Early in the summer of 2000, Betty and I were exchanging emails about Lord Byron and the Greek War that, in a way, cost him his life. (He did not die in battle but of an illness on April 19, 1824.) I’d recently reviewed a book about the conflict and was telling her what I’d learned from it—things that related to Byron and, of course, indirectly, to Mary Shelley.
Throughout that summer, I was also sending Betty updates about Miranda Seymour’s new Shelley biography—pointing out, for example, that Seymour—incorrectly—had declared that Castle Frankenstein is visible from the Rhine. It isn’t. Betty didn’t reply much (or have I lost them? neglected to print them?). As I think about it, and as I read my notes, though, I think she was replying. There is no indication in my updates that she has been silent (wouldn’t I have said something? asked?). So neglect seems the culprit. My neglect. (No real surprise.)
I was in the process of cutting my monstrous first draft of my own Shelley biography. I wrote on July 10 to tell her that I had cut it from 740 to 480 pages. For my audience, I added, I fear 180 more must go—but I am going to let it sit for a few days until we take off for a two-week jaunt: 1st to Stratford, Ont., to see 3 Henry plays (IV, Part One; IV, Part Two; V), then to Mass. to be with family for a couple of days, then down to Appalachia where Joyce will be doing some archival work, then to Enid, Okla., my hometown, where I will do some research on my first library (a Carnegie, torn down—grrr—in 1972).
So I see I was already at work on what would become my memoir about reading and books—Turning Pages: A Memoir of Books and Libraries and Loss (Kindle Direct, 2012), a book that deals not just with my boyhood, with the rise and fall of the Carnegie library in Enid, but with the death of my father. It was a painful thing to write—and it obviously took a while. About twelve more years, as a matter of fact.
In this long email from July 10, 2000, I also told her that I was reviewing a biography of Thackeray and that I hadn’t read much by him. That would change. I eventually read all of his novels—yet another instance of my inability to read just a few books by an author. Have to read them all.
In early August I wrote Betty to tell her that we were back from our long trip. I told her that, near Memphis, I found the site of Nashoba … as well as the historical marker placed quite a bit away from the site.
Nashoba. A grand adventure (of sorts) that nearly drew Mary into its vortex.