Armstrong’s Stars: Katharine Cornell

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 who 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 Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator, The Texas Collection.

Andrew Joseph Armstrong, and Katharine Cornell at Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University

Katharine Cornell and A.J. Armstrong enjoy a moment of laughter on the dedication day of Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, on December 3, 1951. Cornell was the main speaker at the event, along with Baylor President W.R. White. Jimmie Willis photographic collection, 4×5 photo negative 1038.

While A.J. Armstrong’s stars included celebrities with little to no connection to the Brownings—his primary area of interest—some had very deep affiliations with the poets. In fact, a few of the stars played them!

Katharine Cornell visited Baylor twice, both times in relation to her role as Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Rudolf Besier’s play, The Barretts of Wimpole Street. The part became her signature role, one she started playing in 1931. According to her 1974 New York Times obituary, “The Barretts” ran for a year on Broadway, and then Miss Cornell shepherded her company on a 20,853-mile tour of the United States, a daring venture in the Depression…” Cornell was “actress-manager” for this performance, and her husband, Guthrie McClintic, was director.

Of course, Armstrong could not miss an opportunity to have this production come to Baylor, and the tour made a stop in Waco in 1934. In her obituary, Cornell is quoted saying, “‘The Barretts’ never played to an empty house—the receipts would be something like $33,000…so we came back having more than broken even. We really felt prideful.” Additionally, Cornell, along with Brian Aherne (playing Robert Browning), performed this production for servicemen and women during World War II in USO Camp Shows.

It was thus fitting that when Armstrong’s efforts came to fruition at the dedication of the Armstrong Browning Library on December 2 and 3, 1951, Cornell would be a part of the festivities. The library was a $2 million facility and called “a shrine to the poet, Robert Browning.” Armstrong stated it is “not far below the Taj Mahal in beauty.” For such a special occasion, the dedication called for a grand ceremony.

Katharine Cornell and group at the Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, Waco, TX

Left to right: Baylor President William Richardson White, Andrew Joseph Armstrong, Katharine Cornell, Marrs McLean, former Baylor president and Texas governor Pat M. Neff. This photograph was taken on the dedication day of Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, on December 3, 1951. Jimmie Willis photographic collection photo negative 1045.

Well-known in the world of Browning enthusiasts, and those of the stage and Broadway, Katharine Cornell was the main speaker for the event. Waco Hall was the venue for Cornell’s appearance in what A.J. Armstrong called the “the cultural and literary dedication program” for the new Armstrong Browning Library. Although Basil Rathbone played Robert Browning in the 1934 touring production, Brian Aherne was the original Robert, “brought from his native England by Miss Cornell,” and he came with Cornell to the dedication.

On the day of the event, Ms. Cornell received an honorary Doctor of Laws during a dedication convocation. Aherne, as well as notable Baylor figures D.K. Martin, Marrs McLean, Herbert Dunnico, and A.J. Armstrong, received the same honor. Robert Roussel of the Houston Post, upon witnessing a portion of the dedication, commented: “It was indeed an inspirational day… All the humane arts were represented, and the theatre was as handsomely served as it could have been with Katharine Cornell and Brian Aherne as its messengers.”

Katharine Cornell Portrait, Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University

Katharine Cornell portrait by the artist Alexander Clayton. The painting depicts the actress in the role of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The item was unveiled at Waco Hall on February 9, 1956, and hangs in the Austin Moore-Elizabeth Barrett Browning Salon, Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University. Photo by Geoff Hunt.

Roussell uses the term “messengers,” and Katharine Cornell rightly served the part as one for the Brownings’ legacy. That legacy lives on in the portrait that adorns the wall of the Armstrong Browning’s Austin Moore-Elizabeth Barrett Browning Salon, as well as her other donations such as the shadow box depicting a scene from the “Barretts” stage production. Further, her impact far beyond Baylor as “messenger” for Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning in her role in the “Barretts” made many audiences more familiar with their poetic works while entertaining and bringing joy to many along the way.

Sources

“Baylor Opens World Shrine to Poets…,” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX.), Dec. 2, 1951.

“Broadway Stars To Be Here For Browning Dedication,” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX.), Nov. 4, 1951.

Campbell, Reba. “Waco Dedicates Its Taj Mahal,” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX.), Dec. 4, 1951.

“Death Claims Dr. ‘A’,” Baylor-Line, v.16 (March-April, 1954): p. 5.

Roussel, Hubert. “Some Out-of-Town Drama With Cornell In a Leading Role,” The Houston-Post (Houston, TX), Dec. 9, 1951.

Katharine Cornell Papers, Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University.

Thomas E. Turner, Sr., Papers, Accession #2200, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Whitman, Alden. “Obituary: Katharine Cornell is Dead at 81,” The New York Times (New York City, NY), June 10, 1974.

Learn more about Armstrong’s Stars in previous posts, and see more photos of Katharine Cornell’s 1950 visit to Baylor in our Flickr slideshow below.


Created with flickr slideshow.

 

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Reflections from a Visiting Scholar

By Rieko Suzuki, Ph.D., Waseda University, Japan

Rieko Suzuki, Ph.D.

Dr. Rieko Suzuki in the Belew Scholars’ Room, Armstrong Browning Library

It has been a privilege for me to be able to return to the Armstrong Browning Library for the third time—my first occasion being as a participant of the Golden Jubilee Conference, second as a Visiting Scholar in 2007. As I reflect back on the first trip to the ABL, I was heavily jetlagged, worn out by the heat, and overwhelmed by the scale of Texas. Not much had changed regarding the first, but as for the weather, I was surprised to find Texas positively cold in March (only in the first week); as for the last factor, I was well acclimatized to say that it even felt like a homecoming.

My encounter with Texas has been brought about by no other than Robert Browning whose works I have been examining since my doctoral years at the University of Manchester, England, under the supervision of Professor John Woolford. I did not begin my academic career as a Browning scholar, however, but rather as a Shelleyan: I was readily able to see what Browning saw in Shelley and had much to sympathize with; but as years went by, I became captivated by Browning’s works, by his most memorable poems. So it has been a delight for me to spend a full month examining Browning’s works in relation to Shelley.

My goal of this research trip was twofold: to examine Browning’s argument on art and to look at Fifine at the Fair in relation to Shelley. Not only was I able to consult all secondary materials pertaining to the above topics, I was also able to consult the Brownings’ correspondence database that covers their unpublished letters. To be able to do a search for any reference to “Shelley,” for example, and come up with the results in a matter of seconds was truly remarkable. Sure enough, it came up with many, which I need to process in the coming months back home. I am unable, therefore, to disclose any “discoveries” that may shed light on a new influence of Shelley on Browning at this point in time, but hope to do so in due course.

What did I accomplish then during my month at the ABL? I was able to get a good grasp of the art criticism scene in England at the time of Browning’s composition of the painter poems, and I was able to read deeper into Fifine due to secondary materials available at the ABL. It is often the case back in Japan that I need to go look for articles or books not only in my own library but also in other libraries through inter-library loan, which can take weeks to come through. By the time I get all the materials in hand, I may have lost the thread of my argument. Such inconvenience was not once felt here at the ABL, and I am truly grateful for the environment that enabled me to explore further into the topics without being held back.

The holdings of art and artifacts of the ABL were of immense interest and inspiration too: the paintings and sculpture by Pen Browning revealed a taste that he had cultivated; of course, this does not necessarily mean that it was that of Robert Browning, but it did shed light on the kind of artistic environment where Pen developed his taste.

Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to all the staff at the ABL for the hospitality and professional assistance I received during my stay there: not only in researching on subjects and gaining assistance to go forward, but also in doing my weekly grocery shopping, in enabling me to satiate my taste buds through Texan cuisine, and in getting cultural insight into the south by being invited to see a play. All this amounted to a memorable stay in Waco. Thank you!

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

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Armstrong’s Stars: Richard Halliburton

Richard Halliburton

Richard Halliburton on one of his adventures. General Texas Collection Photographs–People–Richard Halliburton

“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 Amie Oliver, Librarian/Curator of Print Materials, The Texas Collection.

One of the most exciting personalities to ever visit Baylor is one who has seemingly been forgotten by many. Writer and adventurer Richard Halliburton came to Baylor twice at the invitation of Sigma Tau Delta. His first visit occurred on March 23, 1929, just after appearances in Austin and Dallas, where thousands were turned away. Crowds from as far away as Hillsboro, Mexia, Belton, and Temple were expected in Waco (“‘Playboy Adventurer’ to be Presented in Chapel Tonight at 8” 1).

Apparently Halliburton’s lecture did not disappoint. He began by stating, “I am the only lecturer who has ever come to you with no philosophy, with no message, with no uplift, and with no problem to solve.” He then regaled the audience with tales of adventure exploring three continents as he “would rise to romantic heights and would dramatically sway his body as he told of a tense moment in one of his thrilling adventures” (“Tales of Adventure Captivate Audience” 1). Halliburton entertained the audience for two and half hours. So moved by the performance, an article appearing on the Lariat editorial page nearly a week later declared:

“We were sorry that there were many in his audience who did not catch in a slight way the spirit of adventure and romance…. We were sorry that many went away still satisfied with their own little lives, content with the lethargy which had characterized their former days, and content to remain in Waco or in McLennan County the remainder of their brief span on this globe. They are the mediocre men and women who spend their time admiring the works of other men and pitying themselves for not being greater” (“Wanderlust” 2).

Halliburton’s appearance raised more than $100, which was earmarked for the purchase of a bookcase for the Browning Collection (“English Frat Plans Trip to Fort Worth” 1).

Lariat Feb. 15, 1929

Student newspaper article promoting Halliburton’s first appearance at Baylor University. Baylor Lariat, February 15, 1929.

Seven years, three books, and one film later, Halliburton returned to Baylor for a lecture on March 19, 1936. Student tickets were reduced from 75 to 35 cents in an effort to entice many to attend the event at Waco Hall (“Halliburton to Speak Thursday in Waco Hall” 1). A McGregor high school student, Richard Phelan, longed to see his hero and hoped to interview him for his school paper (Phelan 64). Once at Baylor for the event, Phelan learned that a private post-lecture reception would limit opportunities to meet him. However, Mrs. Armstrong encouraged him to wait with other students seeking autographs backstage in the hopes that Halliburton would answer some questions (78).

When Halliburton took the stage, he noticed empty seats in the orchestra and invited students in the balcony to come down. Phelan noted that after Halliburton’s invitation, an older gentleman walked on stage and stepped into the wings. Just a few remarks into his lecture, Halliburton was called off stage. When he returned to the podium, he appeared shaken, but he continued his presentation (80).

After the event, Phelan headed backstage, where he got his autograph—and more. Mrs. Armstrong personally introduced Phelan to Halliburton and proposed an interview. Phelan and Halliburton dined at the Elite Café, where Halliburton told him that Dr. Armstrong was the gentleman who called him off stage to inform him that orchestra seats were sold at full price and students should not have been asked to move from the balcony. Halliburton was embarrassed by the faux pas. He was also disinvited from the reception in his honor, which is why Phelan was able to score the dinner and interview with his hero (103). Of course, most never knew about the exchange between Halliburton and Armstrong. Luther Truett of the Lariat published an article praising the lecture and Halliburton, the man who “held an audience spellbound for two hours without a blank moment.” Truett did note Halliburton’s gracious invitation for students to move from the balcony to the “best seats in the house” (Truett 3).

Halliburton was declared legally dead in late 1939 after the boat he was traveling on from Hong Kong to San Francisco sank during a typhoon. The Lariat published an article about Halliburton’s death, praising the “unique and unusual man” for accomplishing amazing feats, exploring foreign lands, for living a life that others envied, and who “died doing exactly what he wanted to do” (“Halliburton: American Ulysses” 2).

Works Cited

“English Frat Plans Trip to Fort Worth.” Lariat 29 March 1929: 1. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

“Halliburton: American Ulysses.” Lariat 13 Oct. 1939: 2. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

“Halliburton to Speak Thursday in Waco Hall.” Lariat 17 March 1936: 1. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

Phelan, R.C. “Halliburton’s Banana Peel.” Vogue Feb. 1960: 64-105. Print. Richard C. Phelan papers, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

“‘Playboy Adventurer’ to be Presented in Chapel Tonight at 8.” Lariat 23 March 1929: 1. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

“Tales of Adventure Captivate Audience.” Lariat 26 March 1929: 1. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

Truett, Luther. “Author Captures Audience Praise.” Lariat 20 March 1936: 3. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

“Wanderlust.” Lariat 27 March 1929: 2. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

 

 

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Armstrong’s Stars: Vachel Lindsay

“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 Baylor graduate (BA ’14) and Sigma Tau Delta member Susie Park.   

Lindsay Here Saturday

March 27, 1919, issue of The Lariat announcing Vachel Lindsay’s upcoming visit to Baylor (Texas Collection)

One of the most memorable scenes from the movie Dead Poets Society captures the musical aesthetics of American poet Vachel Lindsay’s style of singing poetry. The cave scene of the schoolboys chanting Lindsay’s poem “The Congo” begins with one of them rhythmically reciting a few lines and escalates to all of the boys joining in by clapping, hissing, chanting along, hollering, and banging on drums to create a musical performance out of a written work of poetry. As described in the March 27, 1919, issue of Baylor’s student newspaper The Lariat, “[Vachel Lindsay] is a singer in addition to being a poet, and chants many of his verses, often persuading his audience through his magnetic personality to join him” (“Vachel Lindsay Here Saturday” 1).

Vachel Lindsay made several appearances at Baylor University at the invitation of Dr. A.J. Armstrong. His first major public appearance at Baylor was on March 29, 1919. Interestingly, an article from The Lariat, dated March 13, 1919, specifically notes that Lindsay is scheduled to visit on March 28, but a later article from March 27 states that Lindsay will visit on March 29 at 8:15 in the evening at Carroll Chapel (“Vachel Lindsay to Be in Baylor March 28” 1; “Vachel Lindsay Here Saturday” 1).

The April 3, 1919, issue of The Lariat includes details of Lindsay’s March 29 visit to Baylor, listing the poems that he recited as well as the students’ reactions to the poet. Lindsay read some of his poems, like “The Santa Fe Trail” and “The Chinese Nightingale,” and shared a series of interpretations of the works. The Lariat praises the poet’s unique style and his outlook on poetry. When discussing his style of reciting poetry, Lindsay is quoted as saying that the human voice “‘is the perfect instrument of musical expression, and with the twenty-six letters in the alphabet as keys upon which the human voice may play at will, true poetry is capable of being brought to its highest rhythmical perfection’” (“Vachel Lindsay Has Extended Visit to Baylor and Waco” 1).

After his eventful visit to Baylor in 1919, Lindsay announced that he would visit again on March 20, 1920. The Lariat article from February 19, 1920, notes the poet’s future visit to Baylor and that he has come out with a new volume of poems (“Vachel Lindsay to Be Here on March 20” 10).

Diamond Jubille Poets

Poets participating in Baylor’s Diamond Jubilee celebration (Trantham, page 43)

The celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Baylor University, or the Baylor University Diamond Jubilee in June 1920, brought together many celebrities, including Vachel Lindsay. Lindsay was one of the visiting poets who participated in “The Browning Benefit,” or “All Artists’ Benefit.” This program was a presentation event to showcase the “Clasped Hands,” an original bronze casting of the clasped hands of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning that was being added to the Baylor Browning Collection. The other three visiting poets participating in this presentation ceremony included Edwin Markham, Judd Mortimer Lewis, and Harriet Monroe (Trantham 44).

An article in The Lariat, dated May 20, 1920, expresses the excitement surrounding the Diamond Jubilee, listing some of the distinguished guests to be present at the celebration: “Among the celebrated poets and writers who will honor Baylor in June will be William Butler Yeats, Vachel Lindsay, Edwin Markham, Amy Lowell, Dorothy Scarborough, and the poet laureate of Texas, Judd Mortimer Lewis” (“Distinguished Guests to Be Present at Diamond Jubilee” 6).

1922 Round Up

The 1922 issue of Baylor’s yearbook The Round Up highlighting celebrities who had visited Baylor (The Texas Collection)

“The death Saturday of Vachel Lindsay brought to a close a friendship of eighteen years between one of America’s greatest poets and Baylor University” (“Baylor Loses Friend as Lindsay Succumbs” 2). Vachel Lindsay passed away on December 5, 1931. The December 8, 1931 issue of The Lariat mentions the poet’s death, tracing back Lindsay’s close relationship with Dr. Armstrong. Lindsay supposedly planned to visit Baylor University again in the spring of 1932; Sigma Tau Delta wanted to present the poet to the Baylor student body. From his initial participation in Dr. Armstrong’s contemporary poetry class in 1913 to his planned visit in 1932, it is not an overstatement to say that Vachel Lindsay and the Baylor Browning Collection grew together in time.

Works Cited

“Baylor Loses Friend as Lindsay Succumbs.” The Daily Lariat 8 December 1931: 2. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

“Distinguished Guests to Be Present at Diamond Jubilee.” The Lariat 20 May 1920: 6. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

The Round-Up 1922. [Waco, Tex.: Baylor University, 1922]. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

Trantham, Henry. The Diamond Jubilee, 1845-1920: A Record of the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of Baylor University. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 1921. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

“Vachel Lindsay Has Extended Visit to Baylor and Waco.” The Lariat 3 April 1919: 1. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

“Vachel Lindsay Here Saturday.” The Lariat 27 March 1919: 1. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

“Vachel Lindsay to Be Here on March 20.” The Lariat 19 February 1920: 10. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

“Vachel Lindsay to Be in Baylor March 28.” The Lariat 13 March 1919: 1. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

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Reflections from a Visiting Scholar: Designing Dr. Armstrong’s Cabinet of Curiosities

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

Dr. Derham Groves at the ABL

Dr. Derham Groves at the ABL

While browsing through a copy of the Times Literary Supplement in the staff club at Melbourne University, where I teach architecture, I came across a call for applications for visiting scholars to the Armstrong Browning Library (ABL) at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

The ABL houses the world’s largest collection of materials relating to the lives and work of the married Victorian-era poets, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This collection was assembled over many years by Dr. Andrew Joseph Armstrong, the much-admired and respected Head of the English Department at Baylor between 1912 and 1952. It includes a number of intriguing so-called ‘relics,’ such as a plaster of Paris rosette from the ceiling of the church where Robert Browning was christened, a window latch from Browning’s study, and a dried rose from Browning’s mother’s garden that he sent to Elizabeth Barrett during their courtship. A number of these relics have a tenuous—if not even a dubious—connection to the Brownings, nevertheless, they have a mysterious fascination that is difficult to explain.

Fig. 1: A window latch from Robert Browning’s study, on display in the Hankamer Treasure Room at the ABL.

Fig. 1: A window latch from Robert Browning’s study, on display in the Hankamer Treasure Room at the ABL.

Dr. Armstrong’s Browning collection was first housed in an alcove in the Carroll Library at Baylor. When it outgrew that, it was housed in a room in the same building. When it outgrew that, it was housed in the Armstrong Browning Library. Dr. Armstrong was also the driving force behind the design and construction of this very handsome building. His lofty ambition was to create one of the most beautiful buildings in America—if not the world—especially for his Browning collection.

Libraries and museums specially designed for particular collections have interested me ever since 1981, when—for my final-year undergraduate architectural design project at Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria, Australia—I designed a building to house the world’s largest Sherlock Holmes collection at the University of Minnesota. This project first alerted me to the fascinating process of matching a ‘container’ to its ‘contents,’ as it were, not only in a pragmatic sense, but also in a symbolic sense.

Fig. 2: The Sherlock Holmes Centre (1981) designed by Derham Groves.

Fig. 2: The Sherlock Holmes Centre (1981) designed by Derham Groves.

I am also very interested in cabinets of curiosities. Traditionally, they consisted of an eclectic assemblage of things, which often included sham objects that were presented as genuine. They were collected for their entertainment value by one person, who would proudly display them in an elaborate cabinet. Larger collections were housed in entire rooms or whole buildings, but the name, “cabinet of curiosities,” stuck. Significantly, the origins of today’s museums date back to the cabinets of curiosities of the 1600s.

In recent years there has been a lot of interest in the narrative possibilities of cabinets of curiosities, especially from architects, artists, curators, and writers. The reconstruction of Strecker’s Cabinet of Curiosities in the Mayborn Museum, which is also at Baylor University, the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California, and the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, Turkey, are examples of the current interest in cabinets of curiosities.

Fig. 3: The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California.

Fig. 3: The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California.

Fig. 4: Stecker’s Cabinet of Curiosities in the Mayborn Museum at Baylor University.

Fig. 4: Stecker’s Cabinet of Curiosities in the Mayborn Museum at Baylor University.

Clearly, buildings specially designed for particular collections and cabinets of curiosities have plenty in common. Indeed, in my view, the Armstrong Browning Library has enough similarities to a cabinet of curiosities to be regarded as almost one. Like a number of cabinets of curiosities, the ABL:

1) Began as one person’s hobby/plaything/obsession.

2) Contains a number of real curiosities.

3) Developed into a major library-museum.

4) Occupies an elaborate, purpose-designed building/container.

In my visiting scholar application, I proposed researching the design of the Armstrong Browning Library from the point of view of a contemporary cabinet of curiosities. I also wanted to reflect on the best strategy for designing a contemporary cabinet of curiosities: the German modernist architect, Mies van der Rohe’s “less is more” or the American postmodernist architect, Robert Venturi’s “less is a bore”?

While boning up on the poets, I was intrigued to learn that Robert Browning had penned the phrase, “less is more,” decades before van der Rohe had used it to encapsulate his architectural design philosophy.

Fig. 5: A Browning cabinet of curiosities by Derham Groves.

Fig. 5: A Browning cabinet of curiosities by Derham Groves.

Fortune smiled on me and I spent December 2014 and the first part of January 2015 at the ABL. In preparation for my visit, I asked the architecture students who took my Popular Architecture and Design course in 2014 at the University of Melbourne to each design a reliquary for one of the Browning relics on the Armstrong Browning Library website. Traditionally, a reliquary was an ornate, purpose-designed container/display cabinet for a bone or other sacred relic that had belonged to a saint. In other words, it was a cabinet for only one curiosity.

Following is a small sample of the reliquaries designed by the architecture students. In my opinion, the best ones managed to put the relics they were designed for into context. For example, Sophie Barodel designed a reliquary shaped like a train carriage to contain Jean Sherwood’s travelling tea set, which Robert Browning used once while travelling by train from Venice to Florence; Brendan Chen designed a reliquary in the form of a model of the Palazzo Dorio, the house of the Brownings’ son, Pen, to contain its front door knocker; and Eric Nakajima designed a reliquary made from fountain pens to contain Robert Browning’s inkwell. Interestingly, most of the students’ reliquaries followed the postmodernist idiom, “less is a bore.”

Fig. 6: A reliquary for a rose sent by Robert to Elizabeth, designed by Adrian Bonaventura.

Fig. 7: A reliquary for Jean Sherwood’s travelling tea set, designed by Sophie Barodel.

Fig. 7: A reliquary for Jean Sherwood’s travelling tea set, designed by Sophie Barodel.

Fig. 8: A reliquary for some Laurel leaves from Robert Browning’s coffin, designed by Samuel Brak.

Fig. 8: A reliquary for some Laurel leaves from Robert Browning’s coffin, designed by Samuel Brak.

Fig. 9: A reliquary for the front door knocker of Palazzo Dorio, designed by Brendan Chen.

Fig. 9: A reliquary for the front door knocker of Palazzo Dorio, designed by Brendan Chen.

Fig. 10: A reliquary for Robert Browning’s snuffbox, designed by Diana Yong.

Fig. 10: A reliquary for Robert Browning’s snuffbox, designed by Diana Yong.

Fig. 11: A reliquary for Robert Browning’s inkwell, designed by Eric Nakajima.

Fig. 11: A reliquary for Robert Browning’s inkwell, designed by Eric Nakajima.

Most of my time at the Armstrong Browning Library was spent reading the fascinating correspondence between Dr. Armstrong and the two architects who together, but working independently, designed the building: Hedrick C. Wyatt of Fort Worth, Texas, and Otto R. Eggers of New York, who had previously designed the Pantheon-inspired, Thomas Jefferson Memorial (1939) in Washington, DC.

I am currently writing all of this up. I plan to finish my essay, entitled “Designing Dr. Armstrong’s cabinet of curiosities,” by the end of the year. (I have another ABL-related student project in mind for semester two, which I’d like to include as part of this.) I will discuss how Dr. Armstrong briefed Wyatt and Eggers about the design of the Armstrong Browning Library, and how they in turn responded to his instructions. Suffice it to say for now that, from an architect’s point of view, Dr. Armstrong was the client from Hell!

My sincere thanks go to the staff of the Armstrong Browning Library who looked after me so well while I was there, especially Rita Patteson, Cyndie Burgess, Christi Klempnauer, and Melvin Schuetz.

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

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Reflections from a Visiting Scholar

By Ana Gonzalez-Rivas Fernandez, Ph.D., Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain

My research fellowship at the Armstrong Browning Library during the month of August 2014 was not only a thoroughly enriching academic experience that gave me the opportunity to discover the legacy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning first-hand, but also a personal one which was both inspiring and unforgettable, and which revealed to me the immense charm of Texas and its people.

Ana Gonzalez-Rivas Fernandez

Ana Gonzalez-Rivas Fernandez, Ph.D.

The aim of my research was to analyze different aspects of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s take on the classical literature of Greece and Rome, making use of her personal reading as well as her formal and non-formal education. With this in mind, the Armstrong Browning Library was an excellent source of books, textbooks, letters and diaries, material that provided me with much invaluable input for my study. There can be little doubt that writers’ personal collections provide the best possible snapshot of their personal tastes as readers, revealing both their choices and their reading habits. At times, too, the dedicatory or the marginalia also give us some clues about the way they are or the way they think. These texts, free from academic restrictions, show the real-life reader hiding behind the public image of the author, and provide us with an exceptional point of view for the analysis of their literary work. In the case of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, her love-hate relationship with the classics soon becomes evident, reflecting both the enthusiasm she felt in her youth (when the classics helped her form an important bond with “Bro,” her favourite brother) and the total indifference she showed in her later years. This voluble relationship with the classics was of course reflected in her literary output, from her first poem “The Battle of Marathon” up to “The Dead Pan,” which represents the death of the classical gods and, most probably, also the end of their influence on Elizabeth’s life.

During my research at the ABL, I was able to make use of a number of databases that were to prove indispensable, such as The Brownings: A Research Guide, The Brownings’ Correspondence: An Online Edition, and the in-house database ABL Research Tools. It was both an honour and a privilege to have access to the very same works used by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the 19th century, and to make my own record of the different editions she read. The vast collections of the Armstrong Browning Library and of Baylor University also allowed me to consult a large number of secondary sources, which helped me to ground and finally complete my research.

Workshop-Bibliophilia and Classical Studies

Workshop: “Bibliophilia and Classical Studies: The Humanists and Their Bibliographical Legacy”

Some of the results of my study were presented at the academic workshop “Bibliofilia y estudios clásicos: los humanistas y sus legados bibliográficos” (“Bibliophilia and Classical Studies: The Humanists and Their Bibliographical Legacy”) held at the “Marqués de Valdecilla” History Library at the Complutense University in Madrid on the 3rd and 4th of December 2014, and organized by the “Historiografía de la Literatura Grecolatina en España” (“Historiography of Greco-Roman Literature in Spain”) research group, of which I am a member. Examination of the Latin volumes and grammar books of Barrett Browning afforded me a clear view of what a bibliophile the poet was, the owner of not only many of the key works of the 19th century canon, but also of other rarer editions.

Library of Humanities, Autonomous University of Madrid

Humanities Library,
Autonomous University of Madrid

I am currently leading a teaching project at the Autonomous University of Madrid, acting as coordinator for a group of students researching the life and work of Barrett Browning and translating articles and studies relating to her. This project provides a number of students (both graduate and postgraduate) with the opportunity to take a closer look at the author and to explore aspects of her work that do not form part of the degree syllabus. As the coordinator of the project, my own research at the Armstrong Browning Library has served as a very important starting point, making available a wealth of resources that the students can now also make use of.

If my work at the Armstrong Browning Library was so productive, though, it was above all thanks to the kindness and helpfulness of all members of the Library’s staff, who provided invaluable assistance with my research, supplying me with all the material I needed. Their support made my work a great deal easier and more fruitful.

Given that Elizabeth Barrett Browning was such an inveterate reader, the analysis of her reading is proving to be an extensive task in which I am still immersed. I expect to be in a position to present new findings soon, and will use this blog to keep you informed of them. I hope that my work will encourage more researchers to continue to study the fascinating figure of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

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

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Beyond the Brownings–Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

NPG P56; The Rossetti Family by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)© National Portrait Gallery, London

Written by Melinda Creech, Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

Christina Georgina Rossetti shared the limelight with Elizabeth Barrett Browning as the greatest female poet of the nineteenth century. After Barrett Browning’s death in 1861, readers saw Rossetti as Barrett Browning’s rightful successor. She wrote a variety of devotional, romantic, and children’s poems, and is perhaps most well-known for the lyrics of the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter,” her long poem Goblin Market, and her love poem “Remember.”

Christina was the youngest child of an extraordinarily gifted family, Maria Francesca, Gabriel Charles Dante, William Michael, and Christina Georgina, all born between 1827 and 1830. Maria was distinguished by her study of Dante, Dante Gabriel by his poetry and painting, William Michael by his art and literary criticism, and Christina by her poetry.

The Armstrong Browning Library holds over thirty of Christina’s books and two letters.

Goblin-market-1862-3
Goblin-market-1862Goblin-Market-1862-2 Goblin-Marker-18624Goblin-Market-18625Christina Georgina Rossetti. Goblin Market and Other Poems. Cambridge, London: Macmillan and Co, 1862.

This volume is a first edition, advance proof copy sent to the Brownings. There are notes on the flyleaf and an attached postcard noting the provenance of the volume.

Goblin-Market-1902-1 Goblin-Markekt-1905-2Goblin-Market-1905-3Goblin-Market-1905-4Christina Georgina Rossetti. Goblin Market. London : New York: George Routledge and Sons, Limited ; E.P Dutton & Co, 1905. The Broadway Booklets.

This volume contains illustrations by Christina’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The volume also contains Robert Browning’s poem, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.”

Speaking-LikenessesSpeaking-Likenesses-1Speakeing-Likenesses-2Christina Georgina Rossetti. Speaking Likenesses. Illustrated by Arthur Hughes. London: Macmillan and co, 1874.

Christina dedicated this volume:

 To my/ Dearest Mother,/ In Grateful Remembrance Of The/ Stories/ With Which She Used To Entertain Her/ Children. Christina-Rossetti-letterLetter from Christina G. Rossetti to an Unidentified Correspondent. 29 December 1884.

This brief letter to an Unidentified correspondent conveys wishes for a Happy New Year (1885).

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Beyond the Brownings–William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919)

NPG P56; The Rossetti Family by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)© National Portrait Gallery, London

Written by Melinda Creech, Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

William Michael Rossetti, along with his brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of English painters, poets, and critics who intended to reform art by rejecting a mechanistic approach and embracing a return to abundant detail, intense colors and complex compositions. Although employed full-time as a civil servant, William Michael managed to produce criticism, biographies, editions, and articles for the Encyclopædia Britannica.

The Armstrong Browning Library holds seven letters written by William Michael Rossetti and over thirty books, some of them rare.

W.-Mwmr2wmr3wmr4wmr5wmr6

Letter from William Michael Rossetti to A. H. Dooley. 12 May 1876.

 In this letter William Michael Rossetti outlines his published works.

Colles-1Colles-2Letter from William Michael Rossetti to Mr. Colles. 28 August 1898.

In this letter, William Michael Rossetti discusses  a photograph of his brother taken by Downey.

PreRaph1PreRaph2PreRaph3PreRaph4PreRaph5PreRaph6William Michael Rossetti. Ruskin: Rossetti: Preraphaelitism; Papers 1854 to 1862. London: George Allen, 1899.

This volume bears the inscription: “Two hundred and fifty copies of this edition have been printed on hand-made paper for England and America, of which this is no. 176.”

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The ABL Marks the 190th Birthday of George MacDonald with Eight Newly Acquired Letters

By Cynthia A. Burgess, Librarian/Curator of Books & Printed Materials, Armstrong Browning Library

George MacDonald

George MacDonald in 1872. Photograph by Sarony. From an extra-illustrated copy of The Poetical Works of George MacDonald (1893) in the Armstrong Browning Library’s George MacDonald Collection.

December 10th, 2014 is the 190th birthday of George MacDonald (1824-1905), Scottish fantasy writer, novelist, poet, and lecturer, whose works had a profound influence on such writers as C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, and J. R. R. Tolkien.  Although ordained as a Congregational minister at Arundel, Sussex in 1850, his unorthodox views caused conflict with his parishioners which brought about his resignation in 1853.  As his publications became successful, he used his books as his pulpit instead.  He is well known for his children’s books, such as At the Back of the North Wind (1871) and The Princess and Curdie (1888), but also wrote compelling adult novels, among them Phantastes (1858), David Elginbrod (1863), Robert Falconer (1868), and Lilith (1895).

The Armstrong Browning Library is happy to mark George MacDonald’s 190th birthday by announcing the recent acquisition of eight letters written by MacDonald between 1861 and 1890; two of the letters are undated.  They are shown here in chronological order:

1861 October 30

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Hepburn. 30 October 1861.

Writing on the embossed stationery of Alexander Strahan, Publisher, MacDonald notes that he is “pushed for time,” and asks that a guinea be sent to him.

*****

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Hunter. 9 August 1865.

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Hunter. 9 August 1865.

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Hunter. 9 August 1865.

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Hunter. 9 August 1865.

In this letter MacDonald addresses a slight acquaintance, stating that he wants “to try my chance for the chair of Rhetoric,” asking for Hunter to “say a word for me,” and closing with, “Possibly your influence is already bespoken; but if not, & you conscientiously can, I believe you will.”

*****

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Osgood. 23 May 1873.

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Osgood. 23 May 1873.

Writing possibly to a book dealer, MacDonald sends a check and reminds his correspondent, “And do not forget to send me the missing vol. of Emerson – twice over, as I have two sets of that.”

*****

Letter from George MacDonald to Sally [last name unknown]. 13 September 1882.

Letter from George MacDonald to Sally [last name unknown]. 13 September 1882.

Letter from George MacDonald to Sally [last name unknown]. 13 September 1882.

Letter from George MacDonald to Sally [last name unknown]. 13 September 1882.

Letter from George MacDonald to Sally [last name unknown]. 13 September 1882.

Letter from George MacDonald to Sally [last name unknown]. 13 September 1882.

Letter from George MacDonald to Sally [last name unknown]. 13 September 1882.

Letter from George MacDonald to Sally [last name unknown]. 13 September 1882.

At the age of 58, MacDonald writes to a woman who appears to be a close friend, noting, “We are all getting old – and are perhaps ready to think both too much and too little of it.  You need not mind it, for you have spent your life for others.  The master is young and will make us all young by and by.”

*****

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Watkinson.  26 September 1883.

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Watkinson. 26 September 1883.

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Watkinson.  26 September 1883.

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Watkinson. 26 September 1883.

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Watkinson.  26 September 1883.

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Watkinson. 26 September 1883.

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Watkinson.  26 September 1883.

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Watkinson. 26 September 1883.

MacDonald begins this letter with, “I am sorry you are not able to count our visit to you a success.”  Responding to an apparent request to lecture the following year, he writes, “I am not anxious to lecture out of London.”  And he closes with, “In any case I would not pledge myself a year beforehand. So you must excuse me. Our movements are far too uncertain for it. I take what lectures come conveniently in my way – only those.”

*****

Letter from George MacDonald to [Mr.] Hutchinson. 1 January 1890.

Letter from George MacDonald to [Mr.] Hutchinson. 1 January 1890.

Apparently Mr. Hutchinson sent MacDonald some of his written work, asking for assistance in getting it published in a magazine.  MacDonald responds, “I cannot do what you ask me, for, as I think I told you before, Mr. Nicol is the only man I have acquaintance with among the magazines. I know nothing whatever about the editors of the Sunday at Home and the Leisure Hour.”

*****

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Erskine. Monday, [no date].

Letter from George MacDonald to Mr. Erskine. Monday, [no date].

In this social note, MacDonald says he must put off a visit “till another time” and “return to London where I have much to do.”  Following his signature, MacDonald adds this intriguing postscript, “My friends have hopes of my success, but we really know nothing about it.”

*****

Letter from George MacDonald to an Unknown Correspondent. 6 February [no year].

Letter from George MacDonald to an Unknown Correspondent. 6 February [no year].

This brief note, written “in haste” in Edinburgh, seems to set an appointment with the unknown correspondent for the following month.

A Request for Information Regarding the Letters

As these letters are new acquisitions, they have not yet been thoroughly researched.  The ABL welcomes any information regarding correspondents, circumstances, or relationships that these letters bring to light.

I am closing this post with an image of the house in which George MacDonald was born 190 years ago today.

The house in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where George MacDonald was born. From an extra-illustrated copy of The Poetical Works of George MacDonald (1893) in the Armstrong Browning Library’s George MacDonald Collection.

The house in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where George MacDonald was born. From an extra-illustrated copy of The Poetical Works of George MacDonald (1893) in the Armstrong Browning Library’s George MacDonald Collection.

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Beyond the Brownings–Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

NPG P56; The Rossetti Family by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)© National Portrait Gallery, London

Written by Melinda Creech, Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the second born child in the Rossetti family. Dante Gabriel was a poet, illustrator, painter, translator, and founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Sensuality and Medieval revivalism characterized his art. According to John Ruskin and Walter Pater, Dante Gabriel Rossetti was the most important and original artistic force in the second half of the nineteenth century in Great Britain.

 The Armstrong Browning Library holds six of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s letters and over forty of his books, some of them rare.

D.-G.-Rossetti-to-Mama-1D.-G.-Rossetti-to-Mama-2

Letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to [Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori Rossetti]. [ca. 4 February 1864].

Dante Gabriel invites his mother, Maria, Christina, and William to tea on Saturday. He says in a postscript that he is also asking Browning. He also lets her know that

 I have a little picture just finished which will be leaving me for Gambait on Monday morning.

Early-ItalEarly-Ital.-2Early-Ital-3Early-Ital.-4Early-Ital-5Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Dante Alighieri, eds. The Early Italian Poets from Ciullo d’Alcamo to Dante Alighieri (1100-1200-1300): In the Original Metres, Together with Dante’s Vita Nuova. London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1861.

This volume is Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s first regularly published book, said to have been financed by John Ruskin.  This volume is the same edition that was given by Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Robert Browning as a Christmas gift in 1861.

 DCR-poemsDGR-Poems-2DGR-Poems-3DGR-Poems4Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Poems. London: F. S. Ellis, 1870.

This volume is one of twenty-five copies printed on large paper for private circulation only. This is John Ruskin’s copy with his bookplate.

 

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