MOPSIE AT CORINTH.

Trying to get some books unpacked (yes, we’ve been here almost three months and some of the books are still in boxes), I pulled out my ancient Sophocles for the use of schools, Vol. II: Explanatory notes, by Lewis Campbell, and looking at the inscription “Alice Leslie Walker 1905, Vassar 1906″ I thought (being easily distractible) I might as well google her and see if there was any information. I soon found out she’d gotten her BA in ’06 and her MA in ’08, then a PhD from the University of California in 1917, and had done archeological work in Greece, particularly at Corinth. Then I hit the mother lode: “Alice Leslie Walker (1885-1954),” by John C. Lavezzi (pdf, Google cache). Turns out the woman known to her friends as “Mopsie” had quite a life, with lots of activity, lots of frustration, and not much (of a public nature) to show for it—a fatal combination of excessive perfectionism (a common scholarly trait all too well known to me from my time in grad school) and academic politics (she was part of the losing faction at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens) meant that she was never able to get most of her Corinth work published. A bout of malaria with typhoid-like symptoms in 1920 left her very overweight and nearly deaf, which made her the butt of unkind jokes; nevertheless, she married Georgios A. Kosmopoulos in 1924 and they seem to have had a happy marriage, moving to Santa Barbara, California (for many years my family home) sometime around WWII—Lavezzi says “it may be (evidence is deficient) that she never was able to return to her beloved Greece.” I got my copy of her Sophocles text in July 2000, at Bart’s Books in Ojai (well worth a visit if you’re in Southern California), and I hereby pay tribute to her memory. (She had a nice bookplate, too, with a view of a mountainous landscape and the legend LEVABO OCVLOS ‘I will lift up mine eyes [unto the hills],” from Psalm 121.)

Comments

  1. When I search for “levabo oculos”, Google suggests “lavabo oculos”, which is the pun I immediately thought of on seeing the phrase, as a more erudite version of “The goggles, they do nothing!” or similar sentiments. There’s only one page with “lavabo oculos”, though, in Ladin(?), and I imagine it’s a typo.

  2. I’m ashamed to say that ‘levabo oculos’ makes me think of Harry Potter.

  3. I, too, thought of “lavabo” (but not of Harry).

  4. FYI, Vulgate has “levavi”.

  5. With this song I write your name on the wall.

  6. More fun! Unpacking and arranging books, perusing the inscriptions and bookplates of previous owners, random dipping! I once had a first edition of E. A. Robinson’s The Man Who Died Twice inscribed by one of the Elliot Roosevelt cousins of Eleanor and Franklin. His first name is vaguely trying to make its way out of the labyrinth of my muddled brain but has yet to succeed. It seems he was an acoholic ne’er-do-well with a taste for literature.
    More to the point, your post reminded me that I have long promised myself to Google “Elizabeth Beckwith” whose name appears on the bookplates of several of my books. The name is a common one in the Connecticut blue blood family so I can’t say for sure just yet. The publication date of the books, however, and the literary titles, suggest that they might have belonged to the young Elizabeth Beckwith (later Beckwith MacKie) who wrote “My Friend Scott Fitzgerald”.
    Oh, and do I remember correctly? Isn’t ‘lavabo oculos’ the corporate logo for Johnson & Johnson?
    I think I’ll go arrange my Pre-Raphaelite bookmarks now.

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