Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bathroom Humor

The cover of the book "Charlotte's Web." It shows a young  leaning holding a pig, with a goose and sheep to either side. She and the animals are looking at a spider, hanging by a thread from the "C" in the title.
On a rainy day in the early summer of 1948, Elwyn White visited Dartmouth College to receive an honorary degree as a part of commencement exercises. Although now famous for children's favorites such as Charlotte's Web, E. B. White was at the time a well-known contributor to The New Yorker magazine and the co-author of The Elements of Style, one of the most influential books on the English language written in the last century. One of White's collections of New Yorker editorials, titled The Wild Flag, had been distributed that year to all of the graduating Dartmouth seniors as a part of the Great Issues Course. With that in mind, President John Sloane Dickey wrote to White and suggested that it might be "especially nice" for him to "share Commencement" with the outgoing class.

After his visit, White wrote to President John Sloane Dickey to say that he had approached Hanover "with apprehension" but left "feeling both peaceful and honorable," having enjoyed experiencing "the air so full of June vibrations." A few years later, White sent a signed copy of his latest work, Here is New York, to Alexander Kinnan Laing, the Assistant Librarian, along with a typically humorous and self-deprecating recommendation for where to shelve the book. White, noting that the call number for the gifted book began with the letters "Val" for "valuable," instead suggested a more fitting call number of "Lav" and recommended the book be kept in the bathroom.
A handwritten letter from 1948, addressed to President Dickey. The ending part of a handwritten letter, signed by E.B. White.
A typed letter on New Yorker letterhead reading, in full "Dear. Mr. Laing: Instead of 'Val.' I suggest 'Lav.' Keep it in the lavatory and everybody would see it. Incidentally, from the looks of your letterhead I inscribed it wrong. But I guess it'll do. Sincerely, E.B. White."
To see some of our E. B. White materials , including the above letters and our 1st edition of Charlotte's Web, visit the fabulous Howe Library in Hanover, NH, from September 9 through September 26. Our items are now on loan there for "The Story of Charlotte's Web," the Howe's current installment of their ongoing series, Everyone is Reading. To learn more about the great programs that the Howe has planned, check out their Schedule of Events. Afterward, come to Rauner and ask for 1st editions like Charlotte's Web (Val 817 W5823 P3) and Here is New York (Val 817 W5823 R45) or for the small gathering of manuscript material we have related to E. B. White (Mss 002040).

No comments :

Post a Comment