The 2,000,000th Volume

By Rita S. Patteson, Director of the Armstrong Browning Library

When Jennifer Borderud and I chatted with University of Houston librarians Pat Bozeman and Julie Grob at the annual Rare Books and Manuscripts Preconference in Las Vegas in June, we learned a very interesting fact. In 1998, a special edition of Robert Browning’s Men and Women (Hammersmith: Doves Press, 1908) was the two-millionth volume added to the M.D. Anderson Library at the University of Houston.

And what a volume!  It is one of only thirteen copies printed on vellum, hand-decorated and signed by Edward Johnston, and specially bound in 1914 at Doves Press by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson. This two-volume edition contains the bookplates of three noted former owners: “The Doves Press. Ex Libris. Alfred Fowler”; “Ex Libris Cortland Field Bishop”; and “John S. Saks.”  It was sold at Christie’s New York auction house as part of Mr. Saks’ Doves Press collection and presented to the Anderson Library by the current and former University of Houston Libraries staff, with assistance from Detering Book Gallery, Inc.

Excuse me for being jealous!

Page 184, volume 2, of Doves Press Men and Women

Page from Baylor’s Doves Press edition (one of 250 printed on paper), alas, not one of the 13 on vellum!

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Dr. Armstrong’s “Mammoth” Pied Piper Pageant

Ninety years ago on 9 June 1924, Dr. A.J. Armstrong, founder of the ABL and chair of Baylor’s English department from 1912-1952, staged in the middle of Baylor University’s campus what the Waco Times-Herald called in an article on 1 June 1924 a “mammoth” pageant.  The pageant was based on Robert Browning’s poem “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” and featured Baylor students as well as 400 Waco school children under the direction of Lillie Martin, professor of primary education at Baylor.  Parents of the children who participated in this dramatic presentation of Browning’s poem were instructed to provide their children “with a costume for a rat, something on the order of the brownie costumes, one piece with rat ears, a tail which should be stuffed with cotton or excellsior and perhaps wired.  The length of the tail,” the instructions continued, “should vary according to the age of the child.”

Baylor student Annie Lee Truett as the Pied Piper

Baylor student Annie Lee Truett as the Pied Piper

During the pageant, the children, dressed as white, gray, brown, and black rats, remained out of view of the crowd until they were lured by the sound of the Pied Piper’s flute from their hiding places in the doorways of buildings and the bushes around the Burleson Quadrangle.  After scurrying through the crowd, the children once again disappeared as they followed the Pied Piper, played by Annie Lee Truett, later returning to join the crowd as “children” for the remainder of the event.

Crowd at Pied Piper Pageant

Crowd at the Pied Piper Pageant. Dr. Armstrong is the man in white holding a little boy in his lap. (Photo: Whayne H. Farmer, Waco, Texas)

The pageant, which according to the Waco News Tribune on 10 June 1924 drew a crowd of several thousand from Waco and all over Texas, was one part of a larger program that featured the dedication of three stained-glass windows for the Browning Room in Carroll Library.  Mrs. Moselle Alexander McLendon presented Baylor with a window based on Browning’s “Pied Piper” poem.  Mrs. J.V. Brown on behalf of San Marcos Academy presented a window representing Browning’s “How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix.”  And Mrs. E.D. Head, speaking for Mrs. Carrie C. Slaughter of Dallas, presented a window depicting Browning’s poem “The Guardian Angel.” The windows, designed by the Haskins Studio of Rochester, New York, were received by Baylor President Samuel Palmer Brooks.

Pied Piper Window

The Pied Piper Window, Leddy-Jones Research Hall, Armstrong Browning Library

The presentation was preceded by an operetta of The Pied Piper of Hamelin by R.H. Walthew and was sung by Baylor Professor W.N. Payne, Mrs. Royal C. Stiles, Mrs. Harold T. Dawson, and Mr. C.S. Cadwallader.  Professor Robert Markham accompanied the performance on the piano.  The crowd was invited to view the windows in the Browning Room at the conclusion of the program.  The three windows presented to Baylor at the 1924 Pied Piper Pageant can now be seen in the Leddy-Jones Research Hall of the Armstrong Browning Library.

 

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Selection for Margarett Root Brown Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies Announced

During the Armstrong Browning Library’s annual Browning Day celebration on May 7, Pattie Orr, Vice President for Information Technology and Dean of University Libraries, publicly announced the selection of Dr. Joshua King, Associate Professor (effective August 2014) of English at Baylor University, as the next holder of the Margarett Root Brown Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies.

Brown Chair Announcement

Dean Pattie Orr announces the selection of Dr. Joshua King as holder of the Margarett Root Brown Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies

As Chair, Dr. King will serve as a scholar-in-residence for the Armstrong Browning Library, researching and publishing on materials related to the Library’s holdings and attending and designing scholarly and outreach events to promote the Library’s standing as a world center for Victorian studies.

Since its establishment by the Brown Foundation in 1971, this position has been held by members of the Baylor faculty as well as visiting international scholars. Past Chair holders include Dr. Jack W. Herring (1971-1984), Dr. Roger L. Brooks (1987-1994), Dr. Mairi Rennie (1996-2002), Dr. Stephen Prickett (2003-2008), and Dr. Kirstie Blair (2012).  Dr. King will begin his three-year term as Chair this summer (2014) and will be eligible for additional terms thereafter.

Browning Day Program 2014

Browning Day Program 2014

In addition to Dean Orr’s announcement, this year’s Browning Day, celebrating Robert Browning’s 202nd birthday, featured music organized by ABL Artist-in-Residence Carlos Colón and performed by Chris Martin, recognition of D.M. Edwards in appreciation of the D.M. Edwards Library Internship Endowed Scholarship Fund, and a presentation on The Browning Letters project.  The presentation, given by Darryl Stuhr and Eric Ames from Baylor University, Ian Graham from Wellesley College, and Anna Sander and Fiona Godber from Balliol College, was followed by a reception in the Library’s Seminar Room.  Visit the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections Blog to learn more about the presentation and The Browning Letters project.

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Moncure Daniel Conway (1832–1907)

Daniel Moncure ConwayMoncure Daniel Conway was an American abolitionist, Unitarian clergyman, and author. His life took many turns. He moved from being the son of a wealthy slaveholder in Virginia, to a Methodist minister, and to an outspoken abolitionist with transcendental tendancies. He traveled to England to become an advocate for abolition and to Venice, spending most of the remainder of his life in England as minister of the South Place Chapel, occasionally traveling back to the United States. In England, having become a journalist and a literary agent, he admired the poetry of Robert Browning and became a close acquaintance. After his wife died, he moved to France, devoting his life to the peace movement and to writing. He died alone in Paris.

RB-to-ConwayLetter from Robert Browning to Moncure Daniel Conway. 20 December 1881.

In this letter Browning explains the origin of a story he had recounted in the epilogue to his book, The Two Poets of Croisic, about a cricket and a singer, explaining that the story came from a Greek myth.

La-SaisiazRobert Browning. La Saisiaz: The Two Poets of Croisic. London: Smith, Elder and Company, 1878.

The story that Browning was explaining to Conway in the letter appears in the “Epilogue” to The Two Poets of Croisic.

Tell the gazer “’Twas a cricket

         Helped my crippled lyre, whose lilt

Sweet and low, when strength usurped

Softness’ place i’ the scale, she chirped?

The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to Conway include three books and four letters.

 

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Cornelius Mathews (1817–1881)

cornelius mathewsCornelius Mathews was an American writer, best known for his crucial role in the formation of a literary group known as Young America in the late 1830s. He called for a new literary style that would express a distinctly American identity. He corresponded with Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Charles Dickens. He was the first to publish Barrett Browning’s works in America.

Mathews-to-Barrett-1Mathews-to-Barrett-2Mathews-to-Barrett-3 Letter from Cornelius Mathews to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 30 January 1844.

In this letter Cornelius Mathews thanks Elizabeth Barrett Browning for her letter and reports about the publication of her work in America.

 A collection of ‘English Poetry’ is to be made in this country [by Mr R. W. Griswold] & that to a friend of mine is deputed, at my request, the charge of your writings, Mr. Horne’s & Mr. Browning’s & I hope you will live to be pleased when you see what is done & said in your & their behalf.

EBB-to-Mathews-1EBB-to-Mathews-2EBB-to-Mathews-3 Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Cornelius Mathews. [26] March 1844.

In this letter Elizabeth Barret Browning thanks Mathews for his interest and help in publishing her poems in America.

I am at the end of my paper & have yet to thank you warmly & gratefully for your kind interest about the American edition of my poems.

Elizabeth went on to make an acknowledgment of Mathews contribution to the publication of her work in America in the preface to the first edition of her poems published in America.

The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to Mathews include eight Browning letters and three  manuscripts.

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–James Thomas Fields (1817–1881)

JamesTFieldsby cameronJames Thomas Fields was an American publisher, editor, and poet. He joined with William Tichnor in creating a publishing and bookselling firm, first known as Ticknor and Fields, and later known as Fields, Osgood & Company. Fields became the publisher of leading contemporary American writers, with many of whom he developed a personal relationship. In addition to being a publisher, Fields also wrote poetry, and after his retirement, he was a popular lecturer. Fields published Robert Browning’s poetry.

Browning-to-Fields-1Browning-to-Fields-2Letter from Robert Browning to James Thomas Fields. 12 July 1868.

In this letter Robert Browning discusses with Fields the procedure of getting the proofs to him for the American publication of his poetry.

JTFields-to-BrowningLetter from James Thomas Fields to Robert Browning. 12 November 1868.

In this letter Fields assures Robert Browning that his revisions have been made and expresses his pride in being allowed to publish Browning’s poems:

 I cannot tell you what a satisfaction it is to me personally, to have the opportunity of putting my name on the title page with yours in this new venture.

This book of James T. Fields’ own poetry was inscribed by the author as a gift to his friend, Judge Richard Fletcher of Boston.

JTFields-Poems-1

JTFields-Poems-2James Thomas Fields. Poems. Boston: William D. Tichnor and Company, 1849.

The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to Fields include more than fifteen books and three letters.

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Daniel Sargent Curtis (1825–1908)

414px-Antonio_Mancini_-_Daniel_Sargent_CurtisDaniel Sargent Curtis was among the Brownings’ cohort of American friends living in Italy. In 1881 Daniel Sargent Curtis rented the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice and  purchased it in 1885. Curtis and his wife Ariana repaired and restored the Palazzo Barbaro and hosted many artists, musicians, and writers. The palace became the hub of American life in Venice with visits from Henry James, James Whistler, Robert Browning, and Claude Monet. Palazzo Barbaro was used as a location in the 1981 Brideshead Revisited TV series.

Curtis-to-Browning-1Curtis-to-Browning-2Curtis-to-Browning-3Curtis-to-Browning-4Letter from Daniel Sargent Curtis to Robert Browning. 27 March 1886.

In this letter Curtis discusses his purchase of the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice.

Browning-to-Curtis-1Browning-to-Curtis-2Browning-to-Curtis-3Letter from Robert Browning to Daniel Sargent Curtis. 4 June 1886.

In this letter Browning presents further discussion of the Palazzo Barbaro. He also discusses meeting and being favorably impressed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932, and as Acting Chief Justice of the United States January–February 1930.

Palazzo_Barbaro_gran_canal_san_marcoPhotograph of the Palazzo Barbaroon the Grand Canal in Venice.

The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to Curtis include six letters and a diary of his conversations with Browning from 1879 to 1885.

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–William Wetmore Story (1819-1895)

William_Wetmore_Story_-_Brady-HandyWilliam Wetmore Story (1819-1895) was an American sculptor, art critic, poet, and editor.  He was the son of Joseph Story (1779-1845), who served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1811-1845.  Story initially practiced law but abandoned his legal career in 1847 to pursue training in Europe as a sculptor.  Story, along with his wife Emelyn (née Eldredge, 1820-1894), daughter Edith “Edie” (1844-1917), and son Joseph “Joe” (1847-1853), met Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Florence, Italy, in late 1848 or early 1849.  The two families became close friends and spent a great deal of time together whenever the Storys were in Italy.  Browning and his son Robert Weideman Barrett Browning, called Pen, remained intimate friends of the Storys following Elizabeth’s death in 1861.  Story sculpted busts of Robert and Elizabeth, reproductions of which can be viewed in the Martin Entrance Foyer of the Armstrong Browning Library.

Story-to-Pen-1Story-to-Pen-2Story-to-Pen-3Letter from William Wetmore Story to Robert Weideman Barrett Browning. 13 December 1889.

In this letter to Robert Browning’s son, Story reflects on his long friendship with Robert Browning following the poet’s death on 12 December 1889:

He was one of my oldest & dearest & most valued friends—& the world seems poor now that he has gone. … The last words he said to us when we said Goodbye to him at Asolo were ‘We have been friends for forty years—ay—more than forty years—& with never a break’– How true it was—there was never a break—never a cloud on our friendship for a moment—& the more I knew him the more I loved him. … He was one of the best & noblest of men. … I do not think that a small or mean thought ever knocked at the door of his spirit—much less ever was allowed to enter– Ever large hearted as large minded, grand in all his impulses—generous in all his feelings—vivid in his enthusiasms and the most loving man I ever knew.

Story-Ms1Story-Ms2William Wetmore Story.  “Robert Browning.” Autograph manuscript.  Undated.

This poem of thirty-eight lines was signed by Story and presented to Browning’s son and daughter-in-law Fannie Coddington Browning.  The inscription reads:

To my dear friends—Pen & Fanny—with the warmest love of their, & their Father’s & Mother’s old friend.

Story’s poem about RB begins:

It scarcely seems, dear Friend you can be gone—

Your voice still lingers in my ear—that tone

So clear & quiet it scarce could wait to say

Your eager thought in our prosaic way,

But leaped our critic rules, assured that we

Could follow where you leaped so easily

Still pressing on in thought, stopped by no gaps

Of broken phrasing—careless of all lapse—

FiammettaWilliam Wetmore Story.  Fiammetta: A Summer Idyl.  Edinburgh; London:  William Blackwood and Sons, 1886.

A member of the Browning family owned a copy of this edition of Story’s novel.

Grafitti-d'ItaliaWilliam Wetmore Story.  Graffiti d’Italia.  Edinburgh; London:  William Blackwood and Sons, 1868.

The poem “Praxiteles and Phryne” is dedicated to Robert Browning.

The Armstrong Browning Library owns one manuscript, eight letters, and eight books by Mr. Story.

 

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ABL Makes List of the “16 Coolest College Libraries in the Country”

The Business Insider, a business and technology news website, recently listed the Armstrong Browning Library as one of the “16 Coolest College Libraries in the Country.”

Other special collections libraries included on the list were the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, the George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University, and the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina.

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Katharine DeKay Bronson

KatharineKatharine de Kay Bronson was a wealthy American who frequently traveled with her husband Arthur Bronson around Europe.  In 1875, the couple and their daughter Edith (born 1861) decided to make Venice, Italy, their permanent home.  Katharine Bronson entertained guests in her house, called Ca Alvisi, on the Grand Canal and became acquainted with a group of English-speaking artists and writers, among them Henry James and Robert Browning.  Bronson was first introduced to Browning in 1880 probably by their mutual friend the American sculptor William Wetmore Story.  Bronson and Browning developed a close friendship, and he and his sister Sarianna spent many holidays with Bronson in Venice and in Asolo.  Browning’s Ferishtah’s Fancies, completed in 1884, is thought to be influenced in part by Bronson and Venice, and in 1889, Browning dedicated Asolando to Bronson.  The dedication reads:

To whom but you, dear Friend, should I dedicate verses—some few written, all of them supervised, in the comfort of your presence, and with yet another experience of the gracious hospitality now bestowed on me since so many a year,—adding a charm even to my residences at Venice, and leaving me little regret for the surprise and delight at my visits to Asolo in bygone days?

 

Bronson-Album-1

Bronson-Album-2Personal Letters from Robert Browning in the Collection of Katharine de Kay Bronson and Edith Rucelai Bronson.

This scrapbook was created by Katharine Bronson after Robert Browning’s death and contains photographs of Robert Browning as well as his letters to her.

Bronson-Album-3Letter from Robert Browning to Katharine DeKay Bronson, 16 September 884

In a letter from Robert Browning to Mrs. Bronson, dated 16 September 1884, Robert Browning reminisces about the warm greeting he and his sister Sarianna received from Mrs. Bronson when they arrived in Italy for a holiday in 1883:

So it was last year, and the end of the journey was at the Venice Station when the first blessing was that of Luigi’s fat face—lighting the way a few footsteps farther to the more than Friend who had come in the rain to take us and keep us.

The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to Katharine DeKay Bronson include one manuscript and eighty-seven letters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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