Colette’s Roses

     for a flower album     A few days ago I received a parcel from America. I had never seen the handwriting before yet I hardly needed to look at the return address to know that it came from my friend Leonore, from New York. I first got to know Leonore almost two years ago, through her wonderful blog As a Linguist, and we’ve entertained a warm, if sporadic, correspondance ever since. She’s been very supportive about my new teaching job and, to cheer me up after a particularly tough time with some of my classes, she wrote to me recently to tell me she was sending me a small gift.     

     I love gifts of any kind, but there is something irresistible about a gift which comes to you unexpectedly, especially when it has travelled thousands of miles and crossed an ocean to get to you. I was reminded of those wonderful scenes in the movie adaptation of 84 Charing Cross Road when the staff at the bookshop unpack the goodies from the Christmas hamper Helene has sent them, or when her friend Maxine, who is on tour in London, goes to the bookshop to deliver a parcel on Helene’s behalf and leaves it on an unattended desk, like a fairy in the night. Until I saw Leonore’s parcel in my mailbox with my own eyes, I didn’t quite believe something as lovely as that could happen to me too, that the parcel wouldn’t somehow get lost along the way and never arrive…

     I hadn’t finished being surprised, though. For when I unwrapped the parcel, I found it contained a slim book entitled For a Flower Album, by Colette. Originally published in 1949 under the title Pour un herbier, this collection of essays – for want of a better word – was born when Colette’s Swiss publisher, Henri-Louis Mermod, started sending her weekly bouquets and asked her to write about the flowers she liked. The result is a poetic ramble through the realm of flowers which has little to do with botany, and more to do with Colette’s childhood memories, anecdotes about her daily life, and reflections on the great literary, musical and artistic figures of her day. Knowing my love of gardens and my nascent interest in Colette, Leonore could not have chosen better!

     But perhaps the loveliest surprise of all was opening the book and discovering that it had been translated into English by Roger Senhouse. I have been studying Bloomsbury for six or seven years now, and Senhouse’s name has cropped up regularly in my biographies of Virginia Woolf, Dora Carrington, and Rosamond Lehmann. Seeing his name on the flyleaf was like coming across an old friend…

© Florence Berlioz 2012

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About Miss Darcy's Library

I love books - buying books, reading books, discussing books, and generally admiring them from all angles (except the e-book). I also love tea, roses, and my dogs, and seldom pass up an opportunity to slip them into the conversation.
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11 Responses to Colette’s Roses

  1. What a lovely and well-chosen gift!

  2. limr says:

    I am so delighted that you like it! I didn’t even know about the Bloomsbury connection, but it doesn’t really surprise me. As I had told you, I just knew that the book belonged to you, and learning about the translator just confirms that I was right :)

  3. You are a lucky girl. A perfect present is a rare thing and one to be treasured.

  4. What a beautiful book Florence! I have a collection of pieces by Colette entitled Fruit and Flowers which I think contains some of these – it’s translated by someone else but it’s lovely, like all Colette’s work. I hope you enjoy it! I think European writers were very important to the Bloomsbury group.

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