Poems on Several Occasions, vol. 1 (John Gay, 1720)

A collection of several long-form poems, mostly pastoral, several comic. “The Shepherd’s Week”, a poem in six parts (Monday through Saturday), is the centerpiece of the book. It deals with the loves and jealousies of country farmers in a humorous manner. Each day is handsomely illustrated by a full-page woodcut (1775 edition). The longest poem, however, is in three parts and is titled “Trivia”. It covers all the diverse people and events one might see when walking about London on foot, in summer and winter, day and night. This is the only non-pastoral piece and it’s also in an entirely serious tone, aside from a few satirical jabs at the wealthy. But my favorite was the last work, a “tragi-comi-pastoral farce” titled “The What D’Ye Call It”. It begins with a prose scene of the decidedly non-professional writer, director, and actors preparing to stage the play, which I first thought was only to lampshade the absurdities of the production (which at one point introduces an “embryo ghost”), but there’s a great twist at the end that ties it all together.

I have volume 2 as well and will read it eventually (and so I have), but not right now. I like to visit the 18th century from time to time, but I don’t care to stay long.

Inscription: An ex libris plate is pasted on the inside front cover. It’s the coat of arms of Sir G. Graham Montgomery, Baronet of Stanhope. There’s a shield on which stands a robed woman holding an anchor in one hand and a severed head in the other. Below it are the words “Garde Bien”.

The Vanishing American (Zane Grey, 1925)

Nophaie is a Pahute Indian who was kidnapped at a young age and sent to school in the East. Now that he’s returned West to his people, he struggles reconciling his culturally white upbringing and his Indian heritage, particularly in matters of faith. He intellectually cannot bring himself to believe in the Pahute animist religion, but neither can he accept Christianity, which he associates with being inherently white. It doesn’t help that the Christian figurehead in the region sets a poor example. The Pahute suffer under the missionary Morgan, who, far from being interested in spreading the faith, wishes only to consolidate his power and enrich himself. Also complicating Nophaie’s life is Marian Warner. They went to school together and fell in love, but Marian is white, and such miscegenation would not be supported by either’s relations. Still, she follows Nophaie to the desert.

In the aftermath of World War I, the Pahutes’ condition becomes dire. The price of wool, their primary trade, plummets. Morgan has stolen most of their land, and more, their water rights. They are overworked and starving, and when the Spanish Influenza arrives, they die in droves. Nophaie, who had fought and sustained serious injury in the war, is not spared. As he nears death, he realizes that the “God of Indian and white man” is universal and the same, but the Indians’ days are numbered and they will soon vanish in the face of the whites’ onslaught.

Inscription: On the back of the frontispiece in smudged green ink is a signature that’s very difficult to decipher, but I think it’s Maymie Fitzpatrick.

I Can Get It for You Wholesale (Jerome Weidman, 1937)

A self-hating Jew goes into the garment manufacturing business, screws over his partners and sends one to prison for the embezzlement that he in fact carried out himself, all in an attempt to buy an actress enough luxuries that she’ll sleep with him.

It’s a slight story that doesn’t seem to have been all that planned out. I believe Weidman was making it up as he wrote. It’s peppered with vulgar language and slurs, but you know, it really didn’t bother me, because it reads for all the world like a kid awkwardly trying to sound edgy. It’s too juvenile to be offensive.

Inscriptions: an ex libris plate is pasted on the inside front cover. It shows a stylized Viking ship, under which is the name Folmer Sorensen.

Lewis Rand (Mary Johnson, 1908)

In Virginia in the 1790s, Lewis Rand breaks from the tobacco planter life his father had intended for him to become a lawyer. He rises quickly in his field, and aided by his friend Thomas Jefferson, his political future in the Democratic-Republican party seems assured. He and Jacqueline Churchill fall in love and marry, much to the consternation of her Federalist family, and especially so to Ludwell Cary, who had hoped to marry her himself.

Rand falls under the spell of Aaron Burr and enlists in the conspiracy to establish an empire in the West. Before he takes the final step and ruins not only his own life but Jacqueline’s as well, Cary challenges him to a duel — the goal being to delay him long enough that the scheme unravels before Rand becomes too involved, and that’s just what happens.

Rand blames his foiled ambitions on Cary, and in a blind rage, kills him. There’s nothing that links Rand to the crime, and indeed he manages to establish a fairly convincing alibi. He escapes justice for several months, but Jacqueline’s pressing and his own conscious eventually lead to Rand giving himself up.

No inscriptions.