Thoughts from a Pandit in Switzerland
In searching the Web, Richard McErlean came upon my listing of one of the Mosher books once in Alan Seeger’s personal library, a copy of a Quarto Series Mosher book, Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads–First Series (1904), along with a signed letter from him about the disposition of his library in Boston after his graduation from Harvard. The book is also signed twice by Seeger, once on the front fly leaf and also on p. . The letter is to John Weare of Cambridge whose bookplate graces the front of this volume. Rich telephoned me from Switzerland.
“Do you still have that book signed by Alan Seeger? Might you be interested in selling it?” These and other questions wrapped around the caller’s exposé of collector’s mania and our shared stories revealed what it means to have a passion for collecting. This sudden burst of energy took me by surprise in early July 2005. A young married American living in Switzerland, Richard M. McErlean, Jr. basks in the history and glory of fellow literary American ex patriots now long gone but not forgotten. In addition to his own writing and translating, Rich is totally committed to tracking down and acquiring material on, by, about and in any way relating to Alan Seeger whose fame rests with most of us upon the Word War I poem “I have a Rendezvous with Death.” It became obvious to me that Rich has a passion over Seeger akin to my passion over Mosher–a fellow “chaser of ghosts” as he put it.
As time went along Rich and I have had a number of highly interesting exchanges and he sent me an article he much appreciated on John Baxter and Martin Stone. Baxter wrote A Pound of Paper–The Confessions of a Book Addict and Martin Stone, once a rock guitarist and now a legendary freelance Paris book scout who “enables” Mr. Baxter’s habit, and is called “a shadowy and celebrated figure in the corridors of serious, big-money book collecting” (James Sullivan, Chronicle Pop Culture Critic in the San Francisco Chronicle, 12/13/03). As I explained to Rich, I’ve seen Baxter’s book advertised before but passed on it because it seemed to me another book about how the rich fellow buys a zillion books, pursues his every whim, tells others to “kiss off’ as he pleases, and blah, blah, blah, all of which terribly excites the reading public along with tales of chicanery and misdeeds, not to mention sex. Of course, now knowing a little bit more about Martin Stone and his connection to Rich McErlean, and my own predilection–as is known–toward the business of a raconteur, Baxter’s book comes at me with new force, even though I still feel a tugging in the opposite direction of repulsion.
I think what may lurk behind all this is my unexpressed jealousy over the bounty some folks have to pursue their passion almost without limit. To be able to boast a milti-million dollar collection is, in and of itself, a sure sign that that is a position in which I resignedly will never find myself. If I think about it too long, I begin to lament that I wasn’t born rich, or that I didn’t marry into wealth, or that I didn’t find a way to entice the masses to buy some fancy doodad widget that would catapult me into the realm of the rich, or that my sensitivities won’t allow me to pursue wealth and it’s trappings, and so on. Such is certainly not me. I just have to just plug along trying to find this or that item related to what I view as a most remarkable publishing venture in America, the Mosher Press,–including insight into an extremely rare personality as that of Thomas Bird Mosher. Few, if any, outwardly share my view on the man or on the press, and in many instances I’m berated, if not right out castigated, in pursuing this Mosher stuff with such unyielding tenacity. With wealth I could thumb my nose at the lot of them, but without it I have to carefully choose my steps and movements much like crossing a swiftly flowing stream by means of light-footed scampering atop the exposed rocks.
I find myself practicing and honing my collecting skills as though I was a man of means. Luckily, I’ve pursued an area almost everybody thinks is a bunch of claptrap. I say luckily because I’d never be able to complete head on with the likes of a John Baxter, a Michael Zinman, a Barry Humpnries, a Mark Samuels Lasner (God bless him), or other such contemporary heavyweights. For me the luck of it all has to do with being furtive, unnoticed in a field of voracious deep-pocketed collectors, tinkering with a subject nobody seems to care about and therefore abandoned like the old mining camps of the West. When gold was there you’d have to be a tough hombre to compete. The book gold is what the hyped issues of Rare Book Review report. The rest is perceived to be non-consequential (they might not intentionally wish that, but that’s the result or so it is as I see it). But amidst the desert brambles and tumbling weed of a long deserted past, I keep my beady eyes open for those little strewn-about treasures which somehow seem to strike a sympathetic, altogether resonant chord in me. Without this barren displacement in the book world, I’d find myself superseded, overcome, and trumped at every turn of the way. I’ve often told one of my friends, a wonderful private press books collector, “thank god you don’t limit yourself to collecting Mosher; otherwise my efforts would be all for not given your buying power.” It’s the absolute truth.
Anyway, I suppose the above is partly why I’ve backed off reading Baxter’s A Pound of Paper in the past (another reason plainly being that I’m not at all entranced by modern first editions), but I now feel a little more inclined to get myself a copy if for no other reason than it’s instructional value–sans all the crud about how fortunate I am to have all this M-O-N-E-Y which permeates the story no matter how hard one wishes to disregard it. That permutation nettles me to distraction. My issue, not Baxter’s.
Of course, if I win the lottery–which would even be more remarkable than can be imagined since I don’t even play the lottery–then I’ll happily read all the with-money-I-can-collect-everything books you put in front of me in the wee hours of the morning when I’m not acquiring another book for one of my hundreds of collections–after social / societal obligations have been met, of course. Such are my biases given a self-understanding of my pecuniary situation, but I digress. On second thought, why the heck not! So let the reader prepare for a little more digression–in fact, the whole of this essay might become just one BIG digression!.
At one point Rich and I were discussing one of the most fascinating newspaper obituaries I’ve ever rested my eyes upon. It’s from the early 1930’s and is concerned with the death of one James Stewart Carstairs. The obituary is headed: “J.S. Carstairs Dies of Sleeping Potion–Artist and Collector, 40, Was Embittered When Treasures Brought Only $7,000 at Sale.” Like the obit on Charles Ditmas, Harvard’s Keeper of Clocks on which I wrote an essay back in the March 2002 issue of Endpapers, this Carstairs obit grabbed hold of me and just wouldn’t let go. The opening paragraph of the September 21, 1932 New York Times was ample enticement:
James Stewart Carstairs, noted artist and collector, died yesterday penniless and embittered. His death ended an unequal struggle between an aesthetic soul and unaccustomed poverty.
Authorities found empty bottles of a sleep-inducing drug which Carstairs apparently used to commit suicide. He was born into family money, but lost it all during the depression. Selling his furniture and book collections turned out to be a huge mistake and he only recouped pennies on the dollar, and lamented that they “sat on the bed of Charles II, which I wouldn’t let any one so much as touch, and bought my fifty-seven first editions of Anatole France for $32.” He was wrecked both financially and as an artist, and the lines of most portent still capture hold of my imagination:
I shall not… in order to nauseate myself with bad food and live in mediocre squalor, enter a profession that will bore me to death. Unless I find a congenial occupation I prefer to destroy myself. Having been ruined as an artist, I am of no use to the world [any] longer, so it does not matter.”
Poor, poor Stewart. Unlike the settled and quite content, mission oriented Charles Ditmas, Mr. Carstairs couldn’t find rest in his present circumstances and so ended it all. I could say much more about this, but ’tis enough to set the stage for a most creative and thoughtful response Rich McLean would make to my reaction to John Baxter & Co.:
I forwarded your email to email@example.com and this was his reply:
Thank you for the e-mail from the land of material things. Ah, I remember it well. This is my first e-mail ever; I was beginning to wonder if I would ever receive one! Am I really that forgotten?
Immortality– it’s overrated anyway. All the so-called immortals I know up here were miserable when they were alive and the rest of them live in the deep deep south, as we call it up here.
Tell me, I thought you sent Phil my obituary… he knows how to read in between the lines, right?
By the way, did he notice how many wives that rogue —-, Mr. ——- has had? Please tell Phil there is a price for everything. Tell him we don’t actually possess anything, it possesses us. And the wise find balance.
Take it from me I learned the hard way… And didn’t F. Scott Fitzgerald once write: “the victor belongs to the spoils”?
Please send my best to Phil and let him know that his love for Mosher is what counts, not how many Shakespeare and Co. copies of Ulysses he can buy before he joins me… here, on the other side.
Best wishes for a happy life.
From the great beyond, I remain,
Gawd… What a precious response. How incredibly inventive, and even “other wordly,” and how welcome is this from a fellow I’m pleased to call friend across the Atlantic, but read on for yet further collecting connections I’ve had with Rich McErlean.
Two with the Paris / Switzerland Connection
Over the April 29-May 1, 2005 weekend Sue and I attended the major ABAA show in Manhattan where I acquired two Mosher books in fine bindings. The first is a miniature version of The Poems of Master François Villon of Paris (Mosher, 1900, including the omitted lines). This is reasonably large, about 7 1/2″ x 6″, and Ron Cozzi of Old Editions Book Shop out of Buffalo, NY is same dealer who sold me the Villon’s Poems in much smaller format, about 5 3/8″ x 3 3/4″, but bound the same. The spine is gilt stamped: François / Villon / [rule] / Stevenson, and contains both the François Villon, Student, Poet, and Housebreaker as well as A Lodging for the Night: A Story of François Villon, both from the Brocade Series. It uses exactly the same leather in the same color, and is tooled in identical fashion. It’s just that one looks like the momma, and the other the baby. The two were obviously meant to be together, and so I’m delighted to reunite mother and son in the Mosher collection.
More importantly, however, Sue actually found a Mosher book in full high polished leather “bound by Zahnesdorf for A.C. McClurg & Co.” on a third edition of Andrew Lang’s English translation of Aucassin & Nicolete (Portland, ME: Thomas B. Mosher, 1899) with the inscription / notation: in one hand at upper right hand corner of endpaper: “from / Catherine S.E.” and in another hand: “Elsie Porter / Paris / December 1901.” The writing of one or the other segment is probably in the hand of Elsie Porter. I find this intriguing because:
- Elsie’s father was Horace Porter (1837-1921) from Huntington, PA who had a distinguished family lineage dating back to the Revolutionary War, and who himself was General Grant’s Aide de Camp in VA and Grant’s secretary for 20 years, the gentleman who raised the funds to build Grant’s tomb, and who discovered the body of John Paul Jones in Paris and had JPJ’s body shipped back to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD where it was interred in the chapel. He was also the Ambassador to France from 1897-1905. The family moved in all sorts of high ranking circles and even Mark Twain gave a talk at the Lotus Club in Horace Porter’s honor.
- Elsie Porter married Edwin Mende (the son of Dr. Mende from Switzerland) in 1905. The Mende residence is in Bern, Switzerland. Elsie also wrote the book on her father entitled An American Soldier and Diplomat Horace Porter in collaboration with Henry Greenleaf Pearson (NY: Frederick Stokes, 1927). For more information on Horace Porter and his daughter Elsie, one can find many listings using Google.
So Elsie first owned this copy of Aucassin & Nicolete in Paris, and then most assuredly took it along to her new residence in Switzerland. I bought the volume from a British dealer, John Head of Sallisbury whose stock is mostly antiquarian sporting books, so he had little interest in the book, but surprisingly it was prominently displayed in his booth open to the title page. I thought this interesting given that a Paris-Switzerland connection prominently figured in the story of another binding purchase I previously made following an e-mail from Rich McErlean involving a copy of The Poetical Works of Oscar Wilde (Mosher, 1908) “from the library of a princess” in England nonetheless, and involving the very same amazing Martin Stone I mentioned in passing with regard to John Baxter!
Back on February 14th I got an e-mail from Rich McErlean expressing excitement over something that had recently occurred. While sitting at a Paris outdoor café and trading book stories with the incomparable Martin Stone, a book was handed over to Rich. Martin Stone told him what he wanted for the book and said it was for your American friend who collects Mosher. When Martin and Rich met prior to this in Paris, Rich shared my Mosher Press Wants List with him. Amazingly, Martin proceeded to tell Rich quite a bit about Mosher and enthusiastically took up the challenge to find this American collector something on his list. Of course I was delighted to read Rich’s report of that earlier meeting, although not very hopeful that Martin Stone would turn up something in Paris of all places–well, one just had to remember that anything can be found anywhere!
My wife and I had just returned in February from a two-week cruise in the Caribbean–Sue’s in tourism and so we get some breaks from time to time–and I downloaded this excited set of e-mails, first tantalizingly brief and suggestive with single phrase like: “back from Paris with one more book then when I left… and it’s a Mosher from Martin Stone…” to which I replied:
Some little feller is getting to be a smarty pants and likes to bait a poor bloke like moi–getting back at me for those recently sent cryptic lines of my own. Well what on earth could you possibly have… another Mosher book from Seeger’s one-time stash? Or be it bait for the one Seeger-signed Mosher here at the Bishopric? You cast your five-word line, and now the bibliofishy swims about the twitching phrase on the collector’s surface. Master caster thou art, but are you prepared to steadily hold the line without so much as a nibble?
and “… it’s for you, of course…. if you would like it, however, I fear you may be disappointed…. (I’m having fun playing like this, so indulge me) It once belonged to a Princess.” Now he really had my attention, and I was beginning to rummage around my memory for anything or anyone that was connection to Mosher or the Mosher Press who was a “princess.” Good heavens! Elizabeth? Margaret? Dianna? Grace? What about Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge? Before long Rich gave up the game and spilled the beans:
Here you go Phil! I’m very excited about this, but also know it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to find something to impress you. So, I won’t get too excited. Anyway, I hope you won’t be disappointed. I looked earlier and saw you already have a fine copy, but this is to be expected. After all, what do you get the man who has everything?
This book comes from the private collection of Princess Clara Elizabeth (PRENTICE-HUNTINGTON) von HATZFELDT. The binding is signed Hatchard’s 187 Piccadilly. Martin apologizes for not finding a book on your list, but thought this one might interest you because of its interesting provenance and art nouveau full morocco binding. The only real weakness is the binding on the front board. It is very fragile. It is still attached but very tender, inside and out. So… what do you think? (I’m cringing as I ask this… fingers crossed.)
The JPEG picture Rich attached to the e-mail showed a green, nicely tooled copy of Oscar Wilde‘s Poetical Works published by Mosher in 1908, but the ravages of time were not kind: the front hinge appeared to be cracked. In response I expressed some reservations in that I’m particularly fastidious about my Mosher books in leather bindings, and I think I may have inadvertently burst Rich’s bubble. I had questions. How much? Further description? Did he already buy it? and so on. After doing a quick bit of research, I found out that Princess Clara Elizabeth van Hatzefeldt was actually born an American and died in 1928, with the following brief bio data:
Name: Clara Elizabeth PRENTICE-HUNTINGTON
Marriage: Married Prince Franz Edmund Joseph Gabriel Vitus von Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg, a.k.a., Francis HATZFELDT, 28 Oct 1889, Kensington, co. Middlesex [now Greater London], England
Name after marriage: Princess Clara Elizabeth (Prentice-Huntington) von HATZFELDT
Birth: 1860, Sacramento, Sacramento Co., CA
Death: 17 Dec 1928
Biological Father: Edwin D. PRENTICE
Biological Mother: Clara STODDARD
Adoptive Father: Collis Potter HUNTINGTON
Adoptive Mother: Elizabeth Stillman STODDARD, sister of Clara (Stoddard) Prentice
After yet another volley of e-mails, with one from Rich which was truly touching. Responding to my decision making “out loud,” he wrote back:
I’m smiling as I write this. As you know, I was excited to have found something (something is already something, right?), but I already anticipated your reaction. What pleased me more than anything else was having unearthed a book, and a nice looking book at that. Also I was happy to see that Martin is actively looking and this is a good thing. Most of all, it was fun to send off the scans and hope there would be something about it that would make you happy. Plain and simple, it’s just fun to hunt and help. The idea of a trade never crossed my mind. That’s the truth and I want you to know that.
What appeals to me is the possibility of adding to your collection. At this stage in the game I would consider that an accomplishment! The way it came about was when I called Martin to meet for a coffee, he told me he’d picked up a Mosher and wasn’t sure if you’d like it, because of the condition and because it wasn’t on your list. When we met he gave it to me and told me to share it with you: If you wanted to buy it, he said I should send it to you and then bring him the money the next time I come back to Paris. Or, if you decided it wasn’t for you, to bring back the book. It was a very friendly, very informal kind of a thing, like kids and marbles.
The thing with collectors is this- a guy has his criteria and sometimes the thing doesn’t fit them, but there’s something else about the thing, something you never expected that catches the collector’s eye, or interest, and he takes it for that. The alternative I had here was to tell Martin, nah, let’s not bother, only to get back here, send you an email and have you zap me a mail saying, what, are you nuts? I’ve been looking for that book in a green leather binding for years! (or something similar and unexpected).
I really enjoy hunting Mosher for you. It’s a true pleasure, otherwise I wouldn’t get so excited about it. My goal is to find you something someday that will knock you off your chair. I want to do that, and not for any other reason than to have scored a find for you. I’m sure you feel the same way about finding me a Seeger. It’s the thrill, it’s the challenge, it’s the rush, it’s what makes us tick– and it’s fun! The hunt continues…
He wanted 100 Euros for it. I’ll just bring it back with me on my next trip to Paris in about a month. No harm, no foul, just two guys passing books across the table and telling book stories in a smoke-filled café on the left bank.
It was fun, though, hunting for you. You never know what might show up next.
That did it. I decided that the most prudent course of action to take was to buy the book even if the front hinge was very tender. I could think of it as a kind of peace pipe offering to Martin Stone and thought it’s IMPORTANT that he found something (it’s rare enough that anybody really looks for me), and since we weren’t talking about vast sums here, it could possibly turn out to be a wise investment for the future. Martin would have at least some meager incentive to continue the search, and I’d make my Switzerland friend happy that the book would go into the Mosher collection. I contacted Rich and said let’s proceed. I think he expected that I’d reject the book after all my grumbling, but I told him that the primary reason why I did the flip-flop was because I simply stepped back from the tree to look at the forest. The tree = the binding; the forest = the good done by purchasing rather than passing. So now we had to work out the particulars, and again I’d be surprised by the response.
Not only would Rich not accept a finder’s fee, but he didn’t even want me to send him the money of the book. “I consider you a friend” he said, “and I have a thing about accepting money from friends. I don’t do it.” Now I’ve rarely ever encountered a reaction like that, so I was wondering how I was going to proceed in acquiring the book. What would he propose?
The answer came swiftly and assuredly. Rich suggested that I send the money to his sister in Yardley, PA for her birthday. “The check would be my gift to her and the friendly discount on the friendly discount Martin offered me would make me feel like everybody does well here.” Do well? Heavens! The whole things was becoming more charming by the moment. I agreed to his “terms” and he had his wife pack the book and sent off to the States. I couldn’t help asking Rich “are you for real?” to which he replied, in part: “life is too short to count the favors and the money, and in the end it’s a zero sum game, so why not make people happy? And books? Well, as the late J.S. Carstairs discovered so tragically, they are only paper. So why not have fun with them?” My path had indeed intersected with a rare spirit just as it had before when I “met” the Canadians Dick Fredeman or Jim Earl via the Internet. What a highly unusual situation, and what a creative response for payment. I couldn’t wait to see the book which had been the object of all this discussion and confluence of surrounding human activity. The book was growing in “value” as we spoke!
Rich had actually proposed that I send a check for $100 to his sister, but the exchange rate brought it to $130 which I insisted on sending to her. I also asked for one more small favor: a note in Rich’s hand indicating where the book was received and from whom. Of course Rich readily and quite willingly agreed to this, reminding me that Martin Stone also “signed’ the book with his characteristic form of notation indicating the book passed through his hands at one point. By February 18th the book was on its merry way across the European Continent and Atlantic Ocean, but another surprise was in store for both Rich and me.
True to my word, at the same time I sent a check to Rich’s sister in Yardley, but in unison with his own kind gestures and thoughtfulness I prepared to likewise inject a little fantasy into my side of the equation. I had found a card with the picture of Edward Robert Hughes’ painting “Midsummer Eve” showing a young girl looking down on a ring of little fairies and forest elves all holding lantern-like glow-lights which collectively illumine the young girl‘s face and figure. Enchanting is the word to describe it, and I printed off an insert using Vivaldi type to tip into the card:
On behalf of your brother, Rich McErlean, I’m sending this token of his esteem and well wishes for your upcoming birthday in March.
Rich wanted you to have this in lieu of a payment I’d otherwise be making directly to him for a book from the library of a princess. Perhaps “princess” reminded him of you, so he asked that I directly send you the enclosed.
Think of “Midsummer Eve” by Edward Robert Hughes as the Elfin & Fairy version of a birthday cake’s candles aglow. They’re holding a special party for a very special guest who, without much imagination, could possibly be you.
So about the time I’d receive the Oscar Wilde, Erin would be receiving the card from Rich through me. I couldn’t wait to hear her about her reaction through Rich.
Via the UPS tracking system I watched the steady progress of Oscar over the sea and its entry into Philadelphia on February 22. I checked the same tracking site the next day and BINGO… it showed that the package was delivered. Yeah, right! Nothing had been delivered here to my house. After numerous calls to UPS, their insisting that the package was delivered at 10:10 AM, my equal instance that it was not delivered to its intended recipient, we finally had a resolution. At 5:10 PM one of the ubiquitous brown trucks pulled up and lay the package against my front door. Finally! I opened the package, but hesitated when I saw the book.
As feared, the front cover didn’t survive the shipment and was now totally detached from the book and its binding. It was to be expected though, especially since as in many of Hatchard’s bindings, the leather is excessively thin and the cords are minuscule so there is no strength (poor binding execution in my estimation–a common problem with many British bindings of the early 1900’s even though they are beautiful when intact). Add to this the problem that the leather of the spine is directly affixed to the spine of the signatures so tightly that there appears to be no way to even reback the book without destroying the panels. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. As I said, though, I was looking at the book’s purchase as an installment toward much better things Martin Stone could possibly turn up. Watch now, this will turn out to be the last Mosher thing he finds. Oh well, so the game goes.
I e-mailed Rich who was “both shocked and devastated,” and even “horrified” to learn of the book’s misfortune. He indicated that he was perhaps even more disappointed than I was, in that “I’d hoped so much to make you happy, and in the end the result seems to have done all but that.”
We were both a bit down in the dumps.
Then on March 7th I got another surprise connected with this saga. The card and check I mailed to Rich’s sister arrived back to me marked as “not deliverable as addressed and unable to forward.” Good heavens! I had written “Maple Drive” and it was actually “Maplevale Drive.” Still one would have thought the post office workers could have easily figured it out, but no. This explained to Rich why she hadn’t said anything (I was wondering too) and he was “just about to give her a stern talking to about appreciating her big brother’s generosity!” Look, no use crying over spilt milk, and since her birthday was actually the next day, I sealed the letter and its original envelope inside an overnight delivery envelope and sent it again. Low and behold it was delivered on March 8th, ON HER BIRTHDAY, and Rich reported that she is “thrilled with the card, it arrived right on time and made her day. They [his mother & sister] both absolutely loved the card and the text, so I thank you very much. Mission accomplished.” Yes!
And what ever happened to the Oscar Wilde? Well, it was sent to a superb book restorer in Florida and there the cover was painstakingly re-attached to the spine with all the tooling carefully restored. It’s amazing what can be done with enough time, money and a conservator’s expertise. Now the book is back here and sets on the Mosher shelves along with its other compatriots in fine bindings, and laid in is the little note in Rich McErlean’s hand:
At 530 p. on Saturday Feb 12, 2–5 in the Café Danton, 103 Boulevanrd St. Germain, Paris, I accepted this book on behalf of the Mosher collector, Phil Bishop, from the book scout Martin Stone. The book comes from the library of the late Princes Hatzfeldt. It is with great pleasure that I pass it on to Mr. Bishop.
Richard M. McErlean, Jr.
Feb 17 2–5
It’s now with pride that I point to this volume in the showcase especially knowing what this poor Oscar volume has been through. When I got the book back I e-mailed Rich an JPEG photo of the results, but surprisingly didn’t hear from him. Some time before all of this took place Rich once asked me if I only had a minute or two to save any Mosher material from a disaster like fire or flood, which few items would I save. Regrettably, Rich would find out first hand how he actually would react to such a situation. He didn’t respond to the Oscar Wilde photo I e-mailed him because his family, books and computer were involved in a fire which stared next door in a restaurant, and with what little time he had, he quickly got his family out and took an armful of material relating to his first and foremost passion–Alan Seeger. Seven books in all. Behind, an entire shelf of signed, rare, and first editions of Fitzgeralds, Hemingways, and Toni Morrisons all destroyed to one degree or another. This was painful to read once he regained some Internet contact with the outside world, and I’m still not sure how to respond outside of encouragement. “It sometimes seems like only the good are afflicted” someone once told me, and although that isn’t necessarily so, it does appear that some good folks receive more than their fair share of misfortune. Rich and family are slowly picking up the pieces and getting things back to “normal” but it isn’t easy. He is beginning to accomplish important tasks like translation work, editing, writing an introduction, and readying his own second volume of poetry for publication. But I still get messages like “on Tuesday (90 degrees) I spent the entire day up to my knees in ashes and rubble, digging through a dumpster looking for a personal journal from 1995” which he never did find. What would I save if I only had a few minutes to react?–a question I hope I never have to test in the real world.
Martin Stone, Rich McErlean, two more names added to the list of fascinating folks I’ve met on account of Mosher. The stories behind some of the books collected are truly amazing, even to me who’s experiences them first hand. What’s even more impressive, however, is to find those rare spirits which whom one “clicks” and whom one my call “friend.” Rich is a fascinating fellow, and like his ex-patriot predecessor, Alan Seeger, certainly destined to some measure of immortality. of course unlike Seeger, I wish him a full, lengthy, and rewarding life even though at present the chips are down. I also remain amazed that there should have been not one, but two Mosher books now in the Mosher collection with a Swiss-French connection. Curious how things play out. Connections, connections, connections…
© Philip R. Bishop
30 June 2005
This essay is Copyright © by Philip R. Bishop. Permission to reproduce the above article has been granted by Gordon Pfeiffer, president of the Delaware Bibliophiles and editor of that organization’s newsletter, Endpapers, in which the article appeared in the September 2005 issue. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without expressed written permission from both parties.
Letters and extracts quoted from Rich McErlean are done so with his permission.