Arctic circle.
            I had wanted to go to Murmansk  since I was a 14-year old, working on my Aunt’s Mink Ranch in Virginia During World War II, my aunt’s son-in-law, Francis Grigsby ”Gig” Farinholt, had been a sailor aboard the cargo ships making the run past German U-Boats up to the North Sea and around into the Arctic to Murmansk   The United States shipped many millions of dollars worth of military equipment, as well as food and supplies to the Russians along this treacherous path.  It was vital for  their very survival. 
            About 1400 merchant ships delivered supplies under the Lend-Lease program in 78 convoys, escorted by ships of the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and the U.S. Navy. Eighty-five merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships (two cruisers, six destroyers, eight other escort ships) were lost. The Nazi  Kriegsmarine lost a number of vessels including one battleship, three destroyers and at least 30 U-boats, as well as a large number of aircraft.
            At the start of World War II the Germans, allied with the Finns, had used Finnish bases to bomb Murmansk.
Murmansk Harbor

            Gig told me about the warm welcome the Soviets gave the convoy crews each time they landed in Murmansk.   They held big dinners, with plenty of black bread and sausage and, of course, gallons of vodka.
            Marty and I flew up there in June, 1983, just a couple of months before we were due to depart the USSR, and we went on the longest day of the year, which, in the Arctic, is pretty long.  There was no night time. The exact opposite of today, when there’s no “daytime”.

Murmansk: “Alyosha” Memorial to Soviet Soldiers in Arctic War 1941

            An Intourist guide met us shortly after we had checked in to our hotel, and took us on a tour of the city. Murmansk was a city built right about the time of the October Revolution, so it has none of the beautiful buildings and churches the Czars built across Russia With a population of about 300,000, it is the largest city above the Arctic Circle We had often seen that in northern latitudes there was a severe alcoholism problem.  Not just in the USSR, but in Scandinavian countries.  Marty asked the guide about this.  This young lady, whose father happened to be the mayor, told us that, no, they had no such problem in Murmansk As she was saying this, we happened to be stopped at a traffic light, and next to the car was a lamppost, with a really drunk Russian hanging on to it.  As if on cue, the poor guy then lost his grip and slid down the lamppost, collapsing on the pavement. “Nyet, no problem with alcohol here!!”
            A little while later, we encountered a whole busload of Finns.  They had flown from Helsinki to Murmansk, to see the sights, and had just come from visiting the fishing fleet.  We met them at a “Beryozka” which was one of thousands of state stores across the USSR that sold goods for foreign currency only. Plain Russians were not allowed in these stores, which did not accept rubles.
            Here the specialty was little birchbark canoes and other craft items, and of course vodka.  That was what the Finns were looking for. From the looks of them, they had found vodka before, because they were already pretty drunk, but this gave them a chance to stock up on some more.
            Kitsch-y little birchbark canoes, those popular nested wooden dolls, …. and vodka.

Shopping at the market

            We had lived in the USSR nearly two years, and had never had a nice meal of fresh fish.  Fish you could buy in the Moscow Rynok (Market) was always frozen, usually in large chunks of ice and fish together, so the fishmongers just hacked off a couple of kilos of salty ice and fish and sold you that.  Customer service was not a big thing in the USSR.
            Since we were here in the largest fishing port in the whole Soviet Union, we thought surely here there would be some nice fresh fish. We went looking for a restaurant that served fresh fish. 
            We didn’t find such a restaurant, so we entered a nice-looking establishment that our Intourist guide had recommended, and were shown to our table and given large, heavy menus.  Many Soviet restaurants used these large menus with many pages, and then it became a ritual for the customer and the waitress to find out what, in all those pages, was actually available.  As you ordered a dish, the waitress would solemnly answer “Nyetu”, which means “that’s not available!”
            We finally placed our order, and started with a  little plate of caviar, with toast points, chopped onions, and glasses of vodka.  This is a popular, and delicious appetizer in Russia After that, we had Kotlyeti, or cutlets of veal.  
            Across the dance floor in this restaurant was a wedding party.  A group of very plain, solid-looking Russians was gathered around a long table, celebrating a wedding.  We went over and congratulated the bride and groom. We told them that where we came from, it was good luck for the bride to put a penny in her shoe.  I didn’t have a penny, so I gave her a U.S. dime, and the whole party was delighted. Russians really get excited about anything which might give them “good luck”. 
            We chatted briefly with some of the older members of the party, who recalled the days when the Americans brought all those shiploads of cargo to help the Russians survive the terrible war with Hitler’s Germany Soviet propaganda was quick to dismiss the American Lend-lease contribution of World War II, but every Russian who lived through those days remembers and always expressed gratitude to us for all Americans. 
            It was always so much fun, and so interesting, for us to talk with regular Russians when we met them, in various places across that huge country.  When they weren’t trying to impress you with Glorious Socialism, or other Soviet propaganda, and when they didn’t think we were trying to give them a sales pitch for Glorious Capitalism, etc. we had some wonderful conversations. 
            We can get along with regular Russians. 
            Now, the Soviet Union has been gone for 20 years, and many Russians have come to the United States to live, and it turns out that they are indeed fine people!

[NOTE:  This blog originally appeared October 23, 2011.  It has been modified for publication now.]

The Personal Navigator offers these books, papers and other periodicals:

Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy 1889 Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. Author Bellamy in this wildly popular (in 1887) looks a century into the future in his fictional account by a man, born in 1857, who goes to sleep and awakens 113 years later at the end of the 20th Century.  He describes radically new social and industrial institutions, in a very upbeat and optimistic look backward, yet into the future. There is a strong look of socialism in this "new world", one which Marxists quickly admired.  Includes a Postscript by the author responding to a review of his book in the Boston Transcript of March 30, 1888.            475 pp. 12.4 x 19 cm.    Dark green cloth on board with black lettering. Moderate wear. Bookplate and inscription on front free endpaper: "F.E. Porter".Very good.         (8298) $96.00. Fiction/Philosophy

Lucile by Owen Meredith, pen name for Edward Robert, first Earl of Lytton (1831-1891). Family Edition, illustrated by H.N. Cady 1888        New York, NY: Frederick A. Stokes and Brother.  Lucile by Owen Meredith, pen name for Edward Robert, first Earl of Lytton (1831-1891). Author dedicates this edition to his father, the noted novelist Lord Bulwer-Lytton. Romantic narrative poem about Lucile, beloved by two bitter rivals, English Lord Alfred Hargrave and French Duke of Luvois.  352 pp. 17 x 25 cm. Decorated brown cloth on board, moderate wear, including edge wear. Front and rear inside hinges cracked. Inscription on ffep: "Abbie E. Dewey, July 14, '88." Good.        (8300) $48.00. Poetry

My Old Kentucky Home, Written and Composed by Stephen Collins Foster, Illustrated by Mary Hallock Foote and Charles Copeland 1888 Boston, MA: Ticknor and Company. This attractive little volume was first published in 1853, before the end of slavery.  Foster is said to have written this song, which later became the state song of Kentucky, to capitalize on the popularity of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.  Excellent engravings portray the sad life of African-Americans. Includes music for song. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass thought this song "stimulated sympathies for the slave."              32 pp.   16 x 20.7 cm.           Elegantly decorated white paper on board with thick, gilt-edged pages. Inscription on ffep: "Henry G. Colony from Aunt Mame, Christmas 1887". Inner binding cracked, half-title page loose. Poor. (8294) $24.00. Poetry/Slavery

Myths of Greece and Rome, Narrated with special reference to Literature and Art by Hélène Adeline Guerber, Lecturer on Mythology. 1893     New York, NY: American Book Company. Guerber explains that Hebrew antiquity had its beginnings passed down in scripture from God, but the Greeks and Romans had to invent theirs.  She promises to tell myths as accurately as possible, while avoiding the more repulsive features of heathen mythology. Includes map showing location of myths. Author has inserted poetical writings, quotations and illustrations from all ages to show inspiration of ancient myths upon literature and art. Includes Juno, Apollo, Diana, Venus, Mercury, Vulcan, Neptune, Pluto, Bacchus, Æolus, Œdipus. the Trojan War, Ulysses, Æneas; more; Genealogical Table, Glossary and Index.      428 pp. 13 x 19 cm. Dark green buckram on board with gilt title on spine, moderate wear. On ffep is inscription: "Louise G. Colony, Jan. 11, 1899, Friends School." Very good. (8295) $22.00. Educational/Mythology

Treasure Island  by Stevenson, Robert Louis    1892 Boston, MA: Roberts Brothers. Very nice, clean copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, copyright 1883. This American edition dedicated to S.L.O. by the author.        292 pp. + adv.   12.5 x 18.8 cm.       Decorated red cloth on board, s;ight wear to heel and toe of spine. Owner stamp "Philip C. Johnson, Wilton, N.H." in front and back pastedowns and ffep. Very good. (8299) $195.00.  Fiction/Children's

America Illustrated Williams, J. David, editor   1883     Boston, MA: DeWolfe, Fiske & Company. 121 pp. 23.7 x 29.5 cm. Editor Williams sought to acquaint readers with the "superb creations of nature that distinguish America above all others."  Excellent engravings of Bear River near Bethel, ME (frontis.); Yellowstone Valley; Hudson River at West Point; Natural Bridge, VA; Trenton High Falls, NY; Squam Lake, NH; Lake George, NY; Mammoth Cave, KY; Minot's Ledge Light-house, MA; Niagara Falls; Great Horseshoe Curve on the Pennsylvania Railroad; Down the Mississippi River; Yosemite Valley; Region of the Juniata, PA; more. Decorated brown cloth on board with gilt and black design, cover faded and mottled. Gilt-edged pages, binding cracked at p. 7, overall good. (8270) $40.00. Travel

Henley Royal Regatta, The; Harvard at Henley 1914-1964, Edited by Middendorf, John William 1970 Baltimore, MD: Barton-Cotton, Inc.            65 pp. 19.5 x 26.5 cm.   This limited edition of 1000 copies (this copy is No. 296) was edited by one of the members of Harvard's 1914 eight-man crew, who won the Henley Royal Regatta that year, and then returned 50 years later, and again manned a crew shell, meeting HM Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. The crew: Bow: Leverett Saltonstall age 21; 2 James Talcott, 20; 3 Henry Hixon. Meyer, 20; 4 Henry Stump Middendorf, 19; 5 John William Middendorf, Jr., 19 (they were twins); 6 David Percy Morgan, 19; 7 Louis Curtis, 22; Stroke Charles Carroll Lund, 19; and Cox, Henry L.F. Kreger, 21. Saltonstall had been Governor of Massachusetts, and served as U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, and the others all had brilliant careers in finance, real estate, and medicine.  Scarlet buckram on board with gilt medallion of Henley cup on cover, mylar cover, Inscription on ffep, in ink: "L. Hoyt Watson, From Bill Middendorf September 1971, Kindness of Jack Redwood"; also stamp, "L. Hoyt Watson, 105 Allens Point, Marion, MA 02738". Excellent condition. (8291) $50.00. Biography                            
 U.S. Rivers and Harbors: Letter from the President of the United States Transmitting to the House of Representatives a statement from the Secretary of War concerning appropriations for improvement of rivers and harbors, dated Jan. 12, 1877 Washington, DC: United States House of Representatives. Letter from President U.S. Grant of Jan. 12, 1877 transmits letter from Secretary of War J.D. Cameron of Jan. 11, 1877 with the whole package of indorsements and statements for the Chief of Engineers for the improvement of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas Rivers; the Ohio River; the Columbia River; the harbor at Racine, WI; Kennebunk River; the Channel between Staten Island and New Jersey; the improvement of Sabine Pass, Blue Buck Bar and Sabine Bay; the Harbor at Fall River, MA; for gauging the waters of the Lower Mississippi and its tributaries; work on the Galveston, TX ship channel; and much more.  56 pp. 15 x 23 cm. Paper booklet, some pages loose, fair. (7004) $17.00. Scientific/Engineering   


Wild Flowers: Plates 212 and 213

Wild Flowers; Three hundred and sixty-four full-color illustrations with complete descriptive text; popular edition in one volume, Second printing, September 1935 by Homer D. House. 1935 New York, NY: The MacMillan Co This edition is based on a work of similar title originally issued by the State ofNew York. This work is reproduced by permission of the Board of Regents of the State of New York. Marvelous introductory description, 24 pp. Descriptions and color plates include Families: Cat-tail, Water Plantain, Arum, Spiderwort, Bunchflower, Lily, Orchid, Buckwheat, Poppy, Fumewort, Mustard, Pitcher Plant, Virginia Stonecrop, Saxifrage, Rose, Apple, Pea, Geranium, Wood Sorrel, Jewelweed, Milkwort, Mallow, Violet, Loosestrife, Wintergreen, Heath, many more.. 362 pp. 23.5 x 29.7 cm. Light green buckram cloth on board, spine lightly sunfaded; gilt lettering. Half-title page shows diagonal crease, no dj, very good. (7987) $58.00. Scientific/Nature

Hints on Etiquette and The Usages of Society with a Glance at Bad Habits by Agogos (Charles William Day), Illustrated by Brian Robb      Agogos (Charles William Day)  1946    London, England: Turnstile Press Limited. First published in 1836, this little book was first published by Turnstile Press in 1946; this reprint was in 1952. This book is not written for those who do but for those who do not know what is proper.  Examples of "Hints": Whilst walking with a friend, should you meet an acquaintance, never introduce them. Never make acquaintances in coffee houses. It is considered vulgar to take fish or soup twice. If either a lady or a gentleman be invited to take wine at table, they must never refuse; it is very gauche so to do. Do not practise the filthy custom of gargling your mouth at table. As snuff-taking is merely an idle, dirty habit, practised by stupid people in the unavailing endeavour to clear their stolid intellect... it may be left to each individual taste as to whether it be continued or not. 68 pp. 10 x 14.7 cm. Decorated cover with same design on dust jacket. Very good. (8171) $14.00. Educational

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Visit our History Book Club!

Germany in the 20th Century

Hitler, 1939 (From LIFE Magazine)

            If you live near Rockport, Massachusetts, we invite you to join us for our monthly History Book Club meetings. 
            Every meeting is a new adventure for us all.  We are quite a diverse group--- not a bunch of serious scholars, trying to impress each other with what we know…
            Instead, we are people who are interested in history, and thinking and talking about how it intersects with our lives, and with our world.  
            From time to time, interested people drop in and share their life experiences, and their interests, with us, and then they disappear!  We’d love them to return, and continue with us on our journey.
            When we’ve discussed Russia Russians who live in the area have joined us to give their fascinating insight to the discussion. 
            This past Wednesday (Nov. 28, 2012), we discussed books about Germany in the Twentieth Century, and two bright ladies who had been born and grew up in Germany during World War II joined us, and gave us the benefit of their experiences.  You can read about that in the paragraphs below.
            If learning about our world, and what went on, and how it relates to you and your world interests you, come join us! 
            Our next meeting will be at the end of January, on Wednesday, Jan. 30th, 2013.  We’ll be discussing books about China in the Twentieth Century.  Pick a book in our library or yours and discover some piece of China’s history that catches your fancy.  It can be whatever you want—Sun Yat Sen or Madame Chiang, or Mao Zedong, the Chinese Civil War or the Boxer Rebellion.  Anything about China from 1900 to 2000.

Here’s our report of our most recent meeting:

The History Book Club met at Rockport Library’s Trustees’ Room at 7 p.m. 
Regular members present were Beverly and Dick Verrengia, Rick Heuser, Glen Nix and Sam Coulbourn.  We were joined by Ms. Waltraut (Trautel) Brown of Manchester, Sandra Stolle of Wenham and Doug Hall of Rockport. 

Trautel and Sandra were both born in Germany before World War II and came to the U.S. after the war. Doug received an advanced degree in German history. 

Dick Verrengia was first to report on The Coming of the Third Reich, by Richard Evans, 2004.
Dick started with William Shirer’s well-known account, but soon found that other historians found it very inaccurate, so he chose Evans’ book.  Amazon blurb: “There is no story in twentieth-century history more important to understand than Hitler’s rise to power and the collapse of civilization in Nazi Germany. With The Coming of the Third Reich, Richard Evans, one of the world’s most distinguished historians, has written the definitive account for our time. A masterful synthesis of a vast body of scholarly work integrated with important new research and interpretations, Evans’s history restores drama and contingency to the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazis, even as it shows how ready Germany was by the early 1930s for such a takeover to occur. The Coming of the Third Reich is a masterwork of the historian’s art and the book by which all others on the subject will be judged.”
Doug Hall noted that the Weimar Republic was an experiment.   Those present discussed the Treaty of Versailles and how it had bound up Germany after World War I in such a way that made the rise of Hitler more likely. Sandra Stolle stated that Versailles was awful.  She also noted that many “myths” were attached to this era.  One, Americans have been told that at the 1936 Berlin Olympics Hitler refused to shake hands with Jesse Owens, the black runner from the U.S.  Hitler did shake his hand, she said.  Also Sandra said  that the number of Jews killed by the Germans was grossly overstated—it was less than 200,000.  Others present disputed that. Sam Coulbourn said that his roommate at the Naval Academy had spent WWII in Auschwitz as a child, saw his mother murdered by the Nazis, and always had stood by the number of about six million Jews exterminated in the Holocaust. 

Sandra Stolle next gave a brief report on three books. She was born in 1933 and grew up in Hanover.  All Things Nature's Blessed, A Woman’s Story of War and Peace (1988) was her most important book, because it was written by her mother, Ruth Beumann Mahler.  It is her mother’s personal account of the war years in Nazi Germany.  Sandra also reported briefly on Typische Ossi, Typische West, a book in German about East and West Germany, and the contradictions of Germans living in both parts from 1945 to 1989. She also mentioned Katyn, a book describing the massacre of some 8000 Polish officers by the Soviet NKVD.

Jürgen Habermas

Rick Heuser delivered a comprehensive report on Jürgen Habermas, including these books by the famed German sociologist and philosopher:
The Divided West, 2004
A Berlin Republic: Writings on Germany 1997
The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, 1987
Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, 1990.
No one else in the meeting had heard of Habermas.  Rick described this 83-year old philosopher’s brilliant work, championing international post-national societies.  He said that Habermas had been opposed to the 1989 East-West Reunification. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of communicative rationality and the public sphere. His work focuses on the foundations of social theory, the analysis of advanced capitalistic societies and democracy, the rule of law in a critical social-evolutionary context, and contemporary politics, particularly German politics.
Rick noted that Habermas especially favored strengthening of the United Nations, and saw the actions of President George W. Bush as ending U.S. effective cooperation in the U.N.  Rick also observed that the Pentagon looks at the world in a unipolar way. Sam agreed that the Pentagon was most comfortable with the old bipolar world, and is yet ill-equipped to envision the world as it appears today. There is always the tendency to create an “opponent”  for the U.S. and today that is China

Trautel Brown gave a detailed account of her book, the story of her life as a young girl in Germany.  She was born in Hamburg in 1927 during the era of the Weimar Republic.  She recalled the street fights in those days. She started school in 1933, and her father joined the Sturmabteilung, the paramilitary arm of the German Army.  She said he loved to ride motorcycles, which he did in the SA. Her family moved to the country about 1933 and during these years there was a national drive to educate youth.  Her family took 40 boys on their farm to work.  About 1940 she and her sister were evacuated to Vienna, but then after a year she was returned to Hamburg, where she remained for the rest of the war.  Trautel met a German who had already come to the United States.  In order to become a citizen her prospective husband joined the U.S. Marine Corps. She and he were married in Milwaukee and then moved to Camp Pendleton, CA.  He served with the Marines in the Korean Conflict. 

Beverly Verrengia reported that she had begun reading Hitler by A.N. Wilson, but then shifted to Hitler, Germans and the Final Solution, 2009 by Ian Kershaw.
This book, written in rather abstruse form with very long sentences, wraps up more than three decades of meticulous research on Nazi Germany by one of the period’s most distinguished historians. The book brings together the most important and influential aspects of Kershaw’s research on the Holocaust for the first time. Kershaw provides an explanation of the uniqueness of Nazism.

Members discussed the destructive dynamic of the Nazi leadership and of the attitudes and behavior of ordinary Germans as the persecution of the Jews turned into total genocide.

Glen Nix reported on Weimar Germany by Eric D. Weitz, 2007. Glen observed that
Weimar Germany still fascinates us. This was a very creative period for Germany, and although we often remember it only as a time of huge inflation and the starting point for Hitler’s rise to power, it was really a time of strikingly progressive achievements--and even greater promise.  This book tells about some of Weimar's greatest figures, and recaptures the excitement and drama of the era, viewing Weimar in its own right--and not as a mere prelude to the Nazi era.

Sam reported on Payne, Robert, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, 1973 New York, NY: Praeger Publishers. 623 pp.

            I was fascinated to read Robert Payne’s book, but now I find that he used some questionable sources, and so a part of this book has been discredited since 1973.  Payne died ten years later. 
            The material in question was about Adolf Hitler’s visit to Liverpool, England for a year in 1910 (p. 97).  It turns out this was all made up by Bridget Hitler, the wife of Hitler’s brother Alois.
            Let me home in on one of the more mystifying episodes of Hitler’s conduct of World War II. 
            On November 12, 1940 a train bearing Soviet officials steamed into Berlin’s Anhalt Station.  There were red hammer-and-sickle flags flying amidst the red, black and white Nazi banners. 
            Leader of the Soviet delegation was Vyacheslav Molotov, People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union.  He was met by Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister of the Greater German Reich.  Molotov was being invited to discuss with Hitler how the world would be divided up among the four totalitarian powers—Germany, Japan, Italy and the USSR.
            That morning Ribbentrop and Molotov met in the German Foreign Office.  Ribbentrop launched into a series of speeches about the imminent downfall of  England and the need for closer relations between Russia and Japan.  He urged the Russians to turn their faces to the south, to acquire warm water ports, not in the Dardanelles, but in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.  He hinted at Russia being invited to acquire that country from the British, whose empire was now in the last stages of disintegration.
            In the afternoon, the meeting shifted to Hitler’s Chancellery.  Molotov was surprised to be greeted by Hitler with Hitler’s “Heil” salute. Hitler then gave him a limp handshake, but gazed piercingly into Molotov’s eyes.   One member of the Soviet delegation recounted that Hitler’s sharp nose was pimply, and his clammy palm felt like the “skin of a frog”.
            Immediately, Hitler launched into an hour-long speech about the imminent downfall of England and the soon-to-be complete destruction of her armies in Africa.
            When the speech was over, Molotov asked why a German military mission had been sent to Rumania without consulting the USSR; he asked what German troops were doing in Finland
            Hitler was polite, but gave meaningless answers to Molotov, and went on to call upon the Soviet Union to consider a Soviet-German war on the United States.  He considered that the U.S. would eventually imperil the freedom of other nations.  Not by 1945, of course, but perhaps by 1970 or 1980.
            As it grew dark, Hitler looked at his watch and remembered that a British air raid might be expected shortly, and they should adjourn until the following day.
            The talks continued all the next day, and that evening the Soviets hosted Ribbentrop and the other senior Germans (Hitler was absent) at their embassy, which had once been the palace of the Tsarist ambassador.  Vodka flowed and there was plenty of caviar and then a fine dinner, until it was interrupted by an air raid. 
            Ribbentrop suggested they all go to shelter, and the servants loaded the food and drinks onto trays.
            Ribbentrop was still talking about the urgent need to divide up the British Empire, now that England had been so decisively beaten.
            “If England is beaten, why are we sitting in this shelter?” asked Molotov.

            In the days that followed, Stalin studied the German proposal for a four-part pact, and appeared to believe that Hitler was leveling with him.
            Molotov sent a memorandum back to Hitler agreeing to the pact, with minor conditions, including German withdrawal from Finland, access to ports close to the Black Sea, and recognition of a Soviet area of influence  in the direction of the Persian Gulf.

            On December 18, 1940, Hitler issued Directive No. 21, ordering that, even before the conclusion of war with England, the Soviet Union be crushed in a rapid campaign.
            This operation became Barbarossa, named after a 12th century German emperor.  Planning went into high gear, and the word of invasion of Russia leaked everywhere. A spy in the German embassy in Tokyo sent word to Moscow.  Churchill informed his ambassador in Moscow, who passed the word to Molotov.  The State Department in Washington informed the Soviet ambassador.  But Stalin dismissed all these warnings and went off to spend a quiet summer at his estate at Sochi on the Black Sea.
            It is hard for us to imagine the absolute white-hot hatred Hitler had for the Soviet Union. Moscow and Leningrad were to be wiped from the face of the earth—no buildings, no people--- nothing! The order to advance was given at 0300 on the morning of June 22, 1941. One hundred fifty-four German divisions, 18 Finnish, 14 Rumanian divisions swung into action.
            The story of Stalin’s complete inability to understand that Hitler had turned on him is one of the most amazing stories of this period.  For the first several days after the start of Barbarossa, Stalin remained incommunicado.  His staff, frantic as German divisions raced across Russia, could not reach him. 
            And the story of Hitler, who fixed his mind on something to the exclusion of everything else, wrote his own death sentence.  Imagine if he had maintained his pact with Stalin and concentrated on finishing off England.
            Imagine if the U.S. had remained in isolation and not entered the war.


The next meeting of the History Book Club will be Wednesday, January 30th at 7 p.m., at the Library.  The topic will be China in the 20th Century.


Samuel W. Coulbourn