The Annotated Beekeeper
Tomorrow, Picador books publishes the shiny new Twentieth Anniversary edition of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, with a new foreword by yours truly (author, or editor?? Only Mary Russell knows for sure…) To mark the day, I’m giving you a sample of the annotated Beekeeper’s Apprentice from my own electronic volume, The Mary Russell Companion.
When I was talking about this Companion last fall, my friend, the eminent (some might say, compulsive) Footnoter Leslie S. Klinger, offered to join his enthusiasms to mine and help me Annotate two complete chapters of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. 101 erudite, abstruse, and occasionally argumentative footnotes later, we had part the first of The Definitive Beekeeper’s Apprentice with all you might want to know about gorse, flint, non-rhotic accents, and Sherlock Holmes’ sense of humo(u)r.
The Annotated Beekeeper’s Apprentice
(Notes by Leslie S. Klinger and Laurie R. King)
It was a cool, sunny day in early April, and the book was by Virgil.* I had set out at dawn from the silent farmhouse, chosen a different direction from my usual—in this case southeasterly, towards the sea—and had spent the intervening hours wrestling with Latin verbs, climbing unconsciously over stone walls, and unthinkingly circling hedge rows, and would probably not have noticed the sea until I stepped off one of the chalk cliffs** into it.
* Publius Virgillius Maro, better known as Virgil, was probably the greatest Roman poet of his era, 70 to 19 B.C.E., and his epic poem, the Æneid, is still read today. Following the adventures of the Trojan soldier Æneas, from the Trojan War to his landing in Italy and the founding of Rome, the Æneid has long been a staple of Latin literature. At 15, if Ms. Russell is still “wrestling with Latin verbs,” it is unlikely that she would be reading Virgil’s other masterworks, the Eclogues or the Georgics. On the other hand, she was no doubt introduced to the Georgics before long, since Virgil has much to say there (Book IV) about the honeybee.
** The white cliffs are indeed chalk, laid down during the Cretaceous era, a million generations of tiny shelled creatures at the bottom of the sea, later pushed up to form the distinctive southern coast of England. Typically, chalk is studded with large nodules of flint, used as building materials throughout the Downs, including for the house of Sherlock Holmes.
If you’d like to read more about the Russell Memoirs, The Mary Russell Companion
is available here.