Thursday, December 31, 2009


Today's find at the local antique store, for your viewing pleasure ( but not offered for sale).

A hard-to-find 1948 edition of Hearts-Ease:Herbs For the Heart by Mrs. C.F. Leyel, founder of The Herb Society of the United Kingdom.

I especially love the dedication:

This book is dedicated to the memory of Viscount Plumer, who died at the end of the last war. His personal influence created considerable sympathy for herbalists. As Chairman of the Society of Herbalists, he greatly helped the work of Culpeper House, notably in persuading the House of Lords to amend the Pharmacy Act of 1941. The unamended bill would have deprived Herbalists of privileges bestowed by Henry VIII, and Lord Plumer's amendments made the Act, as finally passed, not quite so damaging.

After Mrs. Leyel studied the work of the famous herbalist Nicolas Culpeper, she founded both the Society of Herbalists and the Culpeper shops. The Society maintained its rooms over the Shops on the upper floors primarily for treatment of patients, mixing the necessary herbal medicines on the ground floor. In addition to medicinal herbs, the Culpeper Shops also sold culinary and aromatic herbs.

The services of Mrs. Leyel's friend Viscount Plumer came into play in 1941, when the devastating Pharmacy Act was passed (middle of World War II and the House of Lords was worried about British herbalists, it boggles the mind).

For the next 27 years, the only legal way to obtain herbal treatment in the United Kingdom was to be a member of the Society of Herbalists, now known as The Herb Society.

The cover features the common pansy, and is elaborated on in the introduction:

The affection of the English people for this flower can be measured by its familiar names: 'Leap up and kiss me', 'Call me to you', 'Hearts Pansy', and "Kiss me at the garden gate'.

Shakespeare called it 'Love in Idleness' and 'Cupid's Flower', and in Elizabethan days there seems to have been a prevalent idea that a pansy actually carried the dart of Cupid.

Sir William Bulleyn, another Tudor writer, says: 'Pray God, give the but a handful of heavenly Heartsease, which passes all the pleasant flowers that grow in the world'.

The pansy, though only a herbal simple, has gained the name of Hearts-Ease, because it tranquillizes and puts the Heart at Ease.

One other line from the introduction stands out, as true today as it was in 1948:

This mania for standarizing medicines has done more to retard the development of experimental work on natural remedies than anything else.

Included are fourteen separate indexes: General, Botanical, Familiar Names, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Arabian, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Malayan, and Sanscrit.

While this prized edition goes on the shelf next to my other herbal books, I'm still searching for Mrs. Leyel's other volumes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fiddle Dee Dee

With a total disregard for political correctness, today is the 70th anniversary of the premier of one of my most favorite movies.

Growing up with Southern grandparents who referred to The War as if it happened last week, and who would casually mention Cousin Tunis who died in The Wretched North in a prisoner-of-war camp (100 years previously), there was no way for me to avoid Gone With the Wind.

There was no way for Margaret Mitchell to avoid writing it either -she a child of the South herself, much closer to that generation than I would ever be.

"So that day when I sat down to write I did not have to bother about my background for it had been with me my whole life. The plot, the characters, etc, had not been with me. That day I thought I would write a story of a girl who was somewhat like Atlanta - part of the old South; part of the new South; [how] she rose with Atlanta and fell with it, and how she rose again. What Atlanta did to her; what she did to Atlanta - and the man who was more than a match for her. It didn't take me any time to get my plot and characters. They were there and I took them and set them against the background which I knew as well as I did my own background." Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" Letters: 1936-1949, Introduction, page xxxi ;Richard Harwell, Editor

There were initially 50,000 copies printed in May, 1936. This is a first edition copy, sold for a then unheard-of-price of $3.00 (approximately $45 in today's dollar). Bootleg copies of the book sold in Europe for $60.00 ($670.00 today) even though anyone found possessing the book in Nazi-occupied countries was shot.

Within six months, at the height of the Great Depression, over one million copies had sold. Eventually, GWTW would be translated into 40 languages, sold in 50 countries, and today, has sold over 30 million copies. A facsimile copy was published in 1964 (centennial of the Civil War), and is identical in every aspect, except for the 1964 copyright.

Obscure GWTW trivia: Seventy years ago tonight, the 1939 film premiered at the Loews Grand Theater in Atlanta, attended by most of the glamourous cast members, and anyone else who could get their hands on a ticket. An old black and white photo of the pre-movie presentation shows a children's choir that includes a six-year-old boy. The old saying about justice rolling down like water surely came full circle that night. The little boy was none other than Martin Luther King Jr., singing with his church choir, in a theatre which refused to seat Hattie McDaniel with her white co-stars.

Monday, December 7, 2009

This Most Balmy Time...

There is nothing finer than waking up each morning to a Shakespearean sonnet.


Sonnet CVII.
Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;

Incertainties now crown themselves assured
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes:
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent.

Translation, in brief:

Love will conquer all.

Love will outlast any chaos, any tragedy.

Love is worth more than any title, any statue, any amount of money.

See? Nothing better than Shakespeare-in-the-morning.

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