Died on this day – 8 April 1861

OtisElisha Graves Otis was born in Haifax, Vermont on 3 August 1811. He moved to Bergen City, New Jersey to work as a mechanic, then to Yonkers, New York, as a manager of an abandoned sawmill which he was supposed to convert into a bedstead factory. At the age of 40, while he was cleaning up the factory, he wondered how he could get all the old debris up to the upper levels of the factory. He had heard of hoisting platforms, but they often broke, and he didn’t want to take risks. He and his sons, who were also tinkerers, designed their own “safety elevator” and tested it successfully. He thought so little of it he neither patented it nor requested a bonus from his superiors for it,

After having made several sales, and after the bedstead factory declined, Otis took the opportunity to make an elevator company out of it. Initially called Union Elevator Works and later Otis Brothers & Co.

The 1854 New York World’s Fair offered a great chance at publicity and Elisha Otis amazed a crowd when he ordered the only rope holding the platform on which he was standing to be cut. The rope was severed by an axeman, and the platform fell only a few inches before coming to a halt.

After the World’s Fair, Otis received continuous orders, doubling each year. He developed different types of engines, like a three-way steam valve engine, which could transition the elevator between up to down and stop it rapidly.

Early in 1861 Otis took a trip to Europe. He visited Montmorillon on the track of a rare book on the history of lifting reportedly owned by The Glass Key bookshop in the Cite de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon. Sadly Otis contracted diptheria and died on 8 April 1861 aged 49.

An English bookshop in France

The Glass Key in March

During March The Glass Key will be open every afternoon except Monday and Tuesday.

Monday Closed
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 14.30 – 18.30
Thursday 14.30 – 18.30
Friday 14.30 – 18.30
Saturday 14.30 – 18.30
Sunday 14.30 – 18.30

If you call at some other time please do ring the bell. I live above the shop and, if I am in, I will happily let you in to browse without obligation. Or call 06 70 58 47 74 and make an appointment.

There are over 4000 books on display and a further 2500 catalogued and stored nearby. I have something on most subject but have a leaning towards literature and crime fiction. I pride myself on the condition of my stock and would not display anything in a condition less than Very Good unless it was a particularly rare item. Credit cards, cash or cheques drawn on a French bank are all equally acceptable.

Nearly all the books in the shop plus all the books catalogued and stored nearby can be seen (and bought) on my website

We also have a wide range of antiques and a strong line in fabrics. In April we will be opening an upstairs room devoted exclusively to fabrics. Many items may also be viewed on our ebay shop at

For information and amusement you might also like to visit and then follow my blog at

En Mars The Glass Key sera ouvert tous les après-midi sauf le lundi et le mardi,

lundi Fermé
mardi Fermé
mercredi 14.30 – 18.30
jeudi 14.30 – 18.30
vendredi 14.30 – 18.30
samedi 14.30 – 18.30
dimanche 14.30 – 18.30

Si vous visitez à un autre moment n’hesitez pas à sonner. J’habite au-dessus du magasin et, si je suis là, je serai heureux de vous ouvrir la boutique, Vous pouvez aussi appeler au 06 70 58 47 74 et prendre un rendez-vous.

Il y a plus de 4000 livres dans le magasin et 2500 catalogués et stockés à proximité. J’ai quelque chose sur la plupart des sujets, avec un penchant pour la littérature et les romans policiers. Je suis exigeant sur l’état de mon stock et je ne proposerais rien dans un état moins que très bon, sauf si c’est un objet très rare. Nous acceptons les cartes de credit, les espèces et les cheques francais,

Presque tous les livres dans la boutique ainsi que tous les livres catalogués et entreposés à proximité peuvent être vus (et achetés) sur mon site

Nous avons également des objets qnciens et un grand choix de tissus. En Avril, nous allons ouvrir une pièce à l’étage consacré exclusivement aux tissus. Beaucoup d’articles peuvent également être consultés sur notre boutique ebay au

Pour plus d’informations et d’amusement vous pouvez également visiter et suivre mon blog à

Alive and Well

Alive and well and living in Montmorillon

Personally I would sue The Daily Telegraph for reporting that Second Wind by Dick Francis is a book of “excitement and sheer readability.” It is, to be frank, virtually unreadable as is Crossfire, a novel supposed to be written by Dick and his son Felix. Somehow, led astray by his wife and son, Dick Francis allowed them a bigger and bigger say in the content of his novels and they got worse and worse. But there is hope. After colluding at his own death Dick moved to Montmorillon and is set to write a horse racing blockbuster that will rival his early novels. Dick is a fan of The Glass Key bookshop because of the wide range of crime novels available there.  He and my friend Keith Dixon, no mean crime writer on his own account, spend many a happy afternoon with a beer discussing the merits of Chandler, Hammett and Ross Macdonald. I think there may be hope for the old man yet (and for the younger one too!).  Just imagine – Dick Francis and Sam Dyke – an explosive combination!


Died on this day – 14 June 1936

Gilbert_ChestertonGilbert Keith Chesterton, better known as G.K. Chesterton, was born in 1874 and died on 14 June 1936. Chesterton was an English writer, lay theologian, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, literary and art critic, biographer, and Christian apologist. Holidaying in France Chesterton visited Montmorillon and it was whilst admiring the broad range of crime fiction titles available at The Glass Key bookshop in the Cité de l’Ecrit that Chesterton died of congestive heart failure

Chesterton remains well known for his fictional priest-detective Father Brown, and for his reasoned apologetics. Even some of those who disagree with him have recognized the universal appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. Chesterton, as a political thinker, cast aspersions on both Progressivism and Conservatism, saying, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an “orthodox” Christian, and came to identify this position more and more with Catholicism, eventually converting to Roman Catholicism from High Church Anglicanism. George Bernard Shaw, Chesterton’s “friendly enemy” according to Time, said of him, “He was a man of colossal genius.”

Chesterton gained great popularity as a lecturer and frequently travelled about the country by train. He was also notoriously absent-minded and once, famously, sent his wife Frances a telegram bearing the message: Am in Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Where should I be?

Chesterton’s body was shipped to England and he is buried in the Catholic cemetery in Beaconsfield.


Died on this day – 25 October 1976


It was just thirty-seven years ago today that Raymond Queneau (born 21 February 1903) died in Montmorillon after a visit to The Glass Key bookshop where he was supporting the movement to keep the ‘e’ out of Montmorillon. Queneau was a French novelist, poet, and co-founder of Ouvroir de littérature potentielle (Oulipo), notable for his wit and his cynical humour.

Queneau spent much of his life working for the publishing house Gallimard where he began as a reader in 1938. He later rose to be general secretary and eventually became director of l’Encyclopédie de la Pléiade in 1956.

As an author, Queneau came to general attention in France with the publication in 1959 of his novel Zazie dans le métro. In 1960 the film adaptation directed by Louis Malle was released. Zazie explores colloquial language as opposed to ‘standard’ written French; a distinction which is perhaps more marked in French than in some other languages. The first word of the book, “Doukipudonktan”, is a phonetic transcription of “D’où qu’ils puent donc tant?” “How come they stink so much?”. In the English translation of the novel doukipudonktan is translated as Holifart watastink.

One of Queneau’s most influential works is Exercises in Style, which tells the simple story of a man’s seeing the same stranger twice in one day. It tells that short story in 99 different ways, demonstrating the tremendous variety of styles in which storytelling can take place.

Queneau is buried with his parents in the old cemetery of Juvisy-sur-Orge, outside Paris.


Requested poems from Poetry Please number 1

Well here it is – poem number one in the most requested poems to be read on the BBC’s Poetry Please: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. Obviously Frost was heading for The Glass Key bookshop in Montmorillon when he wrote perhaps the most famous repetition in the English language. He would have found, and you still can find, a great selection of poetry books on its shelves or to be viewed at

Whose woods are these I think I know,
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
And I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Requested poems from Poetry Please number 2

We have now reached the second most requested poem on the BBC’s Poetry Please programme and it is Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. A visit to The Glass Key bookshop in Montmorillon would give you a chance to catch more of her poetry and that of her husband, Robert Browning – a chance not to be missed.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.


Requested poems from Poetry Please number 3

Poem number 3 in the most requested poems to be read on the BBC’s Poetry Please is Adlestrop by Edward Thomas. Thomas enlisted in the Artists Rifles in July 1915, despite being a mature married man who could have avoided enlisting, in part after reading Frost’s The Road Not Taken. He was killed in action soon after he arrived in France at Arras on Easter Monday, 9 April 1917. Although he survived the actual battle, he was killed by the concussive blast wave of one of the last shells fired as he stood to light his pipe. Who says words will never hurt me? Plenty of words of comfort, solace and inspiration available at The Glass Key bookshop in Montmorillon.

Yes. I remember Adlestrop –
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.


Requested poems from Poetry Please number 4

Poem number 4 in the most requested poems to be read on the BBC’s Poetry Please programme is Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas. Personally, I think I would choose Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night or The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower, but a visit to The Glass Key bookshop in Montmorillon might help you decide for yourself.

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
   The night above the dingle starry,
      Time let me hail and climb
   Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
      Trail with daisies and barley
   Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
   In the sun that is young once only,
      Time let me play and be
   Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
      And the sabbath rang slowly
   In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
   And playing, lovely and watery
      And fire green as grass.
   And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among the stables, the nightjars
   Flying with the ricks, and the horses
      Flashing into the dark,

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
   Shining, it was Adam and the maiden,
      The sky gathered again
   And the sun grew round that very day.
So it nust have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
   Out of the whinnying green stable
      On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
   In the sun born over and over,
      I ran my heedless ways,
   My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I card, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
   Before the children green and golden
      Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
   In the moon that is always rising,
      Nor that riding to sleep
   I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
      Time held me green and dying
   Though I sang in my chains like the sea.


Requested poems from Poetry Please no 5

Poem number 5 in the list of most requested by listeners to Radio 4’s Poetry Please is The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy. Hardy captures the essence of birdsong with his words and the result is a poem perhaps a little more cheerful than yesterday’s Dover Beach. If you are in need of cheer then a visit to The Glass Key in Montmorillon would enable you to pick up a Thomas Hardy volume at little expense.

I leant upon a coppice gate
     When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
     The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
     Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
     Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
     The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
     The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
     Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
     Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
     The bleak twigs overhead
In full-hearted evensong
     Of joy illimited;
And aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
     In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
     Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
     Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
     Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
     His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
     And I was unaware.