Book Chats on Associations.
Treasure in a Paperweight.
“He can have what he wishes, who wishes just enough”. (P. Syrus. Ep.809).
Last updated here March 2020.
Reproduced below, an original letter in our files, dated 31st January 1833, and over the signature "Firzroy Somerset". 55th Regt. Horse Guards. The letter confirms the offer of a Lieutenancy to ensign De Havilland in the Horse Guards regiment, on his lodging the sum of £250.00...
(Based on inflation only, that would be £23,000 in today's money)
So, you can imagine our surprise on Saturday 30 July 2016, in Bridport Street Market some 184 years later, to find on a textile stall, a rather lovely two volume copy of “Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Poems” (see below). 1853, Chapman & Hall, all edges gilt, gilt dentelles, deep blue morocco, five raised bands, with six highly decorated gilt panels. [Browning died in 1861, age 55].
A polite enquiry reveal they were paperweights “…to hold down the textile displays in the wind”.
Yes indeed…one of those “ah-ha” moments….!
But look! There’s more…on getting home…..two lovely bookplates (see below right).
“Can this really be…..? It can’t be, can it…?
"Half a league, half a league, half a league onward,
And who was "he"..and who said "Charge for the Guns"..? It was Lord Raglan, and here in front of me and shown below, his unassuming bookplate, photographed as seen in each of the two volumes of Browning.
All in the valley of Death rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!, "Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred".
I wonder how many of our readers remember learning that at school, Tennyson’s famous poem...?
[In fact, this military defeat was one of the worst in the history of the British empire, with 107 men out of 676 killed, 187 wounded, 50 captured and 400 horses slaughtered].
And a key figure in this military disaster....?.
It was Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan, GCB, PC. 1788 – 1855, known before 1852 as Lord FitzRoy Somerset, in fact the Fitzroy Somerset of our 1833 letter above.
Much loved and admired by his men...
...he served on Wellington's staff at the Battle of Quatre Bras on 16 June 1815 and at the Battle of Waterloo two days later. There he was injured and had to have his right arm amputated without anaesthetic (see the two portraits below): he then famously asked to have his arm back (so he could retrieve the ring that his wife had given him..!).
[See: "The Destruction of Lord Raglan: A Tragedy of the Crimean War, 1854-55". Christopher Hibbert. Penguin. 1984].
So here we have The Lord Raglan, a key figure in one of the great military disasters in British history.
For us...a dream fulfilled. To hold the very books from Lord Raglan’s Library. Shelf mark "MR B1" from the Raglan ancestral home "Cefntilla", Llandenny in Monmouthshire. If he purchased and had them bound by Edward Moxon on the publication date 1853, then this was just a year before the fateful battle, and just two years before his death from cholera outside Sevastopol, on June 29 1855, age 67.
His DNA in the Morocco, from that one remaining left hand? A faint smell of tobacco....? Such moments lift the heart beyond the ordinary. The interested reader could do no better than consult "The Reason Why". Cecil Woodham-Smith. Constable. London. 1954. But, for a very recent update, see: Prof. Saul David's article in the Christmas 2016 Issue of the BBC History Magazine.
(P.S. The military contents of Cefntilla Court, were dispersed to the four winds on 4 April 2012, at Christie's South Kensington highly controversial sale Number 4138A. q.v.).
But, the actual Raglan Library Sale was on Friday the 5th of February 2016, at Lawrences Auctioneers, Crewkerne, as reported here. Please Click through here..
Note added in June 2017, For a further development in this story, please see our article under the heading "Book Chats on Discoveries". Please Click Through here...and scroll down the page to near the bottom. Thank You.