A Book For Emil
On October 17th, the day before June was to leave, Henry thought about his old friend Emil Schnellock, to whom he’d been writing diligently since his arrival in Paris. He wanted to send back a gift that was within his means: a book from his own collection. He and Emil used to discuss literature, back in Brooklyn. “… [O]ur tastes were quite divergent,” wrote Miller, years later. “[He] had a most lovable way of deprecating his knowledge and understanding of books … [but] he not only knew a lot more than he pretended but [he] sometimes knew much more than I did myself. If he read far less than I, he read with much greater attention and, as a result, he retained much more than I ever did” (The Books In My Life, p.172).
. French writer Rodolphe Bringer was primarily a journalist who wrote, it seems, mostly non-fiction . Although Bringer appears to have had little future influence, his Trente Ans book was absorbed at the time by Miller, who had underlined certain passages and written notes in the margins.
Opening the book to its title page, Henry wrote: “Dear Emil: Here’s one fairly easy to read and quite entertaining. Try it! Henry, 10/17/30.” Miller also added a postscript: The day previous, he had been strolling down the Boulevard Raspail, when he “[s]aw a peach of a Huysmans […] called 'Croquis de Paris.' So much to buy -- so much -- if one only had the dough!” [in 1951, Miller would list Huysmans’ Against The Grain (A Rebours, 1884) as one of the 100 books that influenced him most] .
“Believe me, it was hard to put her on the train. Seemed like the end of the world,” he would write Emil a few days later. June had arrived in Paris with nothing, but left with Henry's copy of Trente Ans D’Humour. Five days later, Henry wrote to Emil and let him know to expect the book.
Above: The actual inscription page from the Bringer book. From the Ken Lopez Bokseller website.
“I gave June a book by a humorist, Rudolf Bringer, for you. Be sure you get it! But don’t ask for June at the Pot. She doesn’t want them to know yet that she has returned. Sorry I couldn’t send you anything more than that, but I just couldn’t. June arrived without a cent and left the same way. I had 50 fr. when we parted.”
80 years later, this book still exists, with Henry’s original handwritten note on the title page, even if the cover wrappers are missing and the pages have become brittle. Ken Lopez Bookseller is/was offering it for $1,000 . But the provenance of this book is not clear. Considering the fact that other books from June’s collection have been available for sale on the antique book market, but none from Emil that I’ve noticed, I wonder if June had actually delivered this book to Emil as planned.