What SHOULD happen to ‘Sophia’s desk’?
At the current date; August, 2013, the near forty year old New England antiquarian collector’s mantra of John T. Kirk’s “Buy it ratty and leave it alone”... a chapter title found in his 1975 book “THE INPECUNIOUS COLLECTOR’S GUIDE TO AMERICAN ANTIQUES”... is a collector’s religion standard, a market place proven and a ‘no brainer’ for both New England antiques collectors and dealers . Daily, these days, splendid ‘untouched’ New England antique discoveries are NOT ‘fixed up’. They are ‘not touched’. They are very promptly protected from any and all of that ‘fixed up’ by the market. The market continues without a waver to honor the ‘untouched’ with the most money and this keeps all others desires... scared away.
At this moment... ‘Sophia’s Desk’ is ‘untouched’. This means that physically the desk has come down through its time just as it ...has come down through its time. It was bought... along the New England coast between... 1790’s to the 1815’s... ‘loaded aboard’ ship, ‘brought home’, used in the home by “Sophia”... for SIX (?) generations of ‘Sophia’s’. It then attempted to follow a ‘last’ (?) “Sophia” to ‘assisted living’ and failed. Its return to the ‘home’ was rejected and the desk was ‘saved’ by the home’s caretaker taking it to his workshop’s storage shed where it remained ...until he died and his heirs ‘found it’. They are now, after modest attempts at ‘selling it’... storing the desk under an ‘old cloth’ at the head of a garage bay at a modest suburban home. The desk is ‘untouched’, ‘as found’.
To the lay eye AND many antiquarian eyes... the desk is... ‘it needs work’.. to make it ‘living room ready’... for... WHO? Those people do not count anymore; the market removes them with the word ‘untouched’ followed with a ‘flood’ of ‘cash’. The only attack force that “COULD be one” is the ‘full makeover’ ‘restoration’ group who... ‘would pay’ for such a ‘wreck’ to accomplish the ‘there’s a lot there already’ sophistication ...opportunity. THEY will increase the price (the value) of the ‘untouched’ desk with their interest.
“Ratty” adjusts to ‘untouched’. This PHYSICAL state of the desk is protected by cash. From there this physical ‘untouched’ gathers further aura; further aura of the ‘untouched’.
The first aura halo is the stark realm that there simply are NOT many... or ‘any’, ‘untouched’ New England sea captain’s wife’s Tambour desks ‘around’. MOST ALL have been ‘found’ and ‘fixed’... for 150 plus years. A desk like ‘Sophia’s’ was attracting notice as ‘old’ by the 1850’s. They were, back then... being fixed. VERY FEW escaped this attention... over the centuries. To have a desk ‘just sit there’ in a coastal Maine sea captain’s mansion... was (is) a rare occurrence QUICKLY noted as ‘a rare survival’. ‘Untouched’ ‘Sophia’s Desk’ is intensely singular. Touched ...in anyway at all including such lunacy of, for example, one of the H&W couples endeavoring to do a “FIX IT” “THAT” with a ‘glue gun’, et al...; “YIKES” in addition a trailing off into plunging darkness “NOOoooooo”. Under the old cloth in the garage... it has a wonderful aura halo... ‘intact’. TRY and find ‘another one’. TRY IT... and get back to me. The rule? IF Great Grandmother gives one a New England Federal period Tambour desk... LEAVE IT ALONE; leave it just the way SHE GAVE IT TO YOU. SHE (Great Grammy) didn’t fix it and one should SEND HER a thank you note for ‘doing that’.
Put the desk in your living room ...just the way you received it... and if a visitor says “AREN’T YOU GOING TO GET THE TAMBOURS FIXED?” say “No.”. If needed, add that it was your grandmother’s, grandmother’s, grandmother’s desk and that is ‘exactly the way I inherited it’. If conversation continues about the condition of the ratty desk in the living room, the home’s visitor should be... as politely as possible... for being one’s unenlightened visitor ...be... politely informed... that... ‘they don’t know what they’re talking about’. It is well understood that even saying that ‘fixing them’ (the Tambours) will ‘destroy the value’ of the desk... will NOT GET THROUGH so... reconcile oneself by knowing that... THANK YOU... the visitor will most probably never have a piece of art to destroy ‘anyway’. Past using the first one word response of ‘No’, ‘don’t even bother’ to continue the rest of the conversation UNLESS ...they... ‘get it’ about the ‘things from my grandmother’ ...THEY HAVE... that, among those things... ARE a something that IS ‘GOOD’ to the antiquarian realm. “MOST” of most people’s “from my grandmother” ‘are not good’. Rest assured on this point and BET ON IT.
Once one has had one’s stomach stapled on the physical ‘untouched’ aura halo found hiding in New England decorative arts AND their resulting premium cash value... Once one has... from this stapled state... uttered defensive and balanced declarations... in the living room of one’s own home... about the ‘things’ ‘from my grandmother’... that one is found to be protecting from destruction... one gets the hang of it and the radiance of the aura of knowing ‘I’m right’ becomes a warm glow throughout one’s home.
Enhancing this aura halo is another aura halo: “IT’S HISTORY”. That is, the HISTORY of the antique ‘untouched’. Here, aside from one big point, we have very clear “HISTORY” about Sophia’s desk. This whole tale planted a garden of seeds of history about the desk and those blossomed into a variety of historic fact... tale... lore and... aura; an aura halo TOO, around the desk.
What is the big ‘aside’ point? It is that NO ONE knows this history about the historic setting of the desk at all. There is no ‘written down’, no tale told, no ‘publication on’, no ‘lecture tonight’, no museum tour, no... one.. but... my grandmother ...and I. NO ONE knows about the desk or the history of the desk or ANY THING ELSE about ANY OF THIS. NONE THE LESS, this aura halo of and about the desk; it’s ‘history’ IS WONDERFUL and greatly enhances ‘Sophia’s Desk’. It should be merged with the physical desk ‘untouched’.
And... the physical ‘Captain Merritt Kimball’s sea captain’s mansion... now a ‘summer place’. THIS, too, IS an aura halo TOO ‘about the desk’. A very grand and prominent aura halo. A mere side glance of the ‘driving by’ at the ‘estate’ ‘up there’ assures even the most lay that “IT”; the mansion, IS an aura halo... itself. Have I yet gone to ‘see’ if the front room furniture ‘is there’; to see if there... is there too... a table upon which a ‘Sophia’s’ Roger’s Group rested white she wrote her letters at the ‘Sophia’s Desk’?
No. I’ll get to it. But... I fear that those rooms when entered will have... only new ‘summer people’ furniture in them with the original Kimball ‘sold with the property’ furniture LONG GONE (several ‘summer people’ owners ago). The best I hope for is it was ‘stuffed in the barn’. The worse is ‘taken off by their caretaker’ to ‘get rid of’ ‘then’ (twenty-five years ago) and ‘sold’. Oh ...I’ll find out... why not?
If one takes the desk and its aura halos to the ... wider realm of New England decorative arts study... one does have a study. A weekend seminar. A publication. An ‘it’s beautiful’ (desk, history, mansion). Or just cart the whole wagon load down to the local historical society and let THEM run up the flag?
Or do nothing.
Why would one do that?
We come back to the very beginning of this tale. I will do and say nothing because...:
“Growing up under the antiquarian tutelage of a grandmother who would “set off” from her kitchen table with a rubber banded “roll of money” at the slightest sign that a …takeover… by summer people of “an old place” or preferably “old sea captain ****’s PLACE has “schooled me” in the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance.” (Part One, paragraph three).
I am ‘schooled me’. I live ‘in the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole ...Maine... romance’. It is the romance that is the last and most fleeting of the aura halos found with the desk. This halo is the tradition of the Maine romance. For fifty years I have lived here within THIS aura halo surrounding all the other aura halos; the desk, the mansion, the Kimballs, the Parkers, Sophia, the wrecker’s daughter, the punch bowls, the tea service, the chest, Mr. Simon’s barn, the platter, my grandmother’s estate, Charles’ workshop, the casts of visiting players and ...my grandmother’s ghost. This aura halo of romance is a pure New England haunt passing... that should go on... ‘untouched’.