The Road To Spiritual Redemption

The book I finished reading yesterday once, according to the bookplate it bears, graced the shelves of Geoffrey P. Shakerley. Was this Colonel Sir Geoffrey Peter Shakerley (1906–1982), Chairman of Gloucestershire County Council (1956–1967) ? I wonder. And was he the first owner?

Here is the gold-embossed front board of another beautiful volume in the Bodley Head collection of the works of this author and illustrator.

I rarely read a book twice, but the tell-tale train ticket slipped inside suggests that I first read this one in June 1996, and was not deterred from enjoying it again. First published in 1890, this is the first illustrated edition of 1926.

Undoubtedly rich in satire from M. France, this is nevertheless a treatise on the trials and tribulations on the road to spiritual redemption. St Thais of Egypt, a libertine said to have lived in the 4th century A.D. and converted to early Christianity by a monk wracked with thoughts of lust for her. The writer, within this story, weaves struggles with conscience and much philosophical debate. His effortless prose has been well translated by Robert B. Douglas.

As usual, Papé’s superb draftsmanship is represented by endpapers;

by twelve full page plates;

by introductory section headings;

and by end pieces, from each of which I offer a selection.

Jules Massanet’s eponymous opera was based on Anatole France’s book.

Here is the final scene including the Renée Fleming duet with Thomas Hampson (10.29 minutes)

This evening we dined on Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent fare.


  1. The illustrations are truly wonderful as the other commenter put it. A racy story too. It must have been scandalous in 1890 and even moreso in 1926 with the illustrations.

  2. I have a Thomas Hardy volume with ‘ex libris Michael Moorcock’, bought in Fulham. Must have belonged to the Hawkwind collaborator. I sometimes play with the idea of sending it to him. He’d probably be annoyed after dumping it out once already.
    On a sadder note, one of my wife’s interests is archeology (stay with me here). One of the groups she belongs to is run by a professional archeologist who is a published author in his field.
    Apparently he has found that once he’s sold all the first print run, rather than doing an expensive second run, any new demand can be met through him buying his own books on eBay, Amazon etc. and selling them on.
    A little while back a friend of my wife and him passed away. A month or so later he saw a copy of one of his books on eBay, bought it and upon opening it saw his own handwritten dedication to that friend on the front page. Really shook him. Chris

  3. I do love looking at those prints and really appreciate that you share them with us. Listened to the finale at the same time too – wonderful music! I was once an opera buff but have never seen Thais.

  4. On my goodness, Renee Fleming reaches me every time…thank you for this beautiful offering today. And the illustrations are quite stylized and interesting…certainly reflect a time and viewpoint. Clearly, he lost n a sense and she my view 🙂 But what a story!

  5. Beautiful music! Just what I needed to hear after a long day. I love those illustrations…thanks for sharing Derrick. I hope you’re weekend includes some Rugby viewing. 🙂

  6. I love when you share your books and the illustrations, Derrick! Wonderful! Thank you! 🙂
    I love theater/plays and opera! When I was a little girl…8 years old…I found an airing of the opera Amahl and the Night Visitors that had been filmed on stage and put on television. It was the first opera I ever saw in any way and I was hooked! 🙂
    HUGS and hope you and Jackie are feeling spunky today!!!

  7. Massenet’s ‘Meditation’ is a musical masterpiece! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. 🙂

    I love the cartoons Papé puts at the foot of some of his work.

    May you both continue recovering in robust health. 🙂

  8. I never knew that the opera was based on this book, but from the first note played, I recognized it. Lovely, isn’t it?!!

  9. I so enjoy your beautifully illustrated book reviews! Papé’s drawings are lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed the excerpt from Massenet’s opera. Thank you, Derrick!

  10. thanks for the opera music – going to come back and finish listening – and the book must be good to have you at it again – 🙂

      1. And with so many ebooks these days – or cheap soft covers (which I live) it was nice to see the good and could feel the texture of the cover

  11. So interesting that you rarely read a book twice. I read some of my favorites every year! (I also watch the same movies over and over, so no surprise.) A psychologist could tell you something about me – not sure what. : I

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