The words used to fill this mother with dread. The intention was good but when everything was pulled out, long-forgotten treasures would be found and played with. Later the good housekeeping would be forgotten and I would be left with a messy pile on the floor.
I’ve just had my own “toy cupboard” experience, but in this instance it was four shelves in a glass-fronted bookcase.
All my books, poetry and classics, and so himself would have no say in the operation. Then he decided that he was going to read Pathfinder by Fenimore Cooper. He won’t – he’s already declared that it’s old-fashioned. He has also picked out My Lady of the Chimney Corner, solely because it is dedicated to “Lady Gregory and the Players of the Abbey Theatre Dublin.”(He has since declared that it’s awful with stage Irish dialogue.)
“There’s a gey good smell from yer pot, Anna, what haave ye in it th’day?
Oh, jist a few sheep’s trotters and a when of nettles.
Who gathered th’nettles?
Did th’ sting bad, me baughal?
Dis no, not aany. I put m’ Dah’s socks on m’ hans.”
However, the toy cupboard revealed its treasures, some long forgotten.
In Sheridan’s plays I learn that The Rivals was first performed at Covent Garden Theatre in 1775 and the performance lasted five hours. Presumably there were no long queues for the loos in those days as there were no loos. I also see that I have the best binding, leather, round corners and gilt top, that the publishers of Everyman’s Library, J M Dent, offer.
My all-time favourite has to be The thousand best poems in the world. True there are contributions from Browning, Tennyson, Southey, etc, but the rest? Many angel babies and weeping mothers. Over the hill to the poor house tells of the old woman (she’s seventy) unwanted by the children she’d reared with such devotion. There is a sequel Over the hill from the poor house in which the black-sheep son, having made his fortune, rescues his mother. In There’s but one pair of stockings to mend tonight the stockings belong to the husband, but his wife remembers with sadness when the work basket was full with the children’s hosiery, all gone, some as angels. I see these poems were appreciated by a previous owner who has listed them in the back.
In the Classical Dictionary, my grandfather’s I see, I learn that Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, was slain my Achilles. I doubt she’ll come up in a Zoom quiz.
The volume of G K Chesterton’s poems falls open at Outline of History: “I have seen a statue in a London square/ One whose long-winded lies are long forgot.” No comment.
Then there are the slips of paper that fall out of the books: a postcard from Guernsey posted in 1979; a list of books on reincarnation; a card made for a sick mother from, as if she didn’t know, her son.
So, yes, I ended up with a messy pile on the floor. Again there was no one to help put my treasures back. The glass doors are closed. The good news: there’s not one pair of stockings to mend tonight for my lady of chimney corner.