Are You Pretentious? Cicero’s Book Signing & Other Encounters

“Cicero Denouncing Catiline,” The Comic History of Rome.

Have you ever met one of your favorite writers?  Was he/she glazed after lecturing to 100 people and giving autographs to the whole audience? Did he/she get your name wrong?  You will hilariously show everyone the signed title page, “Best wishes to Carrie (from illegible).”  (Your name is Mary, or perhaps Kelly.)

That writer may not have been at the peak of his/her charm at the event. And the less you expect, the better.  Some writers are amiable and make an effort (you have bought their book, after all), others are too busy craning their neck at the editor in the back of the room.

One guesses that Cicero was too busy networking to chat with fans.  This, however, would not have bothered Dickens’s Mrs. Blimber, an eccentric character in Dickens’s Dombey and Son.  She  would make the best of any encounter—because she says she wishes she could have met Cicero.

Mrs. Blimber has not read Cicero, but she is married to one of Dickens’s most rigid classical headmaster/teachers, Doctor Blimber.

Mrs. Blimber…was not learned herself, but she pretended to be, and that did quite as well.  She said at evening parties, that if she could have known Cicero, she thought she could have died contented. It was the steady joy of her life to see the Doctor’s young gentlemen go out walking, in the largest possible shirt-collars, and the stiffest possilbe cravats.  It was so classical, she said.

She is eloquent about the classics after Mr. Dombey enrolls his  six-year-old son Paul at the school. She gushes that she envies Paul.

“Like a bee, Sir,” said Mrs. Blimber, with uplifted eyes, “about to plunge into a garden of the choicest flowers, and sip the sweets for the first time.  Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Terence, Plautus, Cicero.  What a world of honey have we here.”

Back to writers:  have you met a favorite writer?  Was it inspiring, or a let-down?  

Tell all, please!  I used to go to a lot of readings.  Nowadays I stay home and read the book.

NOTE:  I may or may not have a signed copy of Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  First I asked his brother, who looked just like him.  Then Ken Kesey himself (I think) doodled a flower on the title page.  I treasure this book.  Signed or not, it’s a good story.

6 thoughts on “Are You Pretentious? Cicero’s Book Signing & Other Encounters”

  1. My high school English teacher took a select (!) group of us to a reading by Robert Frost. He was quite elderly but an effective reader. Afterwards we took up our high school anthologies and asked him to sign his poems in it. It was the only copy of his work that we had. He was irritated and demanded to to know whether a royalty had been paid for this use of his poems.

    1. What was he thinking? Those anthologies probably made him a lot of money. 🙂 . And you were his AUDIENCE. Not all poets are equally charming.

      1. This was in the long ago when schools provided text books for our use and they were passed down from year to year. I wonder what the next year’s class thought when they found some of the books were signed by Robert Front. They probably thought it was some sort of prank.

        1. We all loved Robert Frost. It’s a pity he didn’t want to sign them. Some writers do get cranky. A bad Robert Frost day!

  2. I think a few of us probably have something of an inner Mrs. Blimber, as we’ve all been either a bit star-struck, or felt the need to appear more knoledgable about an author or subject than we really are. Personally, I’m actually starting to think I’m a bit more like Mrs. Blimber’s daughter, Cornelia with all her love of dead languages and so on, as quite a few of my own favorite authors are dead.

    1. Alyson, I love Miss Blimber! I think she’s rather sweet, and cried when she told Paul he was her favorite student. Mrs. Blimber isn’t so bad, either.

      On Sun, Oct 27, 2019 at 9:49 AM Thornfield Hall: A Book Blog wrote:


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