Recipe For a Happy Life

by david on 8 November 2014

Cover of "Recipe For a Happy Life," green version

Cover of “Recipe For a Happy Life,” green version

Written by Margaret of Navarre in the year 1500:

Three ounces are necessary, first of Patience, then of Repose & Peace; of Conscience a pound entire is needful; of Pastimes of all sorts, too, should be gathered as much as the hand can hold; Of Pleasant Memory & of Hope three good drachms there must be at least. But they should moistened be with a liquor made from True Pleasures which rejoice the heart. Then of Love’s Magic Drops, a few—but use them sparingly, for they may bring a flame which naught but tears can drown. Grind the whole and mix therewith of Merriment, an ounce to even. Yet this may not bring happiness except in your Orisons you lift your voice to Him who holds the gift of health.

Title page of "Recipe For a Happy Life"

Title page of “Recipe For a Happy Life”

These few words on page 1 of Recipe For a Happy Life (1911) are in fact the only words by Margaret in the entire book. The rest of the text consists of quotations compiled by Marie West King along the themes (italicized above) in Margaret’s recipe.

Marguerite de Navarre (1492-1549), also known as Marguerite of Angoulême, was a French noblewoman, Queen of the small Kingdom of Navarre by her marriage to Henry II of Navarre. Margaret’s brother Francis I was later King of France, and her grandson Henry IV was the first in the long line of Bourbon kings of France.

Margaret became the most influential woman in France during her lifetime when her brother Francis I ascended to the French throne in 1515. Her salon, known as the “New Parnassus,” became famous internationally. She wrote many poems and plays. Her most notable works are a classic collection of short stories, the Heptameron, and a remarkably intense (and very controversial) religious poem, Miroir de l’âme pécheresse (Mirror of the Sinful Soul).

Frontispiece of "Recipe For a Happy Life." A reproduction of a crayon drawing by François Clouet.

Frontispiece of “Recipe For a Happy Life.” A reproduction of a crayon drawing by François Clouet.

There is evidence that Margaret had some influence in England. A letter to her from English Queen Anne Boleyn survives, and in 1545, twelve-year-old princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) translated Margaret’s Miroir into English and gave it as a gift to her stepmother Catherine Parr (sixth wife of Henry VIII).

Page 1 of "Recipe For a Happy Life," the only part of the book actually written by Margaret

Page 1 of “Recipe For a Happy Life,” the only part of the book actually written by Margaret

Margaret of Navarre is not to be confused with the medieval Margaret of Navarre, Queen of Sicily (ca 1128-1183), a Spanish noblewoman who lived 350 years earlier.

I have been able to find no further information on the compiler, Miss Marie West King. This is her only association with a Paul Elder publication.

Page 2 of "Recipe For a Happy Life"

Page 2 of “Recipe For a Happy Life”


Cover of "Recipe For a Happy Life," orange version

Cover of “Recipe For a Happy Life,” orange version with silver text

recipe cover yellow red

Cover of “Recipe For a Happy Life,” yellow version with red text


The Critic in the Occident

by david on 31 October 2014

Cover of "Critic in the Occident"

Cover of “Critic in the Occident”

What you bring away with you from a tour of Europe depends largely upon your reading. If through great writers you know intimately the history, art and architecture of a country, you will find that your travels serve mainly to stamp indelibly upon the memory many of the impressions formed from the books you have read. … Americans are too apt to neglect this reading, which forms a vital part of the education of the European. … Hence they lose that perfect blending of romance and reality, as one does who listens to a great opera of which he knows neither the words nor the story.

In 1912, San Francisco Chronicle sent critic George Hamlin Fitch on a seven-month trip around the world, from which he cabled daily dispatches for publication in the newspaper. After his return, Fitch distilled his stories into two books: The Critic in the Orient (featured last time), and today’s spotlight, The Critic in the Occident. The books were published by Paul Elder in September 1913.

Title page and frontispiece of "Critic in the Occident"

Title page and frontispiece of “Critic in the Occident”

Fitch’s itinerary in the West was:

  • Greece, The Fountainhead of all Art and Letters
  • Italy, Home of Art and Monuments
  • France, Land of Romance, Thrift and Artistic Life
  • London, Seat of the Founders of World-wide Empire
  • New York City, The Skyscraping Marvel of the New World
Special boxed edition of "The Critic Travels"

Special boxed edition of “The Critic Travels”

Fitch devotes a chapter to the ruins of Pompeii, which had been discovered in 1599 and later rediscovered in 1748. The well-read Fitch was clearly not a prude, but is not very fond of the overtly erotic nature of many of the murals and mosaics, which he blames on the inferior nature of the Roman’s pagan faith:

The Roman phallic worship tinctures all the art in Pompeii and brutalizes it. It is shown in the stone phallus, built into the walls of many buildings, to keep off evil spirits. … From these remains the conclusion is inevitable that the ancient roman was not immoral but unmoral. Christianity introduced a new code of morals in which purity of thought was one of the leading features. Beside it the Pagan religions are unspeakably gross and vile. It was not strange that the Egyptian worship of Isis found many followers in Pompeii and that the initiation of novices degenerated into the most fantastic orgies.

Page 26 of "Critic in the Occident"

Page 26 of “Critic in the Occident”

Fitch is far more impressed with Venice: “The charm of Venice lies in its unlikeness to any other place. You may have read of its canals and its lagoons, its palaces and its prisons, its gondolas that glide mysteriously through dark stretches of glassy water, but the reality comes upon you with unexpected force.”

Paris “is a city of surprises and disappointments. As a place of magnificent vistas it surpasses one’s conceptions, but its buildings and its statuary disappoint the tourist fresh from Italy. Its shops, which were once the wonder of Europe, are now easily surpassed in artistic quality by the shops of second-rate cities like Rome and Naples. Its gayety and brightness it has not lost, nor it fondness for the outdoor life of the cafes and boulevards and great public parks.”

Page 70 of "Critic in the Occident". Today, David no longer wears a fig leaf.

Page 70 of “Critic in the Occident”. Today, David no longer wears a fig leaf.

London: “The first impression that London makes is one of immensity. To the sensitive tourist it seems impossible in a short visit to see anything of this huge city, with its miles of streets and its thousands of famous buildings. This impression is heightened by the gloom due to a cloudy sky and a pall of soft coal smoke.”

New York: “The first sight of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor and of the ships flying the Stars and Stripes looks very good to the man who has scarcely seen an American flag since he left home seven months before. Then comes that awe-inspiring skyline of New York, which is changed by every new skyscraper–a spectacle more impressive than anything that can be seen in Europe.”

Page 165 of "Critic in the Occident": Tips for the Tourist

Page 165 of “Critic in the Occident”: Tips for the Tourist


The Critic in the Orient

24 October 2014

This book of impressions of the Far East is called The Critic in the Orient, because the writer for over thirty years has been a professional critic of new books–one trained to get at the best in all literary works and reveal it to the reader. This critical work would have been deadly, save for […]

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Slumber Sea Chanteys

26 September 2014

Slumber Sea Chanteys (1910) was the only sheet music Paul Elder ever published (there are a few pages of music in Knight of the Burning Pestle). It is a selection of children’s lullabies on nautical themes. It is also the first Paul Elder I ever bought, though I only realized it five years later when […]

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The True Historie of the Knyght of the Burning Pestle

8 September 2014

In March 1903, the English Club of Stanford University performed a production of “The Knight of the Burning Pestle,” an early 17th-century pastiche play by the English poet and dramatist Francis Beaumont. The English Club performed the work at both Stanford and UC Berkeley, and went so far as to write a short book about it. That […]

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The Auto Guest Book

1 September 2014

On an inventive twist from a guest book designed for the guest bedroom, here is a guest book designed for one’s automobile. The Auto Guest Book was published in 1906 on the heels of the success of the early Cynic’s Calendars, with the illustrations and aphorisms by the team of Ethel Grant (1876?-1940) and Richard Glaenzer (1876-1937). In […]

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San Francisco — As It Was, As It Is, And How To See It

27 August 2014

After Paul Elder opened his bookshop in 1898, it is perhaps surprising that he waited fourteen years to publish a book about San Francisco. Maybe it just took him that long to find the right author. Helen Throop Purdy’s comprehensive guide to the City, San Francisco — As It Was, As It Is, And How To See […]

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Robert Harlan (1929-2014)

24 August 2014

Today I pause to remember Robert Harlan, professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Information and the Bancroft Library. He died on April 8th at the age of 84. He was an expert on the 19th-century San Francisco printing industry and the Bay Area fine-printing movement of the mid-20th century. He published several books, including a long […]

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4 April 2014

Love (1905) was the last of the Mosaic Essays series compiled by Paul Elder. The first booklet in the series, Friendship, was published in 1902 and sold very well. In 1903, Elder followed with Happiness, Nature and Success in 1903. In 1906 he reissued the five booklets in a single volume called Mosaic Essays. As with the other four titles […]

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30 March 2014

Success is a booklet of quotations in the Mosaic Essays series, compiled by Paul Elder. It was published in 1903 along with Happiness and Nature in response to the high sales of 1902′s Friendship. In 1905, Elder published the last booklet in the series, Love. In 1906 he issued the five booklets in a single volume called Mosaic Essays. As with the other booklets […]

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