Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More important than the following blather: happy birthday Pat Conroy!

It's always interesting to browse the minutes of old CLS board meetings.  262 years of mostly boredom interspersed with virulent fighting.  Perhaps my favourite: a particularly heated record of one late 1950's meeting at which a trustee suggested smoking be allowed in the Main Reading Room. 

As every television/film Eisenhower/Kennedy period piece has taught me, in the late 1950's, EVERYBODY smoked.  Grandmothers, titans of industry, Blue Collar Joe, Presidents of the United States, newborn babies...  from the offices of Sterling Price, to NASA's Mission Control, to the office of your very own doctor, everybody smoked.

But not at the Charleston Library Society.  Thanks to the valiance (and vehemence) of trustee Mrs. I'on Rhett, it was not to be.  The motion went from near passage by acclimation, to a long, (one-sided) bargaining for "half the room" to "part of the room" to "one smoking chair", to the cold hell of being infinitely tabled.  The anger and the yelling of the whole affair really does come right through all the stuffy, formal language of board meeting minutes...

So that's why, sixty years later, the Main Reading Room doesn't reek of cigarette smoke.  Kudos, Mrs. Rhett.

Remember, smoking is not attractive.  Except on Mad Men... then it's cool.

Another interesting thing from the minutes is the hours of operation the Library has held.  While I've never seen a record of us being open on Sunday, the other 144 hours of the week have been fair game.  Open at five, open at six, open at eleven in the morning; closed at three, closed at six, closed at nine at night... as customs evolved  (and indoor lighting, and air conditioning, and the standard 9-5 business day came into existence), we've changed our hours of operation.

And as of tomorrow, we're doing it again.  Every Wednesday through the end of cotillion season, the Library Society will remain open after 5:30 until 8:30.  Circulation will remain open, through research services- i.e., trips to the vaults - will not be available.  We hope you'll stop by and grab a book, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the South's oldest cultural institution during our new "after work, during cotillion" hours.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Also, Norwich F.C. has soccer's oldest fight song. Pretty cool.

Patrick McMillan's here Thursday night with a Speakers Series lecture entitled Nature On the Move: Reclaiming Our Place In the World.  Patrick is host of the ETV series Expeditions with Patrick McMillan, a terrific naturalist, and the director of the Campbell Museum at Clemson University.  We hope you'll be able to make it to this event, co-sponsored by the Coastal Conservation League.  Thursday October 21st, 7PM.  Free.

Mid-day Thursday we'll have the fourth installment of our Wide Angle Lunches as Geoffrey Van Orden, MBE MEP, joins us for a lunchtime lecture.  Van Orden is a member of European Parliament, a member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, a former British Army Brigadier-General, and likely the first Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers to lecture before the Library Society.  The View From Europe: Turkey and Its Relationship With the West is this Thursday, 12:15-1:30 PM (lecture starts at 12:30), $10 for members, $14 for non.

And from the hills of Clemson, to the East of England and the Middle East, we move on to one more exotic* locale: Palermo, Sicily.  Home to Italy's largest opera house, di Lampeduesa's magnificent The Leopard, and the city from which your loyal blogger's patrilineal predecessors set forth for America. 

On November 8th, we'll host a lecture concerning one of Palermo's most notable sons, the Duke Fulco di Verdura.  Born in Palermo in 1898, Verdura moved to America as a young man.  When he wasn't hanging out with buddies like Cole Porter, he was making exotic jewelry for the likes of Coco Chanel, Greta Garbo, Wallace Simpson.  Ward Landrigan of Verdura jewelers will be visiting the Library Society to give a presentation about the Duke and his company that will include rare pieces and original designs from the collection.  Verdura and Women of Style is November 8th at 7PM.  Admission is free, but please RSVP (843.723.9912 or rsvp@charlestonlibrarysociety.org)

*Okay, the "hills of Clemson" aren't all that exotic.  And neither, for that matter, is the East of England.  Though the Magic Roundabout is there.  And Stephen Fry spent some time in Norfolk growing up.  So they've got that going for them.

And once upon a time, this chick was in charge... awesome.  [Though I prefer more blue paint and red hair.]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stoop, angels, hither from the skies! It's blood book time.

Today your loyal blogger realized (with some help from the handy search field in the top left of the blog) that he has never never shared the Henry Timrod Death Manuscript story on the pages of Shh!.  And since today marks the Henry Timrod Death Manuscript's first day on display this season... here goes.  [Fair warning: it's the long version, so stick with me.]

William Ashmead Courtenay would be on anyone's shortlist of Great Charleston Mayors, should anyone be so inclined to write such a list.  [I think Johann A. Wagner is my vote for the Worst Charleston Mayor, which would would probably be more interesting list, but I digress.]  Courtenay came to power in a city hemorrhaging money and overly focused on its antebellum glory.  He fixed one of those problems.  [Then he paved the major streets, and developed Colonial Lake and Marion Square, and saw the city through a major hurricane and the Earthquake of 1886 and their recovery efforts... heck of a guy.]

Though a modernizer and an ardent proponent of the idea of the "New South", Courtenay was nevertheless a great fan of pre-war Southern arts and letters.  As a result, he purchased every book of poems, every scribbled couplet, every jot and tittle of work produced by 19th century Southern writers that he could get his hands on.  And when those hands were stilled by death in 1908... he left his library of Southern letters to the Charleston Library Society.

So some original stuff by Simms, and P.H. Hayne and James Ryder Randall, amongst others, are all in our collection thanks to dear Mayor Courtenay.  But perhaps the crown jewel of his collection is the Henry Timrod Death Manuscript.

Henry Timrod, the walrus-mustache wearin', Bob Dylan inspirin', Poet Laureate of the Confederacy was a very, very sickly man throughout his stay upon this mortal coil.  So sickly the Confederacy sent him home.  The same Confederacy that was desperately conscripting old men and young boys basically said "Henry, we'd rather lose the war than carry you around while you cough on everybody.  Go home and write!"

And write Henry did, penning "Ode to the Confederate Dead", "Ethnogenesis", and our state song, "Carolina".  But Henry continued to cough.  Big, bloody, tuberculosis-filled expectorations.  Then, late one night in 1867, with one final sanguinary convulsion, he hacked up his last.

And, according to the story, that's it.  Right there on the page.  Hank T.'s last sputtering of life.  Tasteful chaps that we are, it traditionally goes on display here at the Library Society every October.

(And don't forget, if you want to see something equally historical, but a little less morbid, the Mouzon Map Unveiling is this Saturday at 7:30.  $15 conservation contribution, please.  Hors d'oeuvres by Rue de Jean.  843.723.9912 for more info)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Komm, gib mir deine geld

As you most likely already know, tomorrow night is the second concert in the Unedited series, Unedited: Beatles, Bach &; Beer.  [7PM, Main Reading Room of the CLS, $15, get em online here.]

Dear reader, your loyal blogger is resisting the temptation to turn this blog post into one long string of Beatles puns... and opening up iTunes and seeing that I've got 604 tracks tagged "Beatles" is not helping.  I mean, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite", "Come and Get It", "Please, Please Me"... these things are begging to be punned upon!

But I won't.  Instead, how about a preview of tomorrow night's terrific setlist: "Something", "Hey Jude", Bach's chorale no. 6, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and a whole lot more.  Music, beer, audience participation (you'd better be prepared to bark and howl during "Hey Bulldog"), and even a little door prize (somebody's getting a Charleston County Parks Gold Pass, good to get you into any county park for a year fo' free).  Be there.

[And if you can't be there, you can still support the series.  Go here to make a donation to Unedited via PayPal.  'Cause quality arts programming is not cheap.  And what says quality like "Why Don't We Do It In the Road" performed on a cello?]

We all work in a Yellow Library...

Other music news: the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Leagueis having a black-tie fundraiser this weekend - details here - and Charleston Library Society members who wish to purchase a table at the event can get $250 off the price.  If you're interested in this night of dinner, music, mingling, and a $200,000 silent auction, call Tara Scott, 843 723-7528, extension 102.