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Easton's Comments on His Collection

Just days prior to his passing in December of 2011, Robert Easton wrote the following which was to be included in his memorial.  Given the occasion of this auction, it seems that perhaps Robert Easton was speaking to you – those who may be the new owners of the books he cherished:


How lucky can one man be?


I’ve had a 67 year career as an actor and dialect coach in this wonderful business of storytelling……a happy 44 year marriage to my beloved wife June……and the pleasure of coaching innumerable talented and creative actors.  Witnessing them transform themselves into convincing characters with authentic regional dialects from many places around the globe was a joy and honor for me.


I leave my extensive dialect library for you and I have entrusted the vision for it to my spiritual daughter, Heather.  While “on location,” from London to Shanghai and across 60 odd years of traveling, I have lovingly collected poetry, prose, humor, history, culture, slang and local literature…..often on my hands and knees in seedy secondhand bookstores, sweltering swap meets and fortuitous flea markets.  What a great time I had!  --  Robert Easton, November 2011


Remarkably, Heather Perry (Easton’s ‘adopted’ daughter, long-time friend and confidant) and Robert both had the foresight to record a conversation they had regarding his book collection.  He wanted the journey of these books to be remembered and did not want the stories to die with him.  The audio unfortunately was not of sufficient quality to provide here, but some portions of these conversations which deal with the proverbs and humor collection have been transcribed, below:


[After speaking of his dialect books, Easton begins to recount his acquisition of the various proverbs books]


               Now, the other subject I collected was proverbs.  The great proverb collector was Lt. Col. Victor De Guinzbourg, who was the American military attaché to the United Nations.  He spoke about 10 languages, and he’d been collecting proverbs since he was a little kid.  I met him through the Folklore Society in England, and everywhere I went in England to ask about proverbs books, they’d say “Oh, well Col. De Guinzbourg was in here last month” or “he was here three months ago and he took ‘em all.” 


               So, he was lecturing at the Folklore Society in London.  I went to hear him and introduced myself to him afterward.  So, then, we kept in touch.  He had a huge, big house in Brooklyn Heights which was loaded with proverb books.  See those two red and yellow books over there?  Those are his two books that he’s written on proverbs.  I kept in touch with him, and then they moved – a colossal move –  from this huge house in Brooklyn Heights all the way up to [trying to recall the name]… a little town up north of Yonkers.  It was kind of a posh place for people to live in, and it was a huge house with a large library. 


               When he passed away, I got in touch with his widow – she had met me – and her nephew was a very well-known writer.  I can’t think of his name…. I kept talking to her on the phone and she said, “Oh, I can’t face the disposing of any of his books.”  And I said, “Well there will come a time when you want to” and I said, “And please call me.”


                It was about a year and half later when she called me.  And her niece had said, “It’s not good for you to live in this house with all the memories and all the books” and she [told her that she] should move into a smaller place and sell the books.  And she [De Guinzbourg’s widow] called me, and I went to this little town – it’s up north of Yonkers – [Easton tries to recall the year but has difficulty in his old age]. 


               They came out in a huge, big moving van.  I’ve still got boxes of his out there that I haven’t even opened.  Proverbs, but a lot of those were in dialects – [for example, one book may be] Cheshire proverbs and dialects [presented together in one book.]  Many Irish proverb books, Scottish, Australian, many, many West Indian.


               And he [meaning De Guinzbourg] had bought the collection from – oh [trying to recall the name, William Stirling-Maxwell], he was an English lord who had a great proverb collection, and through the years De Guinzbourg had bought most of his collection.  And I also had a few things from his collection, so I reunited that collection with De Guinzbourg’s. [Here Easton is referring to William Stirling-Maxwell, 9th Baronet, who had a large proverb collection and wrote books on the subject as well.  Easton had found pieces of Stirling-Maxwell’s collection over the years, but De Guinzbourg reportedly had the bulk of the Stirling-Maxwell collection as Robert Easton understood it.  When Easton acquired the De Guinzbourg collection, he reunited a large portion of the Stirling-Maxwell proverb collection.]



Easton speaks about his Wit and Humor collection:


               And then in terms of humor, the guy that wrote for Bob Burns had a huge collection, and he sold a lot of his humor books to…[Easton trying to recall name]…The guy that wrote the Beverly Hillbillies and all those shows…Henning! Paul Henning.  Right.  He sold a lot of his books to Paul Henning. When he died [the guy who wrote for Bob Burns], I got in touch with the widow, and I bought my pick of his collection…had 3-ton Ford van and made 3 or 4 trips over there.  And then later, after Paul Henning died, I got in touch with his daughter [and bought Henning’s books], so I reunited that collection.