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Old 07-05-2012, 06:39 AM   #1
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Day, Clarence: Life With Father. v1. 05 July 2012

By Clarence Day (1874 - 1935), the author of “God and My Father,” “Life With Mother,” “The Crow’s Nest,” “This Simian World,” etc.

Day’s most famous work is the autobiographical Life with Father, which detailed humorous episodes in his family’s life, centering on his domineering father. Scenes from the book, along with its 1932 predecessor, God and My Father, and its 1937 sequel, Life with Mother, were the basis for the 1939 play which became one of Broadway’s longest-running, non-musical hits. It was adapted for film in 1947, and as a popular television sitcom 1953–1955. (Adapted from Wikipedia)

The second in the trio of memoirs about the Day family, the book is a picture of New York upper middle class family life in the 1890s. The stories are filled with affectionate irony, and Day’s understated, matter-of-fact style underlines the comedy in everyday situations. The stories of his father, Clarence “Clare” Day, Senior, portray a rambunctious, overburdened Wall Street broker who demands that everything from his family should be just so. The more he rails against his staff, his cook, his wife, his horse, salesmen, holidays, his children, and the inability of the world to live up to his impossible standards, the more comical and lovable he becomes to his own family who love him despite it all. (Adapted from publisher’s description.)

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An excerpt
Quote:
The whole thing was uncanny. The violin itself was a queer, fragile, cigar-boxy thing, that had to be handled most gingerly. Nothing sturdy about it. Why, a fellow was liable to crack it putting it into its case. And then my teacher, he was queer too. He had a queer pickled smell.
I dare say he wasn’t queer at all really, but he seemed so to me, because he was different from the people I generally met. He was probably worth a dozen of some of them, but I didn’t know it. He was one of the violins in the Philharmonic, and an excellent player; a grave, middle-aged little man - who was obliged to give lessons.
He wore a black, wrinkled frock-coat, and a discolored gold watch-chain. He had small, black-rimmed glasses; not tortoise-shell, but thin rims of metal. His violin was dark, rich, and polished, and would do anything for him.
Mine was bulky and awkward, brand new, and of a light, common color.
The violin is intended for persons with a passion for music. I wasn’t that kind of person. I liked to hear a band play a tune that we could march up and down to, but try as I would, I could seldom whistle such a tune afterward. My teacher didn’t know this. He greeted me as a possible genius.
He taught me how to hold the contraption, tucked under my chin. I learned how to move my fingers here and there on its handle or stem. I learned how to draw the bow across the strings, and thus produce sounds . . .

Does a mother recall the first cry of her baby, I wonder? I still remember the strange cry at birth of that new violin.
My teacher, Herr M., looked as though he had suddenly taken a large glass of vinegar. He sucked in his breath. His lips were drawn back from his teeth, and his eyes tightly shut. Of course, he hadn’t expected my notes to be sweet at the start; but still, there was something unearthly about that first cry. He snatched the violin from me, examined it, readjusted its pegs, and comforted it gently, by drawing his own bow across it. It was only a new and not especially fine violin, but the sounds it made for him were more natural - they were classifiable sounds. They were not richly musical, but at least they had been heard before on this earth.
He handed the instrument back to me with careful directions. I tucked it up under my chin again and grasped the end tight. I held my bow exactly as ordered. I looked up at him, waiting.
“Now,” he said, nervously.

I slowly raised the bow, drew it downward . . .

This time there were two dreadful cries in our little front basement. One came from my new violin and one from the heart of Herr M.
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No illustrations (I believe these may have been illustrated when first published, if anyone knows of a source, please do let me know.) Decorative fonts for chapter-heads, tail decorations, and drop-caps. Large-cap version also available.
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