I was accused recently of having been a little peevish in certain recent posts here on the blog. Well, quite possibly, although I’d prefer to be labelled with a full-on “grumpy” or a dyspeptic “tetchy” than a merely petulant-sounding “peevish”. Some booksellers do let the side down badly with their cataloguing and cribbing from each other, but in the spirit of the season my twelve-page rant about nonsensical and non-existent issue points on the first edition of “Dombey & Son” will remain largely unwritten. At least the naming and shaming part. Suffice it to say that internet booksellers (and there are many) who think that the depiction of Captain Cuttle’s hook on the wrong (left) arm in the title-page vignette is the mark of some mythical first issue are bibliographically in the zombie class. Has anyone ever seen a copy where the hook is on the right (right) arm? Anywhere? At any time? Ever? Without recourse to trick photography, show me if you have. And while we are at it, show me a copy of the first edition that doesn’t read “aint” for “ain’t” on page 14; show me a copy that doesn’t have the spelling “fidgetty” on page 26; show me a copy that doesn’t read “Delight” for “Joy” on page 284 – these aren’t even points, let alone issue points. There are only four genuine variations in the text of “Dombey” – and no-one has ever adduced any evidence whatsoever that even these have any significance at all in establishing a sequence of issue. Prove to me that the dropped “if”, the spelling “capatin”, or the missing page number pre-date anything else you might find and were corrected in a second issue. Where is the evidence? There is none. Because it really rankles when this kind of gibberish costs me a sale, which it sometimes does and did very recently. Peevish? I’m downright cantankerous, testy, crabby, crotchety, grouchy, fractious and disagreeable.
Bottom of the class and detentions all round for those guilty of the Captain Cuttle howler. Time all round to get out our “ABC for Book Collectors” and read again what it says about issues, states, points, issue-mongers and point-maniacs – and specifically in the case of Dombey what it says about “balls” and “dropped letters and numerals”. And read it again and again and again until we understand it. And here, especially for those in detention, is a basic lesson on how to open a book (Kindle-users may also find this useful).
OK – seasonal bah-humbug bit out of the way, and let me tell you why I am actually as far from peevish as a man of a certain age can ever reasonably get. Our family life has been gloriously enriched by the birth of our first grandchild – here she is, the utterly captivating Miss Ella Iris Worms. And then on top of that the total surprise of the wholly unexpected arrival home for Christmas of our prodigal Australian daughter – and here they are, aunt and niece together. Joy unconfined here at Tooting Towers. A very Merry Christmas to you all and all your families.