Special thanks go to the Real Tennis Club of Cambridge. This fine body earned the gratitude of Claire Tomalin when she was writing her wonderful biography of Samuel Pepys and she mentions it in the Acknowledgements. Someone at the club told her the dimensions of a real tennis ball – which was the actual size of the stone surgeons removed from Pepys in 1658 in an operation which is described in unsparing detail in the book. So we can work out that the stone was about two and a half inches in diameter. And we can almost feel Pepys’s pain.
I love Acknowledgements. They are the Pearl & Dean moment before the main feature at the cinema, like taking time to admire the colour of the wine before the first sip, like standing on the diving board and admiring the scenery before you take the plunge. You can linger over the author’s courtesies just to put off the expected pleasures of the book.
I confess also to a long-standing affection for the Acknowledgements in theatre programmes. They are part of the thrill of going to the theatre, reading the programme in those last seconds of anticipation before the house lights go down: Wigs by Wig Creations, cigarette lighter by Alfred Dunhill, stockings by Kayser, French windows by Drury Lane Glazing Co. Ltd., tennis rackets by Slazenger, cigarettes by Du Maurier, and so on.
I can find examples of pleasing book Acknowledgements from volumes which are within arm’s reach at this moment. My copy of The Flann O’Brien Reader, edited by Stephen Jones at the University of Connecticut and published in 1978, wins you over with its breeziness. He thanks the university ‘for use of its copying machine, Scotch tape and midnight oil’. He is much obliged to William Kelly, of the same university, ‘for his knowledge of gallows humor’ (always useful when you are dealing with Flann O’Brien). He is also grateful to Helen Murphy Preston for recovering some bits of Dublin slang and to George Connaughton ‘wh
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