The Long Library at Sissinghurst is a delight and a frustration. So beautiful and so chock full of things I want to look at, but none of it is allowed off the shelves and most of it is behind a velvet rope and defies attempts at photographic documentation. Our week in the Priest’s House gave us after-hours access to the gardens, but alas, not to Vita’s study nor the library. And unlike grander, stately homes that have lots of very old books, the books in Vita and Harold’s library are of a vintage that is more interesting to me. It was a really good thing that the books were secured on the shelves with what looked like fishing line because more than once I reached to take a volume off the shelf.
I’m not going to caption any of these photos. I put them up for you to click on and zoom in and explore on your own.
Prior to leaving home for our trip to Sissinghurst, I read something online about how the library in the Priest’s House where we were staying was full of good things to read. I almost decided to do something really risky and only take one book for the plane with the thought of reading whatever I found in the house when we got there. I thought better of that and ended up taking along four books. This was probably a good thing as there wasn’t much on the shelves in the cottage that I wanted to read. Mind you, if I had run out of books there were definitely one or two that would have held me over, and maybe even surprised me. But there wasn’t anything enticing enough to make me put down any of the four I brought along with me. (I won’t even remind you of the fact that a 100 meters away at the plant shop near the car park there was a charity bookstall that had plenty that would have interested me.)
When I first saw the shelves, the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books jumped out like a sore thumb and automatically made me think that everything there was crap. It was only through the magic of alphabetization that I realized the situation wasn’t as dire as it seemed. It reminded me of the time at the DC central library when I couldn’t find a particular Trollope among the six or so shelves of his work. But after putting all of his novels in alpha order (and weeding out the Joanna Trollopes), like gorillas emerging from the mist (how’s that for a simile?), I discovered not one, but six, copies of the book I was looking for.