In used book stores, I have the habit of looking for books with inscriptions that others might not notice, decipher or appreciate.
In The Strand last weekend, I found and bought a copy of Walter Lippmann and His Times, a great collection of essays edited by Marquis Childs and James Reston, published by Harcourt, Brace in 1959.
The book, a hardback in good condition, has this inscription on the flyleaf:
For Marietta and Ronny
Having known Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., a little bit and having received some of his typed but signed letters, I recognized his handwriting. His cursive “Arthur,” not entirely legible in this book, was distinctive. (He authored, in the book, an essay, “Walter Lippmann: The Intellectual v. Politics.”)
My indirect benefactors are Marietta Tree (1917-1991) and her husband Ronald (1897-1976).
Marietta Tree and Arthur Schlesinger were close friends. For wonderful traces of that and many other treasures, I highly recommend The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., edited by his sons Andrew and Stephen and published late last year.
For details on Marietta Tree’s full and accomplished life, see, in addition to the Schlesinger letters, her New York Times obituary. It includes this great, and typically striking, quotation from Arthur Schlesinger:
Her ambition was to be a combination of Mrs. Roosevelt and Carole Lombard. And that is what she was.