Weekly photo challenge: Lost in the detail

This week I borrowed a library book, Poésies de F. Coppée, less for the poetry than for the detail in the book’s production.   It packages poems like treasure.  What you can’t tell from the photos below is that this book is just 10 x 16cm, fits nicely in one hand and is surprisingly heavy – 330 grams!  If this is how poetry was published in Paris in 1871, I’d like to travel back in time to Alphonse Lemerre, Editeur, if ever I’m wanting a book published.  And if this happens, you’ll know my book when you see it on the shelves in your favourite bookshop;  it will look just like this:

‘Poésies de F. Coppée’, pp. 6, 7

54 great opening lines: 12

Of late years, an abundant shower of curates has fallen upon the north of England:  they lie very thick on the hills;  every parish has one or more of them;  they are young enough to be very active, and ought to be doing a great deal of good.

Shirley, Charlotte Brontë

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Are you imagining it, the shower of curates?

54 great opening lines: 11

There is a French saying which runs:  ‘A dry fisherman and a wet hunter have the same sad look.’

Living Relic, Ivan Turgenev

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One of Turgenev’s ‘Sketches from a Hunter’s Album’:  a short story that could be told on canvas, so intimate are the descriptions, so charged the emotions.  The reader is pulled into the wattle hut to sit beside the narrator in an unexpected conversation with a ‘living relic’.

54 great opening lines: 9

All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity that the dry, shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut.

Agnes Grey, Anne Brontë

*****

Agnes Grey is trying to be independent and earn an income, albeit to help her poor parents.  It is the 1840s and she has little choice but to work as a governess.  Although she has no trouble finding a couple of jobs, her charges, the children, are unmanageable and their families unexpectedly scorn her.

I empathised with Agnes as she struggled to tutor pupils in their own homes, who feel free to run around the room or sit under the table or go into the garden and kill innocent chicks in a nest.

The opening line of Agnes Grey is a great piece of Brontë wisdom.

 

54 great opening lines: 4

I was brought here from Senegal when I was two years old by the chevalier de B., who was then governor there.

Ourika, Claire de Duras, translated by John Fowles

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John Fowles was the author of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, whose opening line I posted yesterday, as no. 3.

54 great opening lines: 1

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

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From today I’m going to attempt a self-imposed challenge:  post 54 great opening lines from books on my shelves.  After reading a post by Zany4Days about challenging himself to paint a watercolour every day for 30 days, 100 days, the whole year, I’ve decided to study the first few words in good stories, an activity which might, which should, affect my own writing.  The opening lines that I post will be in English, but not all of them will be from English-language stories.  Some will be my translations of great French opening lines.  After browsing my bookshelves, I initially chose a figure of 50, but I could possibly come up with four more and make it 54, my age from today…

I’ll begin with the first line from a novel I read when I was 13 which gave me a plan for my life, a plan I haven’t always followed but, in hindsight, I see has often followed me.  It begins with:

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.