Thursday, December 8, 2011

CHRISTMAS QUOTEDOWN (18)

Ah! friend, dear friend, when life's glad day with you and me is passed, when the sweet Christmas chimes are rung for other ears than ours, when other hands set the green branches up…may there be those still left behind to twine us wreaths, and say, "We miss them so!"
*   *   *
A cabin in the woods. In the cabin a great fireplace piled high with logs, fiercely ablaze. On either side of the broad hearth-stone a hound sat on his haunches, looking gravely, as only a hound in a meditative mood can, into the glowing fire. In the centre of the cabin, whose every nook and corner was bright with the ruddy firelight, stood a wooden table, strongly built and solid. At the table sat John Norton, poring over a book—a book large of size, with wooden covers bound in leather, brown with age, and smooth as with the handling of many generations. The whitened head of the old man was bowed over the broad page, on which one hand rested, with the forefinger marking the sentence. This was the scene on Christmas Eve. Outside, the earth was white with snow, and in the blue sky above the snow was the white moon.
*   *   *
As the evening wore on, the great clearing round about it remained drearily void of sound or motion, and filled only with the white stillness of the frosty, snow-lighted night. Once, indeed, a wolf stole from underneath the dark balsams into the white silence, and running up a huge log that lay aslant a ledge of rocks, looked across and round the great opening in the woods, stood a moment, then gave a shivering sort of yelp, and settled back under the shadows of the forest, as if darkness was warmer than the frozen stillness of the open space. An owl, perched somewhere amid the pine-tops, snug and warm within the cover of its arctic plumage, engaged from time to time in solem gossip with some neighbor that lived on the opposite shore of the lake. It seemed as if the very angels, who, we are taught, fly abroad over all the earth that blessed night, carrying gifts to every household, had forgotten the cabin in the woods…
—— W.H.H. Murray, How John Norton the Trapper Kept His Christmas
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I've collected Christmas books for years, and must have at least a couple hundred. Their contents range from anthologies of seasonal poetry, short stories, and novels, to histories of the holiday and its customs and traditions, sketches and narratives of remembered Christmases by various writers, cookbooks, even a craft book or two, though Myladylove collects the latter two categories and probably has upwards of a hundred Christmas volumes of her own.

This year, starting on the first day of December, I thought it might be fun to dip into a few of these works and share a quote or two from their pages—a few lines of poetry, a bit of prose, maybe even a recipe—on a daily basis, a sort of "Christmas Quotedown," which I'll put up in addition to my regular posts. I'll also include a photo of the book's cover, from which the day's quotes are taken—though a few, lacking a dust jacket or any sort of fancy cover design, might be decidedly non-photogenic. On the other hand, several of my favorite Christmas works are quotably rich troves, indeed, and thus might end up furnishing more than a day's worth of quotes—though I'm starting out with the notion of a different book each day. 

Along the way, I hope I select some things you enjoy. 
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10 comments:

Carolyn H said...

Is the Murray quote from Christmas in the Adirondacks?? And where is the first quote from? Both are lovely. Thanks for sharing your Christmas quotes

Molly said...

I loved this! And I love your idea of quoting from one of your Christmas books each day.....I'll be back for more!

Grizz………… said...

Carolyn H…

Glad you liked 'em. Actually, there are three quotes, which is why I separated them with asterisks (not the right way to do it, but I got lazy) and all are by W.H.H. Murray, from his book, How John Norton the Trapper Kept His Christmas. And in case you're looking close at the pix, the cover does not print the full title, which appears on the inside title page and elsewhere. The book was published in 1890; the edition I have, rather fancy with tipped in b&w plates and decorated page margins, is from 1911. It's entirely possible that something from this could have been reprinted in the Christmas book you mention. I don't have that one…and though I would have said the book's setting is in the more northern north woods—Canada, perhaps, or the Upper Great Lakes—it certainly could have been the Adirondacks. Been a while since I actually read the whole thing.

Grizz………… said...

Molly…

Hey, I'm having fun with this, too…though I got dreadfully behind today. But do return regularly, and I'll try and keep it interesting.

The Weaver of Grass said...

You do indeed select things I enjoy. And I had not read the Murray before so thank you for that Grizz.

Grizz………… said...

Weaver…

That's the idea and the fun…turn up quotes you'd probably never stumble across on your own. The Murray book is old and written in the old style, not very appealing to most modern readers. And frankly, not the pinnacle of seasonal literature even for its era. But I thought those passages read pretty well. I'm glad you liked them.

Carolyn H said...

Grizz: I just checked. How John Norton the Trapper Kept his Christmas is from "Holiday Tales: christmas in the Adirondacks" publised in 1897. Also in the book is John Norton's Vagabond. I've seen the 1911 version of the tale, years ago. It's a beautiful book. The first edition was published in 1890 and isn't nearly as pretty.

Grizz………… said...

Carolyn H…

Well, that makes sense. The original came out in 1890, and was reprinted in the anthology a few years later, in 1897. Following that, the tale was reissued again in what was probably a sort of seasonal gift edition in 1911.

The penciled notation on the flyleaf of my copy is in the hand of an old bookman friend, and says the price, as a used copy back in the late-1970s or early-1980s, was $2.50; I almost certainly paid less, because he and I bought and traded used books back and forth at least a time or two per week.

Oh, ho! In looking through various bookseller listings just now, I see that "Holiday Tales: Christmas in the Adirondacks" was also by Murray, which I hadn't realized—I thought it was a regional anthology—with just the two stories, "How John Norton the Trapper Kept His Christmas" and "John Norton's Vagabond." So this means the setting for this story WAS, indeed, the Adirondacks. (And further research reveals that Murray, popularly nicknamed "Adirondack Murray", was a quite well known writer, minister, and speaker for the region, influential in shaping it's future. I'm familiar with the old publisher, John Murray, which might or might not have any connection to this William Henry Harrison Murray, writer, though it appears all of his two dozen or so titles were self-published. I just wonder if the publishing firm was a family business.

Anyway, how neat! Thank you for sending me snuffling off into the dusty stacks to learn a bit more.

Carolyn H said...

Grizz: I thought the name of the author sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it at first. Then I remembered it from a bookstore in the Adirondacks, maybe even the Adirondack museum, that had a whole shelf of Murray's books and a little bit about him. I've been haunting the Adirondacks from way back and am always on the lookout for regional authors when I'm there.

Grizz………… said...

Carolyn H…

I do the same thing when I travel—check out the bookstores, new and used, plus any other places, grom gas stations to motels to tackle shops, that sometimes offer books for sale—for regional titles, area histories, self-published works, including cookbooks and poetry, by local writers. Books are the only souvenirs I invariably cart home.

Incidentally, after answering your comment earlier today, I remember I'd just picked up (about a week ago) a remaindered copy of "The Adirondacks," by Paul Schneider. Sure enough, there's quite a bit of information in there about W.H.H. Murrary. Who wudda thunk…