Happy Birthday to Edgar Allan Poe

Carte de Visite of Edgar Allan Poe

The first author I can ever remember labeling as “one of my favorite authors” was Edgar Allan Poe. I had an enthusiastic 7th grade teacher that loved his worked and her love for him rubbed off on me and as a result I devoured his writings.  It also didn’t hurt that one of my favorite film actors at the time was the delightfully macabre Vincent Price.

I had three favorites among Mr. Price’s numerous film and television credits, House of Wax (1953), House of Usher (1960) and The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), two of which were Poe stories adapted for the screen.

They were so frightening that I can remember having to cover my eyes with my hands and peak through my fingers, while curled up in a ball on my living room sofa….and this was on a sunny Saturday afternoon!

While I read his stories and poems when I was younger, I didn’t learn too much about Poe himself until I was much older. His life was so sad and his death was fittingly mysterious and it breaks my heart that he only attained success after his life had ended.

Today you can find Poe’s work and influence everywhere. His detective C. Auguste Dupin, from “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, inspired future fictional detectives including a pretty famous one, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Poe is also credited with single-handedly inventing the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Mystery!

So today I think I will reread a few of his short stories and poems to celebrate his birthday, which luckily for all of us are available online in e-book form for free! Check out either Amazon or Project Gutenberg for a free download.

And if you liked to read a great fictionalized book about Mr. Poe may I recommend “The Pale Blue Eye” by Louis Bayard.


Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management

I’ve always loved the look, smell and feel of a book as much as its contents. There is nothing quite as satisfying as holding a book and feeling it’s weight in your hands, opening it up and feeling the paper and checking out the type and font.

I don’t just feel this way about new books, but about old books too. I’ve become a collector of old, used and sometimes smelly books. Choosing which books to purchase is a lot of the fun. Without realizing it I’ve made a few rules for myself; it must be something I would want to read, it can’t be too mildewed and it can’t cost more than $50. I do think (no, I KNOW)  I’ve cheated on that last rule a few times, but what the heck they are my own rules!!

One of my favorite purchases, and one of the most expensive at $40, is a 1915 edition of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. I found this gem at our local flea market and I couldn’t believe my luck. I can’t remember the first time I heard of Mrs. Beeton and her famous book, but it had to be while reading a Victorian novel or watching Upstairs Downstairs. I had read her biography and looked up some of the books contents on   Project Gutenberg but I never, ever thought I would be able to snag my own copy!!

It’s a big, fat book with “32 plates in colour and nearly 700 illustrations”, as proclaimed on its title page, and the end papers have old-fashioned ads for Howards’ Bicarbonate of Soda, A1 Sauce and Bumsted’s Salt. The contents are glorious and a peek into what a well-to-do lady needed to know to run a household in 1915. It explains the duties of her housekeeper, the butler and the maids. There are household tips, like napkin folding and how to set a table as well as instructions on what is needed in a modern-day nursery.

There are oodles of little gems in this book  and I doubt that I will ever find them all as there are over 1600 pages, but I never get tired of opening it up to a random page and getting transported back to a different place and time.

Ah, the power of books!!