The Last Page
River City Books closed its doors for the last time this afternoon at 4:00. I was there between 1:00 and 2:00 to make my final purchase: a new copy of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway to replace the battered, yellow-highlighted copy I bought as a freshman at Oberlin in 1982. Near the beginning of the novel, as Clarissa Dalloway walks through London to buy flowers for her party, she passes Hatchards Bookshop on Picadilly and looks in at a book open in the window:
What was she dreaming as she looked into Hatchards' shop window? What was she trying to recover? What image of white dawn in the country, as she read in the book spread open:The book is Shakespeare's Cymbeline. The lines that Mrs. Dalloway remembers continue:
Fear no more the heat o' the sun
Nor the furious winter's rages.
This late age of the world's experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance; a perfectly upright and stoical bearing.
Fear no more the heat o' the sun,Everything must come to an end, but if anything deserves to last a little longer than most things, it's a fine bookshop. Hatchards, where Clarissa Dalloway read those words from Shakespeare, has been selling books in London since 1797. River City Books folded today after a brief seven years. I will miss it.
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.