I've enjoyed the short stories of O. Henry since I first read "The Gift of the Magi" in junior high school. When I'm back at my mother's house, I frequently take one of her two orange-and-blue bound O. Henry collected works into the bathroom with me.
When my great-aunt's household was being disbanded after she decided to move to a small apartment, I was given one of these O. Henry books (I can't remember which one). In the late 1980s, when I was living in Allston, I found the rest for $10 the set at a junk shop. I've loved them, but really . . . I was keeping them for the matching bindings in the Gloria Upson "Books are awfully decorative, don't you think?" Manner.
And since I hadn't actually opened one of these to read in over 20 years, I finally decided that it was time to move them forward into the universe - which really means the trash, since no one is reading O. Henry any more. I kept two (not pictured), The Trimmed Lamp and The Four Million, because my favorite stories are there. But these are now out of my house.
Back in 1989 - the year I quit my job and temped at an insurance company, the year I came out, the year of deep depression - I saw in the display window for Goodspeed's Rare Books a copy of Anna Leonowens' famous book An English Governess at the Siamese Court. It was $50, and I saved and saved and saved, and I bought it. It's been one of the chiefest gems of my library these 30 years.
I grew up on the original Broadway cast recording of The King and I with Yul Brynner and the divine Gertrude Lawrence, and at some point in high school or early college I got and read the book The King and I by Margaret Landon, based heavily on this book and Leonowens' other book The Romance of the Harem. I remember Landon said in her preface that her book was "75% fact and 25% fiction based on fact."
At that time in my life I was gripped by the story of Mrs. Leonowens coming to Siam from India with her little boy and a couple faithful Indian servants to serve as the first-ever European governess for the royal household. But I have had many interests come and go in the intervening years, most prominently the Ballets Russes, but also the Romanovs, the Titanic (which will always remain with me), French history (Claude Manceron's five-volume history came out in paperback in the early 1990s), and others.
I realized that it's time for someone else to enjoy this book. What a nice surprise to realize that it's a first edition!
Many years ago someone gave me this companion paperback to go with it. I have to confess I’ve never read it.