Thursday, 1 September 2011

Happy is the man that hath a sister

"Happy is the man who has that hath a Sister, that who with her tender lover and care, cheers him ever on thro' the intricate paths of life. And thrice happy is he to be able to recall the day on which she came into this world to bless him with a sight of her dear dear face".

How joyful am I my Sister
To congratulate thee "This day".
For thy love to me my Sister;
Has been a sweet solace and stay.

For my dear Sister Lizzie
on her birthday. 23rd August 1875.
Edmund C Hemming.

In handing antiquarian books, you occasionally run into personal memorabilia that give a glimpse into the lives of their long-dead owners. I just ran into the above dedication (click to enlarge) in an undated Gall & Inglis hardback edition of the collected works of Longfellow.

By modern standards it's over-the-top, if not creepy. But the the Victorians, despite their reputation for uptightness, could swing to the intensely sentimental. The dedication is written on a piece of high-quality notepaper with an impressive interlaced relief monogram "ECH", pasted on to the first page of the book, what must have been an expensive edition with a tooled and gilded cover.

I don't know the provenance of the book, but the names and date are probably specific enough to trace from census data who Edmund and Lizzie were.

- Ray

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