Friday, December 31, 2010
False Dawn, by Edith Wharton
An interesting read, but it will be the last of Edith Wharton's books that I will read for a while. This reading too was from an original book, from my library, copyright 1923.
This was possibly the only book of hers that I had a small glimpse of where it was heading, not completely.
Halston Raycie a millionaire and head of the family, lives on Long Island Sound. There is a wife and three children, two girls Sarah Anne and Mary Adeline, fresher replicas of the lymphatic Mrs. Raycie. and a boy Lewis.
The boy Lewis is about to be sent to Europe for the Grand Tour, which all gentlemen of his era embarked upon to round off their education and turn them into men.
The dream, the ambition, the passion of Mr. Raycie's life, was (as his son knew) to found a Family; and he had only Lewis to found it with...
With a view to this founding of a family it was Mr. Raycie's great desire that Lewis should acquire, while in Europe, some old master pieces of artwork to establish a Raycie Art Gallery. To this effect he was given $15,000 a great deal of money back then.
"Where is our Byron - our Scott - our Shakespeare? And in painting it is the same. where are our Old Masters? ..."
Lewis is in love with his poor orphaned cousin Beatrice, nicknamed Treeshy. She grew up in Italy a country he will visit.
On his European Tour, Lewis meets a young Englishman while staying in an inn, at the foot of Mount Blanche and they spend an enjoyable evening and day together. They discuss many things and he encourages Lewis to visit certain not well known chapels, while in Italy and look at the paintings.
His eyes had been opened to a new world of art. And this world was his mission to reveal to others - he, the insignificant and ignorant Lewis Raycie.
"Oh, but it's not a Carlo Dolce; it's a Peiro della Francesca, sir!' burst in triumph from the trembling Lewis.
His father sternly faced him. "it's a copy, you mean? I thought so!"
"No, no; not a copy; it's by a great painter ... a much greater ..."
Needless to say papa Racie was not enamoured of the unknown artists who's paintings Lewis had brought back to the States. Within a year, with the disgrace of the much acclaimed collection coming from Europe, Mr. Raycie was dead and his wife too. Leaving Lewis, who married his sweet heart Treeshy, a small allowance of $5,000 per year, in contrast to the millions left to the girls.
Eventually by an insignificant cousin, Lewis was left a small house in New York City, where he decided to show his art collection, now he could actually show these wonderful paintings. It never caught on.
Fast forward about eighty to a hundred years, the time of the automobile. A hither to unknown collection of a now famous artist has come to light. It's been gathering dust in an attic all these years.
I wouldn't race out to get this book. But it's a short easy read, and Edith Wharton is a time honored American author.