art, ancient cultures, fashion, people...in short...worldly beauty
art, ancient cultures, fashion, people...in short...worldly beauty
I’m done. I can die happy. I need no more.
Amelia Peabody fans up in here.
As mother of and daughter to Hillary, she and Dorothy shared a singular…
My first encounter with the ever intrepid Amelia Peabody Emerson—and Elizabeth Peters for that matter—occurred back in high school. It was most likely my junior year. I remember that I was looking into colleges, trying to figure out where I wanted to go and what exactly I wanted to study.
I was at my grandmother’s house on a pretty day, a weekend visit no doubt. My aunt was there, too, and she happened to have a box of books that she was looking to donate. Being related obviously gave me first dibs on that receptacle of potential treasures. There were several books to sift through, and I believe I ended up with three. I can only recall one of those, and it’s still sitting on my shelf, still smelling deliciously of Grandmom’s basement, surrounded by others of the same series.
This book was The Ape that Guards the Balance. Book ten in the series if you read them in order of excavation season. I didn’t initially realize this book that promised adventures in Victorian/Edwardian Egypt was part of such an extensive group, but I was intrigued. I had always harbored a little cultural crush on ancient Egypt, and this seemed like a fun way to spend the next few days.
After a few chapters I started to understand that there were other books to the series, but I ended up finishing Ape anyway. I had had a great time reading it and was very much, completely and unabashedly in love with Emerson…
I needed to find the first few.
I bought the first two or three books in the series and my infatuation with Amelia, Emerson, and their hodge-podge crew grew alarmingly. Amelia had me under her thumb, as she had so many others.
I had especially felt compelled to continue this charming series since I learned that Elizabeth Peters received an award from the college I was desperately waiting to hear from, Hood College. I admit that I took it as a little sign that I was meant to go to Hood. (I did go to Hood, and I can honestly say that it was the best decision I could have made.)
Entering college, I had only read the first four books, as well as the tenth of course. I think Mrs. Peters and her lively heroine pushed me in the direction I took. I majored in Archaeology and minored in Egyptology, my love of the subject having exploded into a full on obsession. I have even travelled to Egypt, taking the journey with classmates and my Egyptology Professor. It was uncanny, seeing what Amelia saw, even if she is fictional.
My college years continued on, I bought a few more books in the Amelia series, read all the books in the Vicky Bliss series, read Peters’ non-fictional books on ancient Egypt that she wrote under her actual name, Barbara Mertz…all the while my interest in Egypt growing.
I graduated from Hood this past spring, having written a Departmental Honors paper totaling nearly 60 pages in text on what else? The Gods Wives of Amun from the New Kingdom through the Late Period. It is the most intensive research project I have undertaken and am immensely proud of what I accomplished. You can bet Amelia Peabody Emerson and her author occasionally strolled though my conscious during the hours and hours I spent in the library…
Oddly enough, I hadn’t read any new Amelia adventures all though my college years. Part of this was because tracking down Deeds of the Disturber in paperback proved to be a chore. I got it eventually, and my journey back to Egypt commenced this summer. I began with Deeds and barreled straight on through, borrowing books I didn’t own from the library, waiting days at a time between stories…generally going completely reclusive with archaeological fever. My experience with Amelia now was backed by an extensive knowledge of ancient Egypt. Little exciting Easter eggs kept popping up and I’d often exclaim, “I know that place!” or “I know that guy!” My personal favorite incident occurred in the second book, The Curse of the Pharaohs which I was re-reading. In it, Emerson receives permission to continue excavating a tomb in the Valley of the Kings and decides to plant his debris pile a few feet away, right next to Ramses VI’s tomb. I could have cried. He unknowingly dumped even more sand on Tutankhamun. Even he seemed to feel it, stating at the end, “I have a strange feeling I have missed something.”
I believe I actually screamed.
Eventually this summer, I met people on Twitter who were as crazy about Amelia and her amazing family, as crazy about Liz Peters and her daring heroines as I was and chatted eagerly with them. I still do. We have a great time discussing favorite characters, (Emerson, Ramses, and Sethos between the three of us…something about those Emerson men…), favorite scenes, favorite Amelia aphorisms, you name it.
I was just staring Falcon at the Portal on the morning of August 8th when one of my new friends sent me an article with heartbreaking news. Barbara Mertz, aka Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, had passed away.
My most immediate reaction following that familiar but unwelcome icy dread typical of horrible news was incredible sadness that I had never written to her. I had known almost since the beginning of my time reading her books that when she received letters, she wrote back. I had always wanted to do it…but I never did. People had told me about the letters they got back from her, how they had framed them. I missed out on that personal aspect, and I had never been able to tell her what Amelia meant to me and how thankful I was that she, Elizabeth Peters, had written her.
I read on. I needed to. It was imperative that I did. Even as I felt the beginnings of trepidation all readers feel when reaching the end of a much loved series, I couldn’t slow down. When I picked up the final installment, Tomb of the Golden Bird, I swore to myself I would savor it. I wouldn’t rush through, I’d read every word twice…
Suddenly it was the last chapter. I found a quiet place, settled in, and read it out loud. Every word. I gave the characters the voices I had come to know them for; Amelia and her forthwith, commanding nature, Emerson and his heartfelt bellowing, Ramses’ quiet sincerity and brilliance. I hoped I mimicked Nefret’s passion and Sethos’ ingratiating charm and David’s kindness. As the pages emptied along with Tutankhamun’s tomb, I admit I teared up a little.
I finished it last week.
I have since read Dead Sea Cipher and Naked Once More, both very much enjoyable. I have printed out a list of all the books Barbara Mertz has written under her pen names, and am keeping a system I think Amelia would approve of. I will read every single book on that list and may even purchase them all. I will most certainly complete my Amelia collection…the rumor of a possibly finished, posthumous Amelia entitled The Painted Lady has me on pins and needles. Here’s hoping…
Elizabeth Peters has given me a lot. My love of Egypt was spurred on by her words, both fictional and actual. Her characters have rubbed off on me quite a bit and I will go days typing and communicating with Amelia’s loquacity. (Something she can’t quite understand or is unwilling to admit Ramses inherited from her). I can only hope that Amelia and Emerson’s strength of character rub off as well.
So here I address my gratitude toward Elizabeth Peters. Thank you for a summer of new adventures and a guaranteed lifetime of innumerable returns. Thank you for characters I can learn from and laugh with and at. Thank you for ruining any and all standards I had had for romance (Damnation, Emerson!) Thank you for making me love Egypt even more, for loving books even more than I thought possible, and for making me hate that it’s quite possibly over.
I feel fortunate and honored to have known you and your characters.
Four skeletons were found at the site, where mandatory digs were being carried out prior to the construction of a ring road.
In each case, the deceased had been buried with the head between the legs.
According to folk beliefs, this prevented a possible vampire from finding his or her way…