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A House Full of Books

04/15/02 12:00AM By Edith Hunter

(Host) Commentator Edith Hunter feels right at home in a library. In fact, both her life and her house have been filled with books.

(Hunter) When I was a little girl, I was an omnivorous reader. I soon exhausted our home library and used to walk a couple of miles to the Roxbury Athenaeum, borrow an armload of books, and hike home again. This is National Library Week and I remember with gratitude that wonderful old library that fed my appetite so many years ago.

Now I live in a house full of books. The large room at the southwest corner is the main library that houses much of the library of Armstrong's grandfather, Harold Peirce, a rare book collector. The rest of the books overflow into the other rooms of the house.

I like being surrounded by books, especially books from several generations. Between the windows in the library are books written by Sir Wilfred Grenfell, the English doctor who established the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen on the Labrador coast. He was a friend of Armstrong's family. Whenever he gave them a book he signed it, and drew a sketch on the flyleaf. A copy of Adrift On An Ice-Pan, has a sketch on the flyleaf, and "Margaret Peirce from Wildred T. Grenfell, Nov. 29, 1909." This was Aunt Margaret's copy.

On the flyleaf of The Country of The Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett, published in 1896, is written, "Mary Peirce, Christmas 1907." A Christmas baby, she would have been 19 years old that year. I love to think of austere Aunt Mary as a handsome young woman reading that book.

In the upstairs hall I have shelved children's books. Among them are the series "Appleton's Home Reading Books." On the flyleaf of one, written in a childish hand, "Elizabeth from Papa, 1898." That would be Armstrong's mother at the age of seven. These books reflected the best progressive education of the period as exemplified in the work of Francis Parker.

On another shelf in the same section is my mother's well-worn copy of The Birds' Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin with "To Frances Way, August 28th, 1896" on the flyleaf. This was her birthday and she would have been eight. On Christmas Eve when our children were growing up, annually I read them this sentimental book, over which we laughed and cried.

Down the hall is overflow poetry, philosophy, and the complete set of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The house is full of complete sets - Lowell, Irving, Kipling, Stevenson, Thackery, Hardy, Dickens, and Cooper. Have you tried reading any Cooper lately?

In the biography of one of the great historians whose works are on our shelves - Prescott, Motley or Bancroft, I can't remember which - I read that just before he died he asked that his dead body be placed in his library for a day. I can understand that.

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Edith Hunter is a writer and historian who lives in Weathersfield Center, Vermont
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