Let’s take a break and think of lovely things

I want to talk about Kate Middleton.  She is, in my humble opinion, an exceptionally lovely young woman.  Her father-in-law may have chosen his wife badly, but her husband did a fine job.  To begin with, she and Prince William genuinely seem to like each other, which is a rarity in royal relationships.  She’s also take to her professional responsibilities like a duck takes to water, showing a lot more class than many of those born to the purple.  And, as I said, she’s lovely:

To add to her undoubted physical beauty, Kate has a lovely air about her. She looks wholesome and, whenever she’s fulfilling her royal duties, she seems honored to have the opportunity to see the things she sees and meet the people she meets.  There’s always a look of wonderment about her, which is very attractive.

So, contrary to my usual feeling when celebrities get caught with their pants down or, in Kate’s case, with their shirts off, I am not experience any schadenfreude at her humiliation (something that she’s also handling with grace).  With most celebrities, one feels that, since they spend their entire lives courting the camera, they can scarcely complain when it doesn’t always work out. Also, one often gets the feeling that the celebrity pictures are like the pictures of Dorian Gray, with the real image hiding away in the closet. When the real image shows up, one isn’t surprised.

With Kate having been spied upon at a private retreat in France, though, I do feel as if something lovely is being unfairly sullied. I’m showing my solidarity with her by boycotting the images (which I assume are on the internet somewhere). Kate is gorgeous when she’s clothed, and I have no desire to invade her privacy and increase her humiliation by checking her out unclothed.

While I’m talking about lovely things (which serve as a much-needed antidote to the news these days), someone sent me a link to a site called the Folio Society. I am, as the name of my blog suggests, a bibliophile. Lately, because it’s convenient, I’ve been doing most of my reading on a Kindle — it’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s compact. Truly, though, there is nothing like a beautiful book.

When I was in college, I worked at the Bancroft Library, at UC Berkeley, which houses a collection of rare books and incunabula.  When work was slow, my friends and I used to go down into the vault and look at the illuminated medieval manuscripts.  And when I say “look at,” I really mean it.  We’d grab some tissues to protect the vellum from the oils on our fingers, and carefully flip through the pages, pouring over the brilliant images.  The books were amazing.  The colors (often including gold leaf) looked as if they had been applied minutes before.  This is one of the reasons that, when I read about the Middle Ages, I am always able to imagine that time in vivid, living color.

The Folio Society does not offer illuminated manuscripts, which is just as well, because they’re very hard to take care of.  Instead, the create special editions of famous books, including copies of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts.  My fingers actually tingled when I saw the pictures.  The books are beautifully bound, with exquisite illustrations, either by the original artists or by well-known illustrators.  The Alice in Wonderland books, for example, look as if they were just taken off the shelves of a Victorian bookstore.  As with those medieval manuscripts at the Bancroft, there’s a wonderful sense of immediacy with these books.  The Beatrix Potter collection is also exquisite.

The books are very expensive, but I suspect that, for some, the rewards are great.  My introduction to Victorian literature came about because my father had found at an estate sale a special edition of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.  It was a large book (probably 8″ x 11″) and had these gorgeous, gloomy, full-page engravings.  I was mesmerized by the engravings as a little girl, and kept taking the book down to look at them.  Eventually, of course, I had to read the book, which started my love affair with all things Victorian.  A Kindle book can never offer this kind of enticement to an inquisitive child.

Do you have something lovely to offer as a sop to today’s news?  Pictures, videos, anecdotes, etc., would all be welcome.