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  • Charley Thomas

I bought a book of Wordsworth

I bought a book of Wordsworth

that one hundred and thirty years ago was given as a gift on Christmas Day which I am told was a sultry Wednesday by the man on my computer screen and the inscription reads Dear Violet but says nothing further, as if the words of Wordsworth expressed affection more than anything its buyer could write themselves.

When the volume was twenty-six years old a sister of nine called Violet Jessop lived through the sinking of the Titanic, the second of three shipwrecks she survived to later die in a hospital bed: congestive heart failure at eighty-three. If she’d caught a glimpse of that dusty book in its cardboard box, would she have picked it up?

In nineteen thirty-four, Violet Hilton, a vaudevillian conjoined twin, shared a kiss with her fiancé, the first man to see her as a woman and not just the burlesque act of Daisy and Violet, a man who applied in twenty-one states for marriage, but got denied every time— where was my copy of Wordsworth then?

Last year, a drag queen who calls herself Violet Chachki won a trophy during the seventh season of an American reality TV program called Drag Race. She cited her biggest inspirations: a performer named Exclamation Point and the constellation Gemini, but not once mentioned the poet Wordsworth.

When I found the quaint old collection I saw the bundle of fragile pages, a scintilla in the back of a box at a vast book fair. Its label read 10, presumably dollars, so I asked if that was the price, and got Have it for five as an offhand response. I said, Why’s that? and was told the inscription halved its value.

Today, I gave away the worn volume to my six-year-old neighbour Violet. She saw a violet by a mossy stone as a cloud of jumbled I-don’t-knows, but when she saw her name in the front, scrawled with a nineteenth century nib, her smile read more into those two words than Wordsworth could ever have hoped.

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