Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Found between pages 32 and 33 of a copy of The Unquiet Grave by ‘Paulinurus’, this scrap of paper torn from the top left of a sheet. It contains both typescript and manuscript. On one side is the left half of a typed poem, with the rest missing – the demi-title reads DOWN IN SH[…]. There are also a few ms notes in ink, trying out various ways of introducing a girl called Nellie (although the poem is not a limerick).
The other side of the scrap is in pencil and includes a short shopping list (wine, marmalade, batteries, hovis biscuits), the words CASPIAN MIST, a note that to Benedictines the fourth vow is The Conversion of Manners, and the words Maltby’s of Oxford, a bookbinder, particularly of theses, and perhaps a clue to the note-writer: a student? There are also definitions of some words: Aureole, Ovine. Aspects of the hand are similar to that of the ownership signature on the free front endpaper, which reads, in blue-black ink Eveline (or possibly Eirene) Beck, April 1946.
There is something poignant, even slightly eerie, about these fragments of a life from seventy years ago, caught by chance between the pages of a book. The most evocative phrase, 'Caspian Mist', might simply be the name of a racehorse, or a cocktail. No doubt with some diligent research and detective work, some of the clues here could be pieced together to form a portrait. But even as they stand these stray words seem to convey in an oblique way some sort of story.