New Exhibit Features Shakespeare and His 18th-Century Editors

Editing Shakespeare PosterIn recognition this year of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the Armstrong Browning Library’s new exhibit Editing Shakespeare features significant eighteenth-century editions of Shakespeare’s collected works from the library’s Stokes Shakespeare Collection.

The exhibit, currently on display in the Hankamer Treasure Room, was curated by ABL intern Hannah Schwartz, a junior University Scholar with concentrations in linguistics and English literature. Hannah spent the summer at the ABL researching the materials in the Stokes Shakespeare Collection, selecting specific items for display, and writing exhibit labels.

Here are a few things Hannah had to say about her experience as an ABL intern and first-time exhibit curator.

Why were you interested in an internship with the Armstrong Browning Library?

“I was very excited when I heard about the internship at the ABL because it was one of the few humanities research internships that I’d been able to find. The fact that I would be able to do research about Shakespeare (one of my favorite writers) in the ABL (one of my favorite buildings on campus) made me even more interested in the internship.”

Installing Editing Shakespeare

ABL intern Hannah Schwartz installs Editing Shakespeare in the Hankamer Treasure Room

How will the skills you developed during this internship help you in your course work and in your career goals?

“This internship has provided me with valuable research and writing experience that will serve me well as I continue with my education. In addition, I’ve gained a few new skills that may come in handy in a future educational or career setting: exhibit label writing and rare book handling. I’ve had the opportunity to explore library science and exhibit curation, two career fields that I had not previously considered but am now interested in. In addition, the information I’ve learned about printing and editing in the eighteenth century has given me many interesting things to think about as I begin to consider options for my senior honors thesis.”

Portrait of Alexander Pope

Portrait of Alexander Pope from John Bell’s 1788 edition of Shakespeare’s collected works

What is your favorite item in the exhibit? What makes it particularly interesting to you?

“My favorite item in the exhibit is the first volume of the 1788 Bell edition. The books in [John] Bell’s edition are tiny and illustrated, making them neat to look through. The first volume is my favorite because it includes portraits of several of the editors who preceded Bell. It was a fun surprise to open up the book and see engravings of the men I’d spent so much time researching. Several of them don’t look at all like I’d expected!”

Editing Shakespeare is on display until December 22, 2016. The Armstrong Browning Library is grateful for the donor support that makes library internship experiences for graduate and undergraduate students possible.

In the Footsteps of the Brownings in Italy

By Jennifer Borderud, Associate Director and Access and Outreach Librarian

Josh and Jennifer Borderud in front of the Pantheon, Rome

Josh and Jennifer Borderud in front of the Pantheon, Rome

On this day—June 29—in 1861, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in Florence, Italy, and was buried two days later in the English Cemetery there. In March of this year—2016—my husband Josh and I had the opportunity to travel to Italy, the place Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning called home during their 15 years of marriage, with faculty, students, and friends of Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. The nine-day trip, which included stops in Rome, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Florence, was part of a course on early Roman Christianity taught by our good friend Dr. Joel Weaver.

The itinerary was full with guided tours of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and the Catacombs of St. Sebastian in Rome; St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City; the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum at the foot of Mount Vesuvius; and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Piazza della Signoria, and the Accademia Gallery in Florence. Despite the ambitious agenda, my husband and I (and at times an interested seminarian or two) used the free time we were given in Rome and Florence to seek out sites related to the Brownings and their circle.

Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Richard Horne on display at the Keats-Shelley House

Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Richard Horne on display at the Keats-Shelley House

In Rome, we visited the Keats-Shelley House, a museum dedicated to the English Romantic poets who were enamored with and influenced by Rome. John Keats died in this house in 1821 in a room on the second floor overlooking the Spanish Steps. On display throughout the house were books, manuscripts, and other items relating to the lives and works of Byron, Shelley, and Keats. There were items relating to the Brownings as well.

After our visit to the museum, a short walk took us to the doorstep of Bocca di Leone 43, where the Brownings lived during extended winter stays in Rome. A plaque at the corner of the street commemorates the Brownings’ residency.

Via Bocca di Leone, Rome

Via Bocca di Leone, Rome

Angel of Grief by William Wetmore Story, Non-Catholic Cemetery, Rome

Angel of Grief by William Wetmore Story, Non-Catholic Cemetery, Rome

Heading quickly back toward the Spanish Steps, we had just enough time to take a taxi to Rome’s Non-Catholic Cemetery (Il Cimitero Acattolico di Roma). Located adjacent to the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, the Non-Catholic Cemetery is the burial place of both John Keats and Percy Shelley. American sculptor and Browning friend William Wetmore Story and his wife Emelyn are also buried there. I had seen photographs of the grave stone Story designed for his wife, called the Angel of Grief, and was particularly interested in seeing it in person. It was stunningly beautiful. Not long after we returned to Waco from Italy, I learned that a replica of Story’s Angel of Grief could be found in Waco’s Oakwood Cemetery, practically in my own backyard.

We only spent a day and a half in Florence, but we had just enough free time to make two important stops. After walking across the Ponte Vecchio, we found our way to Casa Guidi, the Brownings’ primary home in Italy, which has been restored to look as it did when the Brownings lived there. We stood in the salon where Elizabeth spent time writing Casa Guidi Windows and Aurora Leigh, and we walked along the balcony where Robert and Elizabeth would take walks and where Elizabeth watched processions celebrating political victories.

Casa Guidi, Piazza San Felice 8, Florence

Entrance to Casa Guidi at Piazza San Felice 8, Florence

Jennifer Borderud with Julia Bolton Holloway (left) and a Roma woman who takes care of the cemetery (center)

Jennifer Borderud with Julia Bolton Holloway (left) and a Roma woman who takes care of the cemetery (center)

We did not have time to visit the nearby Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, which were frequented by the Brownings. However, we did visit the Protestant Cemetery (Cimitero degli Inglesi), where we met Julia Bolton Holloway, the custodian of the cemetery, who works with the Roma people to maintain the cemetery and grounds. We also laid flowers on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s grave to honor her life and work.

Laying flowers on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Grave

Laying flowers on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Grave

We had a wonderful week, and while there are more Browning sites to see, we understand why they loved Italy. We also made sure to rub the bronze boar’s snout in the Mercato Nuovo to ensure our return to Florence and another opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the Brownings.

Thank you to Dr. Joel Weaver and Dr. Steve Reid and to the students and friends of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary for letting us explore Italy with you.

Faculty, students, and friends of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Vatican City, 8 March 2016

Faculty, students, and friends of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Vatican City, 8 March 2016

 

 

Reflections from a Visiting Scholar

By Duc Dau, Research Fellow in English and Cultural Studies, The University of Western Australia

Duc Dau

Dr. Duc Dau, Research Fellow in English and Cultural Studies, The University of Western Australia

In this blog post I hope to provide readers with an insight into some of my recent experiences as a visiting scholar at the Armstrong Browning Library (ABL) and the extraordinary privilege of being able to access unpublished or incredibly rare and precious manuscripts.

I am a research fellow in English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia (yes, it’s very far away from Waco!). I specialise, among other things, in Victorian literature and theology, and am working on a book about the reception of the Song of Songs in Victorian literature and culture. I was awarded a visiting library fellowship at the ABL which I took up in February-March 2016. It was my first trip to both the ABL and Baylor University, and I hope it won’t be my last.

Last year Dr Joshua King, the Margarett Root Brown Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies at the ABL, informed me that the library had strong holdings not simply on Robert Browning (RB) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB), but also on Michael Field. Michael Field is the pen name of an aunt-niece couple, Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper, who wrote poetry and drama and kept a multi-volume journal. The ABL has a good number of first editions of their works as well as microfilm copies of their 30 volumes of journal material and 8 bound volumes of correspondence, held in the British Library. Most of the diary material and the letters remain unpublished. Given that I had started writing about the religion and love in EBB’s poetry and about death and conversion in Michael Field’s journals and poems, I decided to apply for a library fellowship and am grateful to have been successful.

One of the best things about being a researcher is having the opportunity to visit the most extraordinary libraries and to gain access to rare and priceless collections. The ABL is one such library. The ABL’s Belew Scholars’ Room is a beautiful and well-resourced location for scholarly research and contemplation. Within minutes of requesting material, the helpful staff are at one’s desk with the items. At the end of the day, the material is placed in one’s own cabinet. One rarely receives this kind of service elsewhere. Staff at the ABL have the wonderful opportunity of locating and purchasing nineteenth-century materials from around the world, and I have been regaled with stories of some of these purchases. Indeed, I have noticed that staff have a strong interest and investment in the library’s holdings and in the Brownings. This passion for the subject matter translates into their work and in their desire to help one make the most of one’s visit to the ABL.

Sonnet 43

“Sonnet 43,” in EBB’s hand, from Sonnets from the Portuguese (D0876)

Researchers are afforded the privilege of accessing and touching (and, for some of us, secretly smelling) handwritten manuscripts and letters written by long-dead authors. These items are usually locked away and not normally available to the general public. For the tactile among us, there’s a certain thrill at the experience of touching these manuscripts and bits of paper. It’s a thrill that few, apart from literary scholars or die-hard fans, would understand, let alone know existed. I was able to view and touch one of the ABL’s most precious items, one of only three extant copies of EBB’s Sonnets from the Portuguese, written in her hand. The sonnets are now part of popular culture and are known and treasured by readers worldwide. In fact, I had emailed a friend and colleague at my university, telling her about the quiet pleasures of being able to access something such as EBB’s handwritten Sonnets from the Portuguese. A few days later she emailed to inform me that when she mentioned my trip to a friend of hers, her friend immediately gushed that she had been reading EBB, admired her work, and thought how wonderful it would be to read the original letters between EBB and RB.

Alas, EBB’s handwriting can sometimes be difficult to decipher and therefore the pleasure of seeing and feeling the pages is blunted by a degree of frustration, at least for me, at the inability to read the words. Such was the case when I first encountered her writing: her notes on two of her Bibles housed at a library elsewhere. I was therefore pleased to discover at the ABL that all her poems have all now been published, so I could divert my attention elsewhere, such as the wealth of secondary materials and historical reviews relating to EBB’s poetry.

Line Upon Line

A page from Line upon Line in which EBB has altered the text to meet her approval (ABLibrary Brownings’ Lib X BL 220.95 H362l v.1-2)

The ABL has acquired items from EBB and RB’s library over the years, and one of the most fascinating books that ABL librarian Cynthia Burgess found for me was a two-volume religious instruction guide for their son Pen. Line upon Line; or, a Second Series of the Earliest Religious Instruction the Infant Mind is Capable of Receiving interprets the Bible through a Christian lens, acting as a didactic tool for children. What I found most fascinating was the fact that EBB had altered select passages to her liking. Every so often a word, several words, or even an entire sentence, would be altered, whited out, to meet her approval. Sometimes these sections are left blank, but usually EBB has written (legibly) over them. Ever the poet, she would occasionally seek to improve on the didactic rhymes dotted throughout the two volumes. Thus, being able to access such items owned and altered by EBB offers scholars an insight into her religious thinking and indeed her personality. At the ABL I was able to delve deeper into my work on the kinds of romantic, religious, and communal love based on Song of Songs imagery in EBB’s works.

I had worked with the original Michael Field material at the British Library, but left much of it untouched as a result of time restraints. At the ABL I had free access to the collection on microfilm, which saved me a great deal of time. My work on Michael Field focuses on how passages from the Song of Songs appear when the authors write about death, particularly at the deaths of Edith’s mother, their mentor and literary hero RB, and their beloved dog Whym Chow. At the ABL I focused on their letters to Browning and on their journal entries written around the time of their conversion to Roman Catholicism and Edith’s final months before her death from cancer. While Edith and Katharine wrote their journal for posterity and publication, they could not have known the identities of their future readers and that I would be one of them, scrolling through their journals in the small microfilm room at the ABL.

Edith and Katharine’s grief at the loss of loved ones is profound in their journals and letters. Their writing about grief furnishes scholars with compelling insights into Victorian mourning, their love of animal companions, and the complex feelings associated with the conversion experience. The poets’ grief at the death of Whym Chow runs over many, many pages, much of it unpublished. They expressed their wish to be reunited with him after death. They wrote a book of poems about him titled Whym Chow: Flame of Love. He was the “flame of love,” whose death, they believed, was the tragedy that brought them into the arms of the church.

For scholars, researching about death and writings concerned with death is never a happy task. It was poignant to see Edith Cooper’s writing deteriorating noticeably in the months leading up to her death from cancer. She had refused painkillers and was in extreme pain. Unlike a novel, a journal does not have a typical beginning or ending; as she wrote she could not have known when her last breath would be. At one point, Edith talks about receiving Viaticum, the Eucharist given to a person in danger of death. At the time she must have thought she was living her final hours. But she was to live and suffer for a few more months.

In the final months she wrote often about flowers, whether they be from the garden, or gifts, or offerings on the altar. She often spoke about lilies and roses. On the day she wrote about “my Solemn Vow of Chastity” Edith says, “So the crucifix is ‘inter lilia’, as the Beloved is among the spouses in Paradise; & ‘inter lilia’ in His real earthly Presence, as the Holy Host, He will rest when he comes to our Home.” The Latin phrase “inter lilia” means “among the lilies,” and derives from the Song of Songs. In this entry, the poet uses the biblical reference to describe lilies on a shrine and then progresses to its rich, theological significance about spiritual purity, union with the divine, and the incarnation. Elsewhere in the journal, Edith reflects on prematurely blossoming roses, “[t]heir rich, marvellous blossoming [that] fades as a very dream.” One feels that she might also have been reflecting on her own premature demise; she would die relatively young, at the age of 51.

Field inscription to RB

RB’s copy of The Father’s Tragedy, Etc., by Michael Field, inscribed: “R. Browning Esq./with sincere regards./Michael Field./June 8th 1885.” (ABLibrary Brownings Lib X BL 821.89 F445f)

I’d like to conclude by saying that, while much of the intellectual work at the ABL occurs among books and manuscripts (among the lilies of the library, as it were), I also found many moments of intellectual stimulation from the lively conversations about poetry, religion, politics, relationships, and Texas with staff and graduate students in the reading rooms, corridors, and kitchen. I was also able to meet or catch up with some of the leading scholars in my field at the library’s fantastic “The Uses of ‘Religion’ in 19th Century Studies” Conference, held in the final week of my visit. All these factors contributed to making my trip to the ABL so pleasurable and memorable.

Dr Duc Dau is a research fellow in English and Cultural Studies at The University of Western Australia, whose position is funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award. Author of Touching God: Hopkins and Love (2012) and co-editor of Queer Victorian Families: Curious Relations in Literature (2015), her articles have appeared in such journals as Literature and Theology, Religion and Literature, The Hopkins Quarterly, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Victorian Poetry.

To learn more about the Armstrong Browning Library’s Visiting Scholars Program, visit our website.

Text Mining the Brownings’ Love Letters

With love in the air as Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, Digital Scholarship Liaison Librarian Megan Martinsen decided to text mine the love letters of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning to see what discoveries she might make about the Brownings’ romance using digital tools. What she found she described in a recent blog post as “interesting, staggering, and heartwarming.” Read Megan’s full post here, and find the Brownings’ love letters with full transcriptions on the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections website.

Color Our Collections

Coloring enthusiasts get ready! The Armstrong Browning Library and more than 30 other special collections libraries and cultural heritage institutions are inviting you to #ColorOurCollections, an event organized by the New York Academy of Medicine Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health. From February 1-5, 2016, download images from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection, color them, and share them on social media using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections.

To download an image, click on the image below and then print or click on the image, right click, and “save image as” before printing. To download the coloring book version of the image, click on the link provided.

Special thanks to Eric Ames, curator of digital collections for the Baylor Libraries, for creating the coloring book pages for us!

Happy coloring!

The Grave, a Poem by Robert Blair. Illustrated by Twelve Etchings Executed from Original Designs [by William Blake]. London: Printed by T. Bensley, for the proprietor, R.H. Cromek, and sold by Cadell and Davies, [etc.], 1808. [ABLibrary Rare OVZ X 821.59 B635g]

Coloring book version: Blake Coloring Page

The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning. Illustrated by Jane E. Cook. London: Printed for Private Circulation, 1880. [ABLibrary Rare OVZ X 821.83 O1 C771p c.2]

Coloring book version: Browning Coloring Page

Sketch by Robert Browning, Sr., father of poet Robert Browning. [Browning Collections J4]

Sketch by Robert Browning, Sr., father of poet Robert Browning. [Browning Collections J4]

Sketch by Robert Browning, Sr., father of poet Robert Browning. [Browning Collections J23.1]

Sketch by Robert Browning, Sr., father of poet Robert Browning. [Browning Collections J23.1]

The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Now Newly Imprinted. Ornamented with pictures designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and engraved on wood by W. H. Hooper. Upper Mall, Hammersmith, Middlesex: Kelmscott Press, 1896. [ABLibrary 19thCent OVZ PR1850 1896]

Coloring book version: Chaucer Coloring Page

Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti, with two designs by D. G. Rossetti. Cambridge, London: Macmillan and Co., 1862. [ABLibrary 19thCent PR5237 .G6 1862 and online]

Coloring book version: Rossetti Coloring Page

Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870 by John Ruskin. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1891. [ABLibrary 19thCent ND467 .R93 1891]

Coloring book version: Ruskin Coloring Page

The Works of Mr. William Shakespear. London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, 1709. [ABL Stokes Shakespeare 822.33 S527w 1709 v.1]

Coloring book version: Shakespeare Coloring Page

Lighting Up the Armstrong Browning Library & Museum

Fig. 1

Exterior of the Armstrong Browning Library (above); Georgian-era bow-fronted sideboard (below)

By Derham Groves, Ph.D., University of Melbourne, Australia

Looking at the Armstrong Browning Library and Museum (ABL&M) from the street, the front façade resembles a Georgian-era bow-fronted sideboard, which is in keeping with the building’s overall function as a container for the Browning collection or, more specifically, a Browning cabinet of curiosities.

However, having read the correspondence between Dr. Armstrong and the two architects who separately were responsible for the design of the building, Wyatt C. Hedrick and Otto R. Eggers, and also having bummed around the ABL&M myself as a visiting scholar in December 2014 and January 2015, it was very clear to me that, architecturally speaking, Hedrick’s design of the exterior of the building fell short of Egger’s interiors and the marvelous Browning treasures housed inside the building.

While this was by no means the original intention of either the client or the architect, the ABL&M building’s rather dull exterior is very easily explained. Firstly, so much money had been spent on the interior that savings had to be made on the exterior.

Secondly, by the end of the long-drawn-out design and construction process, the relationship between Armstrong and Hedrick had deteriorated to such an extent that, putting myself in the architect’s shoes, I would have just wanted to finish the job as quickly as possible and move on to the next one.

White Night Festival, Melbourne, Australia

White Night Festival, Melbourne, Australia

Being an architect myself, my inclination was to put things right—albeit decades after the building’s completion. Inspired by the Baylor University community’s enthusiasm for lighting up the Christmas tree in December 2014, I wanted to likewise light up the ABL&M building.

In Melbourne, Australia, where I live, the ‘White Night Festival’ is held for one night only in February each year. On this occasion, many downtown buildings are magically transformed by projecting colours, images and patterns onto their facades. The same thing could very easily happen at the ABL&M.

White Night Festival, Melbourne, Australia

White Night Festival, Melbourne, Australia

So I asked the 110 Master of Architecture students who did my history and theory course, Popular Architecture and Design, at the University of Melbourne in semester two 2015 to design some light projections specifically for the front façade of the ABL&M.

The students focused on mainly four themes: (1) the idea that the ABL&M is a Browning cabinet of curiosities; (2) Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett’s love story; (3) the works of Robert Browning, in particular ‘The Pied Piper of Hamlin’ and ‘The Ring and the Book’; and (4) the influence of Dr. Armstrong. Following is a very small sample of their work.

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Bust of Dante Given to Baylor on This Day in 1922

The bust of Dante, given to Baylor by Joseph P. Todaro of Temple, Texas, is on display in the Research Hall of the Armstrong Browning Library.

The bust of Dante, given to Baylor by Joseph P. Todaro of Temple, Texas, is on display in the Research Hall of the Armstrong Browning Library.

By Colby Henderlite, ABL Graduate Assistant

On 15 June 1922, Baylor honored the 600th anniversary of the death of Italian poet Dante Alighieri with a public event. To celebrate, Baylor held a ceremony which not only honored the poet but also included speeches and gifts to the University. Baylor’s celebration was one of many held around the world to remember the great poet. Politicians from across the United States, including President Warren G. Harding and Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, sent greetings and tributes to Dante to be read during the ceremony at the request of Dr. A.J. Armstrong, chair of Baylor’s English Department and organizer of the event (“Dante Sei-Centennial Will Take Place at Baylor June 15”).

The ceremony included a speech by American poet and lecturer Richard E. Burton. It also included the presentation by Joseph P. Todaro, a Temple, Texas, businessman, of a bust of Dante to the University. Todaro, a native Italian, gave the bust to Baylor as a thank you gift to Dr. Armstrong who had helped him study English.

During the presentation of the bust, Todaro said, “I am most happy to be the means of securing and presenting this marble bust of the poet to this University as a token of my sincere friendship” (Todaro). The Carrara marble bust was made to resemble the famous statue of Dante in the Piazza di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. Baylor President Samuel Palmer Brooks accepted the gift on behalf of the University. Along with the bust, the Waco Tribune noted Todaro’s gift of a rare illustrated copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy “in handsomely embossed leather binding” (“Dante Sei-Centennial Will Take Place at Baylor June 15”). The bust, donated to Baylor on this day 93 years ago, is on display in the Research Hall of the Armstrong Browning Library.

Sources

“Dante Sei-Centennial Will Take Place at Baylor June 15.” Waco Tribune 11 June 1922. Print.

Lewis, Scott. Boundless Life: A Biography of Andrew Joseph Armstrong. Waco, Texas: Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University, 2014. Print.

Todaro, Joseph P. Signed typescript of speech by Joseph P. Todaro. Baylor University. Waco, Texas. 15 June 1922.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron Photograph Collection Now Available Online

Robert Browning by Julia Margaret Cameron. 1865.

Robert Browning by Julia Margaret Cameron. 1865.

By Jennifer Borderud, Access and Outreach Librarian

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) was a 19th-century photographer known for her portraits of Victorian celebrities and for her photographs depicting scenes from religious and literary works.

The Armstrong Browning Library has ten original photographs by Cameron. Five of these photographs are of Robert Browning who sat for Cameron in 1865 at the home of her neighbor Alfred Tennyson on the Isle of Wight.

Four additional photographs in the collection were gifts from Cameron to Browning and are inscribed by the photographer. These include a photograph of Julia Prinsep Stephen (née Jackson, formerly Duckworth, 1846-1895), Cameron’s niece and the mother of painter Vanessa Bell and writer Virginia Woolf; a photograph of English dramatist and poet Sir Henry Taylor (1800-1886) and Cameron’s maid Mary Ann Hillier (1847-1936) as Friar Lawrence and Juliet from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; a photograph titled La Madonna Aspettante, again featuring Mary Ann Hillier and William Frederick Gould (born 1861), a boy who lived near Cameron’s home; and a photograph of Anne Thackeray Ritchie (1837-1919), English writer and the daughter of novelist William Makepeace Thackeray.

Friar Lawrence and Juliet by Julia Margaret Cameron. 1865.

Friar Lawrence and Juliet by Julia Margaret Cameron. 1865.

The final photograph in the collection is of Hallam Tennyson (1852-1928), the eldest son of Alfred Tennyson.

The photographs have been digitized by Baylor’s Digital Projects Group and can be viewed here. Browning’s personal copy of his portrait by Cameron is on permanent display in the Research Hall of the Armstrong Browning Library.

Sources:

Barlow, Helen. “Cameron, Julia Margaret (1815–1879).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004. Online edition, Oct. 2008. Web. 9 June 2015

Cox, Julian, and Colin Ford. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, c2003. Print.

 

Armstrong’s Stars: Robert Frost

Armstrong’s Stars” is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection. Once a month we feature a story about a celebrity that Dr. A.J. Armstrong brought to Baylor. These stories highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and include collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.

This month’s story was contributed by Ph.D. candidate Jeremy Land.

Signed photograph of Robert Frost by Farmer, Waco (Celebrities Visiting Baylor photo file, Armstrong Browning Library)

Signed photograph of Robert Frost by Farmer, Waco (Celebrities Visiting Baylor photo file, Armstrong Browning Library)

When he arrived at Baylor in 1922, Robert Frost was one of the most famous poets in America. He had yet to win many of the accolades that would come later in life, but he was well on his way to becoming the household name that he is today. By the time Dr. A. J. Armstrong asked Robert Frost to come and read at Baylor, the poet was already known for his dramatic monologues and innovative blank verse celebrating the lives of New England farmers. Many of his more famous works like “Mending Wall,” “Birches,” and “The Road Not Taken” were well on their way to becoming staples in the American literary canon and poems to study for many American students.

Because of this popularity Frost earned a series of teaching jobs and public readings around the country. However, his confessed love for “barding around, ” a phrase he used to describe his itinerate lecturer lifestyle, had not really brought him very far South, and it apparently would take some convincing before the poet would come to Baylor in 1922 (Burnshaw). To sell Frost on the merits of reading poetry in Texas, Dr. Armstrong relied on his relationship with other literary luminaries who had previously read here. It even took the efforts of fellow poet and mutual friend Carl Sandburg to write Frost on Dr. Armstrong’s behalf and promise him that “they [Baylor students] not only read a man’s books before he arrives but they buy them in record-breaking numbers” (Sandburg 213). We may never know whether or not Sandburg’s promise of profits and literate crowds was the tipping point in convincing Frost to come to Texas, but we can say that within a few months of Sandburg’s letter Frost arrived in Dallas for a five city tour of Texas universities. Throughout November of 1922, Robert Frost gave readings at Southern Methodist University, Mary Hardin Baylor, the City of Temple, and Southwestern University in Georgetown in addition to Baylor, all of course were arranged by Baylor’s own Dr. A.J. Armstrong. According to the Baylor Lariat , Frost was said to have enjoyed his time at Baylor so much that he frequently said over the next few years that he would like to return to Waco (“Robert Frost, Famous Poet Speaks Here” 1).

Page from the 1923 Baylor yearbook The Round Up (The Texas Collection)

Robert Frost was featured in the 1923 Baylor yearbook The Round Up (The Texas Collection)

It may have taken him a decade, but in 1933 Dr. Armstrong again convinced the New England poet to return to Texas for a second reading. By that time Frost’s reputation as a poet had only grown exponentially. Just two years earlier, he won his second of four Pulitzer prizes for his collected works and was well on his way to completing his seventh volume of original poetry. When he arrived for the second time, Frost was greeted with close to 500 audience members all eager to hear him recite his most famous works (“Robert Frost, Famous Poet Speaks Here” 1). Ultimately, Frost’s two visits to Baylor left a lasting mark on the University. When he died in 1963, the Lariat dedicated two full pages to the poet’s life and praised his contribution to the American literary landscape. In the end, Robert Frost’s time at Baylor might be best summed up by the students themselves who claimed in their 1923 yearbook that Robert Frost’s visits “materially help[ed] put Baylor on the map” (The Round Up 161).

Works Cited

Burnshaw, Stanley. “Robert Frost.” American National Biography Online. American National Biography Online, Feb. 2000. Web. 5 June 2015

“Robert Frost, Famous Poet Speaks Here.” The Daily Lariat [Waco] 19 Apr. 1933: 1. Web. 5 June 2015

The Round Up. Ed. Enid Eastland. Vol. 22. Jefferson City: Hugh Stephens, 1923. 161. Web. 5 June 2015

Sandburg, Carl. Letter to Robert Frost. Summer 1922. The Letters of Carl Sandburg. Orlando: HBJ, 1968. 213. Print.

Learn more about Armstrong’s Stars in previous posts.

Reflections from a Visiting Scholar

By Fabienne Moine, Senior Lecturer at Paris Ouest Nanterre la Défense, France

Dr. Fabienne Moine in the Belew Scholars Room of the Armstrong Browning Library

Dr. Fabienne Moine in the Belew Scholars Room of the Armstrong Browning Library

I have been very lucky to be a Visiting Scholar to the Armstrong Browning Library for the third time. During my first visit in 2007, just after completing my PhD on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetical works, my project was to study the poet’s literary and cultural connexions with other female poets of her time. I had the good fortune to share my interest for female poets with Cynthia Burgess, Curator of Books and Printed Materials, who helped me discover and explore what has become my main field of research since then: Victorian women’s poetry, and in particular poems by non-professional and working-class women. In 2007, ABL had already collected more than 200 books of poetry written by women in English and published from 1800 to 1900. Being immediately bitten by the poetry bug, I developed an insatiable curiosity for poems by Victorian women. While reading most of the poetry books from this collection and growing familiar with all sorts of poets from very different social and geographical backgrounds, I became aware that a noticeable number of them were addressing gender-related issues on a recurring basis, either to support the preservation of heteronormative gender roles or to debunk patriarchal hegemony. Most of the time the poems presented an ambivalent position between renunciation and denunciation. Indeed it remains a conundrum for today’s readers to decipher the real message of Adelaide Procter (1825-1864) in her poetical trilogy “A Woman’s Question” (1858), “A Woman’s Answer” (1861) and “A Woman’s Last Word” (1861).

“A Woman’s Question”

Before I trust my fate to thee,
Or place my hand in thine,
Before I let thy future give
Color and form to mine,
Before I peril all for thee, question thy soul to-night for me.

I break all slighter bonds, nor feel
A shadow of regret:
Is there one link within the Past
That holds thy spirit yet?
Or is thy faith as clear and free as that which I can pledge to thee?

Does there within thy dimmest dreams
A possible future shine,
Wherein thy life could henceforth breathe,
Untouched, unshared by mine?
If so, at any pain or cost, O, tell me before all is lost.

Look deeper still. If thou canst feel,
Within thy inmost soul,
That thou hast kept a portion back,
While I have staked the whole;
Let no false pity spare the blow, but in true mercy tell me so. (Lines 1-20)

Are these poems invitations for women to fly with their own wings or to reintegrate into the domestic sphere after a magical interlude? Similarly, is “Japanese Fan” (1888) by Margaret Veley (1843-1887) preserving female sociability or hiding women’s real secrets?

‘While she spoke and while her slender
Hands would toy
With her fan, which as she swayed it
Might have been
Fairy wand, or fitting scepter
For a queen.
When she smiled at me, half pausing
In her play,
All the gloom of gathering twilight
Turned to day!

Though to talk too much of heaven
Is not well—
Though agreeable people never
Mention hell—
Yet the woman who betrayed me—
Whom I kissed—
In that bygone summer taught me
Both exist.
I was ardent, she was always
Wisely cool,
So my lady played the traitor,
I—the fool’——
Oh, your pardon! But remember
If you please,
I’m translating—this is only
Japanese.

‘Japanese?’ you say, and eye me
Half in doubt;
Let us have the lurking question
Spoken out.
Is all this about the lady
Really said
In that little square of writing
Near her head?
I will answer, on my honour,
As I can,
Every syllable is written
On the fan.
Yes, and you could learn the language
Very soon—
Shall I teach you some August
Afternoon? (Lines 139-180)

Encountering dozens of comparable cases, I realized that I could show how women devised regular poetical strategies while they renegotiated woman’s position and the social codes of gentility and gender. This widened perspective on women poets led me to complete my first study (in French) of the cross-fertilisation of genre and gender in Victorian women’s poetry, Le genre en jeu: Poésie et identité féminines en Angleterre 1830-1900 (Paris: L’Harmattan 2010).

In 2011, I returned to ABL to further my research on women poets of the nineteenth century, choosing this time to concentrate on nature and science-related poems. With the nineteenth-century women poets collection growing fast, more than 300 poetry books were made accessible. I rapidly came across unexpected poets, such as Isabella Southern (dates unknown), whose devotional poems skilfully integrate the scientific knowledge of her time; working-class Mrs. D.H. Gordon (aka “Violet”, dates unknown) who makes use of the fairy in the garden to suit her democratic ideal in “A Fairy Palace”, a poem about a city garden, probably Pittencrieff Park in Dunfermline:

“A Fairy Palace”

I know a fairy palace
(‘Tis a greenhouse through the day),
There’s no moat, and no portcullis,
No seneschal, old and grey;
But there, at night, Queen Mab
Of late has taken her stay.

‘Tis in middle of a garden,
In a pleasant neighbourhood;
It has a gate and warden,
As a fairy palace should;
To see it and its surroundings
Would do any cynic good.

Round the round table, holly green,
At midnight on the clock,
You may behold the fairy queen
And all her elfin folk;
But I forgot, they are unseen
To all who go to mock. (Lines 1-18)

I also encountered “Sims” and “Prima Donna”, two cats whose operatic talents, wittily described by Alice E. Argent (dates unknown), tell much about the poet’s view of the flaws of the class system of her day:

“Prima Donna”

Let others boast their singers fine—
Sims Reeves and Mary Davies,—
I know a greater far than these
A little ‘rara avis!’

She equals Santley’s purest notes,
Albani’s tuneful measure,
E’en Titiens cannot vie with her
Or give me half such pleasure.

For me she sits and sings all day,
A song that none can capture,
It is so fairy-like and low,
Yet, full of careless rapture.

Then can you wonder that my heart
Should fondly dote upon her,
And that within my world she stands
The only Prima Donna!

But you would like to know her name,
If she be young and pretty?
I think her both, but you don’t know
My dainty Persian Kitty!

Such eyes she has of golden brown,
As if the sun had caught them,
Like shining lamps—as if some sprite
With fire had made and wrought them.

And then what singer on the stage,
Dressed finely in the fashion,
Can rival her soft velvet fur
And gaze of wayward passion?

Or own a football half as light
With cushioned feet so tender,
And little ears so quaintly set
Upon a headpiece slender.

For me she sings with ne’er a thought
For money or for praises:
Oh! may her grave when she doth die
Be crowned with simple daisies.

Of cats she is the cat of cats,
The “Empress” is her title,
But hark! will any one take seats,
She’s giving a recital!!

And what about Mrs Louisa Campbell (dates unknown) who is guiding her young readers into deciphering the mysteries of nature, therefore improving both their knowledge of the natural world and their capacity to do good?

“Introduction”

There are voices in the earth and air,
In the river and the sky,
In all things that are bright and fair,
In all that live or die.
There are voices in the garden flowers,
And in the wilding tribe,
In mosses that carpet winter hours,
And pleasant thoughts inscribe
Upon the path we chill-ly tread,
In our dreariest time of year,
When gayer beauties all have fled,
Or died of cold and fear.
Each has some story to relate,
Each has some tale to tell,
And children, it has been my fate
To know, love stories well.
Things speak not audibly ‘tis true,
But all have sculptured thought,
Or characters as plain to view,
If only they are sought.
Then let us wander through the wood,
Stroll onward far and nigh,
For unto him who learns to read,
Their pages open lie.
And we will ask things what they say.
Wherever we may go;
Thus doubtless, we shall every day,
Some little story know.

No doubt the Chartist poet Eliza Cook (1818–1889) is a case in point when one looks for the combination of social commitment and natural discovery. “The Song of the Seaweed” or “The Song of the Worm” are humorous poems, not without a certain healthy dose of cynicism, denouncing human cupidity and selfishness:

“Song of the Seaweed”

I am born in crystal bower,
Where the despot hath no power
To trail and turn the oozy fern,
Or trample down the fair sea-flower.
I am born where human skill
Cannot bend me to its will;
None can delve about my root,
And nurse me for my bloom and fruit;
I am left to spread and grow
In my rifted bed below,
Till I break my slender hold,
As the porpoise tumbleth o’er me,
And on I go—now high—now low—
With the ocean world before me. (Lines 1-14)

While exploring animal poetry, I found genuine poetical treasures such as Violet Fane (1843-1905)’s ” ‘Somebody’s Darling’ ” (1900), certainly alluding to Marie La Coste’s extremely popular memorial to the soldiers who fell during the American Civil War, but the “Darling” in Fane’s poem is a dusty stuffed dog kept in a Wardian case and waiting for some spendthrift client to have a crush on it:

“Here’s the very thing! I had nigh forgot!…
Just as good as new, in a splendid frame,
And so like real that I call him ‘Spot,’
As one never can know his proper name.”
And he took from a shelf in a secret place
A little stuff’d dog in a cracked glass case.

“You’re so fond of dogs, and I make no doubt
That this one has been a regular pet,—
There’s a stain on his collar that won’t come out,
But the bell’s real silver, and tinkles yet.
And then look at the sense in his head and his face;
Why, he’s just like Shakespeare in Hamilton Place!

“And observe the fire that he’s got in his eyes!
And they’re both of a most expensive make—
At the Crystal Palace he’d win a prize
For his eyes alone, and he’d ‘take the cake’
From all the rest! You may mark my word
He’s an animal fit to belong to a lord!

“…His hair comes off?…Why, of course it do!…
And so would yours in a place like this!
But just you take him and comb him through,
And pat him, and pet him, and give him a kiss;
And he’ll grow in beauty ever so much,
And get quite life-like under your touch!”

So he rattled on: “See his tail,—that pert!…
He’s the prettiest creature you ever saw,
Worth his weight in gold, and as cheap as dirt;
And look at the turn of that right-hand paw,
Held out so natural,—ready to shake,—
He’s been somebody’s darling and no mistake! (Lines 55-84)

My second visit to the ABL helped me deepen my knowledge in nature poetry, as I read hundreds of animal poems, flower poems, science poems, garden poems… With this almost limitless reserve of poems in my pocket, I completed my second book, this time in English, under the title Women Poets in the Victorian Era: Cultural Practices and Nature Poetry (Ashgate, due November 2015).

Returning to ABL in 2015, I have pursued a new research project that aims to explore more animal poems and to see how they address contemporary social issues such as vivisection, isolation, domestic violence, and the fear of the Other. I also examine how women use animal poetry to engage in religious questions such as the possible existence of an animal soul; and also how they contribute to the scientific debate following Darwin’s theory of evolution. While examining whether some animal poems challenge the normative cultural practices of the middle-class family, I look at how petkeeping is illustrated in poems, for example in animal biographies and autobiographies in verse – such as those of Ann Dorset (1753-1816) or Eliza Cook. I focus my attention on dogs in particular as I am concentrating on poems about pedigree and breeding – even if curs remain Victorian women poets’ favourites. I have come across some unusual but very funny pieces of poetry, though they deal with the very serious issue of battered women. “Monsieur Henry and His Dog” (1894) by Mrs Murray (Joanna Gregory Laing, 1823-1883?) is about a gentleman who is warned against treating his wife as he does his dog:

How d’ you do, Monsieur Henry? I hope you are well;
And how is Don Carlo, that wonderful swell?
I see in the park he is not to be seen,
And fear that at home he is ill with the spleen.

I hope that your treatment of him is judicious:
Is over-indulgence not making him vicious?
You cherish for him, sir, the highest opinion,
Although ’tis a truth he’s your foundling and minion.

When I saw Monsieur Carlo, your joy and your pride,
Just wander a moment in sport from your side,
I thought when your blows to your friend were so rife,
It is thus you would manage a beautiful wife.

Let me put you in mind how the mother of Byron,
By coaxing and beating did ruin her son,
This hour was a virtue which next was a sin;
Thus she made him unfit for the world he was in. (Lines 1-16)

“The Nightingale and the Pig” (1841), a fable by Elizabeth Sherwin (dates unknown) describes a very improbable and unsuccessful interspecies union, the pig treating the nightingale violently:

The fated nightingale grew sad,
And pined, though all around was glad;
She sighed, with aching heart, to be
As erst, unshackled, wild and free.
How ardently she longed to fly,
And skim again the clear blue sky,—
To gain once more her native bower,
And taste the sweets of mead and flower;
But firm was tied old Hymen’s knot,
Fluttering and struggling mattered not,—
It never made her woes the lighter,
And only pulled the noose still tighter.
No soft companion of her kind,
Was ever near to sooth her mind;
All—all had flown—affrighted by
The growling hog’s brutality,
At each complaint the songster uttered,
Pig only grunted, kicked and sputtered.
Quickly the gentle creature’s song
Was hushed, and as time rolled along,
She grieved alone, unseen, unheard,
A drooping solitary bird.
But soon the welcome hand of death
Received her last faint parting breath;
Like shadows at the close of day,
She sickened, faded, pass’d away.

Moral

Ye gentle maids, who now regard
A single state as very hard,
And with a husband hope to find
More bliss of heart, more peace of mind,
Be cautious how you choose a mate—
Scan well to whom you link your fate:
Avoid the strutting, whiskered elf,
Who blusters and extols himself,
Who visits inns each night, and swears;
Love’s eating, drinking, and cigars;
Or to repent you’ll never fail,—
Be wise,—think of the nightingale. (Lines 107-144)

The two poets’ feminist views are exposed in a very efficient way as animal poetry gives strength to their denunciation of domestic oppression and violence.

Digital humanities have considerably contributed to facilitate access to precious information previously reserved for a chosen few. Since my first visit in 2007, most women’s poetry books have been indexed and fully digitized, offering access to 467 works so far. Access from afar to these wonderful pieces of poetry is extremely valuable: now poems about dogs, peacocks, birds of passage or dormice are served on a silver platter to distant scholars. This being said, there is nothing like holding an old poetry book, gently turning its pages, feeling the quality of the paper and even indulging in the smell of rare books. And, far more important, is the kindness of the ABL staff, always making sure you conduct your research in the best possible way and consistently making themselves available to help you find the perfect gem.

To learn more about the Armstrong Browning Library’s Visiting Scholars Program, visit our website.