For our third Pinkorama of 2023, Sharon brings us… Eloise in the library at Selwick Hall!
Sharon writes, “It is a homage to Eloise’s many hours reading documents at Selwick Hall in the Black Tulip (and other books too).”
Is it just me, or are you dying to know what Eloise is reading? I’ve been squinting and squinting at it, trying to make out the writing…. A letter from Jane to Henrietta, perhaps? Part of the Pink Carnation’s codebook? Only Eloise knows for sure.
For your amusement, here’s the description of the library at Selwick Hall from The Masque of the Black Tulip. This is Eloise’s first visit to Selwick Hall, and she may have had some rather unrealistic expectations….
Crossing my arms over my chest, I said a little too heartily, “So this is the library.”
There certainly couldn’t be any doubt on that score; never had a room so resembled popular preconception. The walls were paneled in rich, dark wood, although the finish had worn off the edges in spots, where books had scraped against the wood in passing one too many times. Padded chairs scattered across the room in artfully arranged disarray provided seating for the weary reader, thoughtfully fitted with long-necked lamps. Marching at regular intervals down the wall, pilasters delineated the shelves into evenly spaced segments, their fluted finials giving the illusion of supporting the base of the balcony above. A whimsical iron staircase curved to the balcony, the steps narrowing into pie shaped wedges that promised a broken neck to the unwary. Above, bookshelf followed bookshelf in unvarying regularity. I tilted my head back, dizzied by the sheer number of books, row upon row, more than the most devoted bibliophile could hope to consume in a lifetime of reading.
Downstairs, where I stood with Colin, the shelves made way for four tall windows, two to the east and two to the north, all hung with rich red draperies checked with blue, in the obverse of the red-flecked blue carpet. On the west wall, the bookshelves surrendered pride of place to a massive fireplace, topped with a carved hood to make Ivanhoe proud, and large enough to roast a serf.
The books themselves contained the same mix of opulence and wear, pages crackling about the edges, and gilded lettering half-rubbed off red, blue and green leather spines. In one corner, a pile of crumbling paperbacks—James Bond, I noticed, squinting sideways, in editions with splashy seventies covers—struck a slightly incongruous note. I spotted bound back issues of Punch, and a moldering pile of Country Life cheek by jowl with a complete set of Trevelyan’s History of England in what looked like it might well be the original Victorian bindings. The air was rich with the smell of decaying paper and old leather bindings. In short, the library was a Gothic fantasy.
My face fell.
“It’s not original.”
“No, you poor innocent,” said Colin. “The entire house was gutted not long before the turn of the century. The last century,” he added pointedly.
“Gutted?” I bleated.
Oh, fine, I know it’s silly, but I had harbored romantic images of walking where the Purple Gentian had walked, sitting at the desk where he had penned those hasty notes upon which the fate of the kingdom rested, viewing the kitchen where his meals had been prepared…. I made a disgusted face at myself. At this rate, I was only one step away from going through the Purple Gentian’s garbage, hugging his discarded port bottles to my palpitating bosom.
“Gutted,” repeated Colin firmly.
“The floor plan?” I asked pathetically.
Don’t you love the homage to the flowery spies in the wallpaper Sharon chose? Of course, one has to wonder whether Colin is just about to come in and startle Eloise out of her concentration– because she looks very absorbed in whatever she’s reading. (Any guesses as to what the document might be? Put your suggestions in the comments below!)
Take a bow, Sharon!
Join us back here tomorrow for our fourth Pinkorama of 2023!