Serendipity ~ Milton, Dante & Oscar Wilde

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paradiselostLast week at work, I was filling some of our displays at the library and as usual I got a little sidetracked looking at the books. You’d think I’d be jaded by now, but no. I can’t remember what book I was looking at, but I remembered that Meljean Brook wrote the first in her Guardian series, while taking a graduate class in Milton. I had been thinking that I needed to read it, because I haven’t and this time last year, I was reading Moby Dick so why am I being such a slouch?  I wondered off in the direction of Milton, to see if we had decent copy of Paradise Lost. I should have known that we did, because I ordered it. Ooops. It is a really nice copy with an introduction by Phillip Pullman. His Dark Materials comes from somewhere in Milton and I loved those books, so reason #2 to read it. Reason #3 – I heard an interesting piece by the author of Beowulf on the Beach and he was singing the praises of Paradise Lost even though he thought Milton was not really a nice person. The only problem was that I passed the copies of Dante’s Inferno on the way to Milton and somehow thought I couldn’t possibly read Paradise Lost without reading Dante, too. Well, um, it made sense at the time.

Then, I was feeling bad for this book called Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde. I thought this book sounded fascinating, but it had been sitting on my display for weeks, so I took it home. I don’t know that much about Wilde, so maybe this is common knowledge, but while Wilde was in prison, the entire contents of his home were sold at auction. It was heartbreaking to read the introduction to the book especially the sale of his library which was quite extensive. Here’s part of the description of the sale:

Extremely personal items were auctioned off, such as first editions of Wilde’s works that he had inscribed to his wife builtbooksand two sons. Wilde especially lamented the loss of his sumptuous editions de luxe, and the ‘collection of presentation volumes’ he had received from ‘almost every poet of my time’. He also deeply regretted the dispersal of the ‘beautifully bound editions of’ his father’s and mother’s works’, and the ‘wonderful array’ of ‘book prizes’ that had been awarded to him as a student.

They even sold his manuscripts. It all seems like a booklovers worst nightmare.


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