Reflections from a Summer Intern – Stories from Victorian Letters: Drawings in Victorian Letters

By Katie Mackenzie, Museum Studies Summer Intern

During my internship, I have discovered that some of my most favorite things to find in Victorian letters are little drawings or sketches. It is especially fun when they relate to and help illustrate the story that the letter is telling. I am so excited to be able to share some of these drawings with you through the blog!

The first drawing that I will share with you comes from a letter written on December 24, 1869 by an Englishwoman named Rose Georgina Kingsley. She writes her letter to her little brother Grenville Kingsley. Rose was living in Trinidad and most of her letter consists of her excitedly describing the fantastic plants and animals that she has seen there. Rose included a drawing in her letter of one of the animals she had found in her room – a spider, drawn life size to the one she saw. On the letter it is almost 4 inches across. Rose comments that, for Trinidad, this giant spider is actually small! Below is an excerpt from the letter on the spider,

I found [letter torn] spider in my room as big as this. But that is considered quite tiny here!!

Letter from Rose Georgina Kingsley to Grenville Kingsley. 24 December 1869. Drawing of a spider.

You will notice that Rose’s drawing does not depict the correct number of legs for a spider, but I still wonder if the spider could be identified. Do you recognize this spider?

The next letter that I will share with you may be especially interesting to those who love music. This letter was between two musicians, from N. J. Heineken to Miss Hodge. The letter is not dated but believed to have been written in the Victorian era. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any more identifying information about the musicians. Heineken writes Miss Hodge to praise her music as well as to offer her advice. Heineken seems to admire Miss Hodge’s music very much. He writes, “I have been much pleased with your truthful and ingenious song.” When referring to particular parts of Miss Hodge’s song, Heineken draws musical notations. It is amazing to see these musical notations, as it could give us clues as to what Miss Hodge’s song sounded like. An example of Heineken’s drawing can be seen below.

Letter from N.J. Heineken to Miss Hodge. Undated. Musical notations.

The last letter I will share with you contains a sketch by the Scottish artist Sir George Reid. Reid wrote to Mrs. Tom Taylor, nee Laura Wilson Barker, on February 18, 1879. Laura was the wife of the English playwright Tom Taylor. One of his most famous plays is Our American Cousin. In his letter, Sir George Reid, describes to Mrs. Taylor how harsh the winter was in Scotland that year. Reid writes,

We have had a trying and tedious winter here. For weeks the snow lay a foot and a half deep – it vanished at last slowly and led me to think that the winter was over. Yesterday and today it is back to the old story – snow has fallen steadily since morning and now lies 6 or 8 inches deep –

Along with his description of the winter weather, Reid adds a sketch of a man he names as Macdonald, whom Reid is painting a portrait of. Reid could have possibly been referring to the Scottish author, George Macdonald, whom Reid is known to have created portraits of. Macdonald is depicted outside sitting in his carriage, bundled up to protect himself from the cold. His face is barely visible peeking out underneath his hat.

Letter from G.W. Reid to Mrs. Tom Taylor. 18 February 1879. Sketch of Macdonald.

These three drawings provide amazing illustrations of the stories the letters tell. They all help to bring to the past to life. Rose’s letter helps us to see what she saw, by depicting a life sized spider; Heineken’s musical notations give us clues to Miss Hodge’s song; Reid’s sketch helps us imagine the bitterly cold Scottish winter in 1879.

This will be my last blog for my internship at the Armstrong Browning Library. I had so much fun discovering all the amazing stories to be found in the Armstrong Browning Library’s Victorian letters this summer. Thank you for letting me share these stories with you!

Reflections from a Summer Intern – Stories from Victorian Letters: The Whittier-Family Autograph Album

By Katie Mackenzie, Museum Studies Summer Intern

In the past few days of my internship I have been able to work on transcriptions for an extraordinary album.

The first thing that stood out to me was the album’s beautiful deep red cover. The gold lettering of the word “Autograph” and the picture of a book and quill that announce the album’s purpose is beautiful.

Front cover of Whittier Family Autograph Album.

Back cover of Whittier Family Autograph Album.

This Victorian era autograph album contains the signatures of many famous people of the day. Most of the dated signatures are from around the time of the American Civil War. It belonged to Elizabeth Whittier Pickard (1846-1902), who was the niece of the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892). The album was given to Elizabeth by her brother, Charles Whittier (1843-1909).

Lizzie H. Whittier
From her brother
Char.

Autograph. Charles Whittier to Elizabeth Whittier Pickard.

Her uncle, John Greenleaf Whittier, as a famous poet, may have helped to fill the album with the autographs of his famous friends and correspondents. There are a few letters that are written to John Greenleaf Whittier included in the album.

There are several types of autographs found in the book. Some of the autographs simply include the person’s name. Some of the autographs are attached to a letter, or cut out of one. But what I found most interesting were the names that came with a quote. When a signer added a quote it was sometimes from their own work.

The autograph from Nora Perry, an American writer, came with a quote from her own poem. The excerpt of her poem “The Love-Knot” reads,

Tying her bonnet under her chin
She tied a young man’s heart within
Nora Perry

Autograph. Nora Perry to Elizabeth Whittier Pickard.

But most often a famous quote came from another source, such as the Bible, and usually contained a moral message.

Very rarely, the quote comes in the form of a unique poem. One of my favorite quotes in the album was a unique poem written just for Elizabeth. This poem was written by the American author and poet Lucy Larcom (1824-1893). The poem reads,

For the name thou bearest
Tender love thou sharest.
Hold it sacred unto death
The dear name – Elizabeth.

Autograph. Lucy Larcom to Elizabeth Whittier Pickard.

Elizabeth probably did hold her name as something very sacred to her, as she was named after a beloved and much admired aunt. This admiration can be seen in a letter that her father, M. F. Whittier, who was the younger brother of John Greenleaf Whittier, wrote to her on December 4, 1864. The letter reads,

As far as your nature will allow imitate the beautiful life of the dear Aunt whose name you bear. Strive to love all God’s creatures as she did. Like her be charitable towards the erring – – remembering that “to err is human – to forgive is Divine.”

                                                                   M.F. Whittier

Letter from M. F. Whittier to Elizabeth Whittier Pickard. 4 December 1864.

Some of the most famous autographs in the album are the type that are simply signatures. Examples include Ulysses S. Grant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Autograph. Ulysses S. Grant. 21 May 1872.

Autograph. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Autograph. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 20 February 1874.

I was excited to find Robert Browning’s autograph in a letter he wrote to John Greenleaf Whittier in 1856. Elizabeth Browning must have been nearby as her husband wrote the letter, as Robert Browning writes to Whittier that, “I speak for my wife.” The letter is a thank you note to John Greenleaf Whittier for the kind words he wrote of them in a book. The letter reads,

My dear sir,

On returning to England this summer we found a book of manly and beautiful verse, and our names (I speak for my wife in this letter) written, with a kind and gratifying word of sympathy from yourself, in the first page. We are just leaving England again, but you must take our hasty thanks as if they had been more worthily expressed: they are hearty and sincere, at all events – – since acknowledging that you have thus numbered with your friends

                         Two, proud to be so numbered,

                                 Elizabeth Barrett & Robert Browning

Letter to John Greenleaf Whittier from Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 20 October 1856.

The autograph letters are some of my favorite because, as well as the autograph, they also included snippets of the everyday life of the person. For example, one of the letters is from John Greenleaf Whittier to Greenleaf Whittier Pickard, who was Elizabeth Whittier Pickard’s son. John writes to his great nephew, telling him that he will collect stamps so that Greenleaf can put them in his stamp album. He also reminds Greenleaf to do well in school. I love letters like this that seem so familiar even to modern eyes. The letter reads,

Dear Greenleaf,

I send a few stamps for thy album, and will try to save more for thee, I hope thee go to school and learn well.

                                                 Thy Uncle,

                                                      John G Whittier

Letter to Greenleaf Whittier Pickard from John Greenleaf Whittier.

This autograph album allowed me to learn about many Victorian people who I hadn’t known before. It was so fun to be able to research all the people inside of the book and to learn their stories.

Reflections from a Visiting Scholar: Arnold at the Armstrong Browning Library

By Rose Sneyd, PhD Candidate, Dalhousie University, Canada

Rose Sneyd

Rose Sneyd, Dalhousie University, Canada

While the Armstrong Browning Library’s (ABL’s) trove of EBB- and RB-related resources is a magnet for scholars of both poets, I was drawn to Waco, TX, by the library’s distinct collection on Matthew Arnold. As a doctoral candidate writing my dissertation on the connections between the great Victorian poet-critic and the Romantic poet Giacomo Leopardi, I was very fortunate to receive a two-week fellowship to explore the ABL’s intriguing holdings on Arnold last winter.

One of several highlights of this collection is those unpublished letters of Arnold that are held by the ABL. These include, among others, an 1865 letter to Sir Theodore Martin – one of the earliest translators of Leopardi’s poetry – who sent his translation of Goethe’s Faust to Arnold, who seems to have approved of it; letters (1866, 1873) to an American journalist and acquaintance of Emerson, Charles F. Wingate, to whom Arnold makes fascinating comments about English reviewers and their tendency to “lose[… themselves] in a number of personal and secondary questions”; and a refusal to produce an entry on Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Chambers Encyclopaedia (1888-92) sent to David Patrick in 1887. Such letters provide vital nuggets of information on Arnold’s network of friends and acquaintances on both sides of the Atlantic.

Arnold 1873_2

Letter from Matthew Arnold to Charles F. Wingate, dated 13 September 1873, page 2

Arnold Letter 1873_1

Letter from Matthew Arnold to Charles F. Wingate, dated 13 September 1873, page 1

Another fascinating element of the Arnold author collection is the many editions of Arnold’s works that were owned by prominent Victorian writers, for example: a copy of Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy that he presented to Robert Browning; an 1852 edition of Empedocles on Etna, also given to Browning; John Ruskin’s copy of Merope (1858); and Charles Kingsley’s New Poems (1867). Of peculiar interest are the markings made by some of the owners of these volumes – particularly by the latter two – that provide a delightful insight into how they read Arnold’s work. Ruskin, for instance, took issue with Arnold’s preface to Merope (Arnold’s most concerted attempt to revive the art of Greek tragedy in mid-19th century England). Here, Arnold suggests that the role of the chorus in Greek tragedy is merely to summarise, but Ruskin contends that the chorus’s role is autonomous – not reliant on the drama’s action. “[B]ut surely,” Ruskin protests in imaginary debate with Arnold, “the actors were (at least in Sophocles and Aeschylus) dependent on and subordinate to the actions of the chorus. Not vice-versa” (xliii). Shortly afterwards, Ruskin pursues this marginal disagreement with Arnold. Where Arnold writes that the chorus is “the relief and solace in the stress and conflict of the action,” Ruskin comments: “or an uncomfortable spasm of poetic inspiration” (xliv)! Perusing his copy of New Poems, the reader discovers that Kingsley was greatly interested by Empedocles’s prosaic-monotonous monologue atop Etna – a fact to which his highlighting more than a third of its stanzas testifies – but he also loaded the philosophically antithetical “Rugby Chapel” with strokes of his pencil.

Merope

Marginalia by John Ruskin in his copy of Matthew Arnold’s Merope: A Tragedy, London, 1858 (ABLibrary 19thCent PR4022 .M3 1858 c.3)

But perhaps the most valuable aspect of the Arnold collection are those 100+ volumes from Arnold’s personal library, which were purchased after the death of his grandson Arnold Whitridge. These were acquired by past ABL director Roger Brooks and include, as Brooks put it in a PR release at the time, “Many of the works [that] were well-known influences upon Arnold during his most formative years as a poet and critic.” Thus, there are editions of Aeschylus’s and Euripides’s tragedies (1843, 1855), Aristotle’s Metaphysics (1848), Arnold’s copy of Madame de Stael’s De L’Allemagne, as well as a number of his volumes on Goethe. While library staff have not yet confirmed that the marks and marginalia were written in Arnold’s hand, Brooks was convinced of it: “[Arnold’s] marginalia, underscoring, and indexing are in many of the volumes along with his well-known book plate,” he writes in the same release. Furthermore, the passages highlighted in these volumes are marked in a manner that is consistent across the books in Arnold’s library and there is a letter in an edition of Poems (1881) held by the library against which his handwriting can be compared. It does, then, seem highly likely that the illuminating “marginalia, underscoring, and indexing” are Arnold’s own.

Bouddha

Mathew Arnold’s markings in his copy of J. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire’s Le Bouddha et sa religion, Paris, 1860 (ABL Matthew Arnold Lib X 294.3 B285b 1860)

Perhaps the two volumes that were of most interest to my research – in terms of their insight into Arnold’s stoic-pessimism – were his copies of J. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire’s Le Bouddha et sa religion (1860) and of George Long’s translation of Epictetus: The Discourses of Epictetus; with the Encheiridion and fragments (1877). What particularly struck me about Arnold’s underscoring in Saint-Hilaire’s Le Bouddha was his evident interest both in Siddartha’s emphasis on the abandoning of desire: “la pauvreté et la restrictions des sens” (as Saint-Hilare puts it – 21), and in Siddartha’s insistence on the imperative of sharing the knowledge of “truth” that he has gained with men and women (26). The first element – the abandonment of desire – is reminiscent of Epictetus’s stoic tenant that one should be resigned to whatever happens that is beyond our control. Arnold’s interest in this doctrine of salvation – whether espoused in ancient Eastern thought or in ancient Western thought – is something that he shared with Leopardi. The Romantic Italian poet believed that “pleasure” was an impossible, elusive goal for humans, and that it was better for all of us to confront this bitter truth and to ally ourselves against a cruel and indifferent Nature.

Epictetus

Annotations by Matthew Arnold in his copy of The Discourses of Epictetus, translated by George Long, London, 1877 (ABL Matthew Arnold Lib X 188 E64d 1877 )

Similar themes in Epictetus appear to be of much interest to Arnold. In the back of Long’s translation, Arnold has noted an index of those elements which, presumably, interested him most, including, enigmatically, the “fallacy.” On following the page references that Arnold includes alongside this term in his text, you realise that he actually has reservations about the stoic doctrine that I outlined (in very broad terms) above. Thus, when Epictetus writes of “learn[ing] to wish that every thing may happen as it does” (1.12.42), Arnold comments in the margin: “fallacy.” Similarly, when Epictetus poses the rhetorical question: “And will you be vexed and discontented with the things established by Zeus, which he with the Moirae (fates) who were present and spinning the thread of your generation, defined and put in order?” (1.12.44), Arnold writes “fallacy.” However, Arnold seems sympathise more with Epictetus when the philosopher suggests that human beings can overcome the desire to control those “things” in their life that are actually beyond their control: “Do you not rather thank the gods that they allowed you to be above these things which they have not placed in your power, and have made you accountable only for those which are in your power?” (1.12.45). Here, Arnold writes: “between the truth and the fallacy,” and one can only wish that he had elaborated a little on what he meant here!

Despite the enigmatic nature of some of Arnold’s comments, tracing his interests through the markings and marginalia that he left behind in these books is a fascinating enterprise, and one that I hope to pursue at a later date.

They Asked For a Paper–Algernon Charles Swinburne Manuscript

Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,” highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

Autograph Manuscript. [Algernon Charles Swinburne]. “To Barry Cornwall.” Undated.

To Barry Cornwall

Beloved of men, whose name on our lips was honey,
Whose words in our ears, & our father’s ears, were sweet, —
Like summer gone forth, form the lands his words made sunny,
To the beautiful glad bright world, where the dead souls meet; —
Child, father, bridegroom, or friend, or true rest,
No soul shall pass, of a singer than thee, more blest.

Blest for the heart’s true sakes, that were filled & brightened,
As a forest with birds, by the fruit & flowers of thy ^his^ song,
Blest for the Soul’s sweet sakes, who heard & their care was lightened,
By the sad & the lonely blest, who had leaned on his care so long;
By the living and dead lips blest, who had loved his name
And clothed with their praise, & crowned with their love of fame.

Fair & fragrant his fame as flowers that die not,
That don not for heat by day, nor for cold by night – – – – –

This manuscript was found among the pages of the Norris Album, a collection of letters, manuscripts, and autographs, many of which are addressed to Mrs. Norris. I have yet to determine Mrs. Norris’s identity. Many of the letters in the collection are written by artists and musicians.

This manuscript appears to be a sonnet written by Algernon Charles Swinburne and entitled “To Barry Cornwall.” Swinburne has several poems honoring Barry Cornwall, the pseudonym of Bryan Waller Proctor, nineteenth-century poet. Swinburne’s poem, “Lines to Barry Cornwall,” which begins “In vain men tell us time can alter,” was probably written in 1868, based on a letter which Swinburne wrote to Cornwall. In that letter Swinburne says that he has written his poem in response to a sonnet that Charles Lamb had written to Barry Cornwall. Swinburne’s poem was later published as “Age and Song (To Barry Cornwall).”

Swinburne has another poem “In Memory of Barry Cornwall (October 4, 1874),” written after Cornwall’s death. That poem is six stanzas of six lines each. The manuscript found in the Norris album, only fourteen lines, contains some of the lines of Swinburne’s “In Memory of Barry Cornwall (October 4, 1874).” There are, however, some variants within the text. Those variants are marked in red below:

In the garden of death, where the singers whose names are deathless
One with another make music unheard of men,
Where the dead sweet roses fade not of lips long breathless,
And the fair eyes shine that shall weep not or change again.
Who comes now crowned with the blossom of snow-white years?
What music is this that the world of the dead men hears?

Beloved of men, whose words on our lips were honey,
Whose name in our ears, and our fathers’ ears was sweet,
Like summer gone forth of the land his songs made sunny,
To the beautiful veiled bright world, where the glad ghosts meet,
Child, father, bridegroom and bride, and anguish and rest,
No soul shall pass of a singer than this, more blest.

Blest for the years’ sweet sakes that were filled and brightened,
As a forest with birds, with the fruit and the flower of his song;
[Blest] For the souls’ sake blest, that heard, and their cares were lightened,
For the hearts’ sake blest, that have fostered his name so long;
By the living and dead lips blest, that have loved his name,
And clothed with their praise, and crowned with their love for fame.

Ah, fair and fragrant his fame as flowers that close not,
That shrink not by day for heat, or for cold by night,– – – – –
As a thought in the heart shall increase when the heart’s self knows not,
Shall endure in our ears as a sound, in our eyes as a light;
Shall wax with the years that wane and the seasons’ chime,
As a white rose thornless that grows in the garden of time.

The same year calls, and one goes hence with another,
And men sit sad that were glad for their sweet songs’ sake;
The same year beckons, and elder with younger brother
Takes mutely the cup from his hand that we all shall take.
They pass ere the leaves be past or the snows be come;
And the birds are loud, but the lips that outsang them dumb.

Time takes them home that we loved, fair names and famous,
To the soft long sleep, to the broad sweet bosom of death;
But the flower of their souls he shall not take away to shame us,
Nor the lips lack song for ever that now lack breath.
For with us shall the music and perfume that die not dwell,
Though the dead to our dead bid welcome, and we farewell.

The embossed heading on the manuscript at the ABL reads: “Rydes Hill Lodge, Guildford.” I have not been able to connect Swinburne to that address. One reference in a letter indicates that Mrs. Norris  lived in Guildford.

Here are a few questions to consider:

Is this manuscript written in Swinburne’s hand?
Why are there so many variants in the text?
Why was the poem rewritten, or first written, as a fourteen line poem? Is it a sonnet?
Is there any other record of the poem written as a sonnet?
Can Swinburne or Mrs. Norris (perhaps Mrs. F. E. Norris) be connected to Rydes Hill Lodge, Guildford?

Reflections from a Summer Intern–Stories from Victorian Letters: John Forster and Percy Fitzgerald

By Katie Mackenzie, Museum Studies Summer Intern

Hello! My name is Katie Mackenzie and I am an intern at the Armstrong Browning Library this summer. One of the projects that I am working on is transcribing and preparing Victorian letters to be digitized. Digitizing these Victorian letters will help them to be more accessible to the world as they will be able to be viewed online.

The first Victorian letter collection that I worked on consisted of nine letters. These letters had been tipped into a green “scrapbook” album, with the handwritten title “Letters of John Forster to Percy Fitzgerald” on its cover.

Cover of John Forster to Percy Fitzgerald Album. 1857-1873.

The book looks to have been recycled from its original purpose as the spine of the book has the title, “Letters of Charles Dickens to Percy Fitzgerald.”

Spine of John Forster to Percy Fitzgerald Album. 1857-1873.

When you examine the album you can see that many of its pages have been cut out. Is it possible that the album once contained letters from Charles Dickens to Percy Fitzgerald?

The letters inside the album are written from John Forster to Percy Fitzgerald and date from 1857-1873. One of the first questions I wanted to know when I looked through this album, of course, was: “Who were John Forster and Percy Fitzgerald?” John Forster (1812-1876) and Percy Fitzgerald (1834-1925) were both writers and biographers of Charles Dickens. Forster’s biography, The Life of Charles Dickens, was published in 1876. Fitzgerald contributed to the magazine Household Words, which was owned by Charles Dickens. He also wrote two biographies of Dickens, Life of Charles Dickens (1905) and Memories of Charles Dickens (1913).  The two Charles Dickens biographers, Forster and Fitzgerald, were also, as we see from the album, very good friends.

When you open the album, the first page has a handwritten title reading “John Forster’s Biographer of Dickens Letters to Percy Fitzgerald.” Lower on the page Fitzgerald writes that Forster was, “The Best friend I ever had and did most for me getting almost a small fortune in my way.”

Title page of John Forster to Percy Fitzgerald album. 1857-1873.

I wonder what the story of the small fortune is. Did it have anything to do with their careers in writing? This is still a mystery.

Transcribing these letters was a challenge, as John Forster’s handwriting is very difficult to read.

Excerpt from letter from John Forster to Percy Fitzgerald. 17 August 1869.

Forster himself hints at the possibility that he found difficulty in reading his own handwriting at one point in the letters. In a letter dated August 17, 1869, Forster mentions that he wrote a wrong address, making the best guess he could at the time. Later, when he figured out the proper address, he writes to Fitzgerald saying that he had better to go to the post office to retrieve his lost letter.

Letter from John Forster to Percy Fitzgerald. 17 August 1869.

This section of the letter reads,

I wrote to you yesterday – addressing my letter to [“Husband”] street – that being my nearest guess to the name which I have since discovered to be [Harbour] St.  Call at the P. O. for the letter if it should have not been delivered to you.

Because of Forster’s handwriting, some of the words are still uncertain.

From the letters we find historical clues about Victorian food, mourning customs, and museums.

Most of Forster’s letters to Fitzgerald are invitations to dine, and from them we can learn some interesting things about Victorian food. In one letter dated February 14, 1872, Forster asks Fitzgerald over to dinner at around 7 o’clock. Forster is careful to ask about Fitzgerald’s dietary restrictions. To ask if Fitzgerald is pescetarian, Forster writes,

and tell me, in your word of reply, whether you are restricted to creatures caught from the watery world?

What a clever way to ask this question!

One mystery regarding food in the letters comes from translating Forster’s difficult handwriting. On May 27, 1872, Forster is replying to an invitation that Fitzgerald gave for dinner. Forster accepts and requests that they eat

the simplest of dinners, a bit of white fish, and a bit of brown mutton. No soup or [—–]!

The last word is a mystery! Have a look at the image below. Do you have any ideas what the other item that Forster did not want was?

These letters also give a glimpse into Victorian mourning customs. While in mourning, Victorians would often write their letters on stationery that had a black border. These borders can be very thick depending on how close the author was to the deceased. Three of Forster’s letters were like this. One, dated May 10, 1873, is in regard to the death of his friend and famous actor William Charles Macready.

Letter from John Forster to Percy Fitzgerald. 10 May 1873.

The letter reads:

My dear Percy,

In my misery (which [still] [overtakes]) I forgot to send you Mrs. Macready’s address “6 Wellington Square Cheltenham

Alys Yours,

J.F.

Lastly, there is mention in one letter of a trip to a museum. I found this letter so interesting, as a Museum Studies student at Baylor University. In the letter, dated May 27, 1872, Forster asks Fitzgerald to meet him at the “S. K. Museum” to see a pottery collection. S. K. stands for South Kensington Museum, which was the name for the Victoria and Albert Museum at that time. The Museum was given the name South Kensington Museum in 1854, and it was finally changed to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899.

There are many more Forster letters in the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection, addressed to several correspondents. I am looking forward to learning more about his story in the future!

They Asked For A Paper–Chinese Manuscripts at the ABL, Part 2

Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,”  highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

Two months ago I published a blog about some Chinese manuscripts I had come across while preparing manuscripts at the Armstrong Browning Library for a digital collection. I had determined that the manuscripts were given to the Armstrong Browning Library by Dryden Phelps, nephew of William Lyon Phelps, American author, critic, professor, and Browning scholar. Recently I uncovered a folder containing over 200 letters between Dryden Phelps and the directors of the ABL, Dr. A. J. Armstrong and Dr. Jack Herring. The letters reveal a little more of the story.

After taking degrees from Yale College, Yale School of Religion, and studying at Queens College Oxford, Dryden Phelps became a missionary of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, teaching for thirty years at the West China Union University in Chengu Szechuan. The mission of the school was “the advancement of the Kingdom of God by means of higher education in West China under Christian auspices.” Dryden taught English literature at WCUU, taught psychology, homiletics, and New Testament at Union Theological College, WCUU, and organized and built the University Cathedral Church on the campus of WCUU.

The Baptist College West China Union University Chengtu, West China 1935

Although his uncle, William Lyon Phelps, actually knew Robert Barrett Browning and Dr. Armstrong, Dryden’s connection with Dr. Armstrong began, as the letter below illustrates, when he answered an ad in the Baylor Bulletin, 28 April 1928: “Wanted: Browning in Chinese.”

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong, 3 May 1928. Page 1.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong, 3 May 1928. Page 2.

Dryden, who had been teaching for two years at WCUU, was charged with teaching a class on Tennyson and Browning. He records that members of his class translated a number of the shorter poems into Chinese. Although at that time he was on furlough in California, Dryden promised to send the translations to Dr. Armstrong upon his return to China. These are the poems displayed in the earlier blog. And the correspondence began. Dr. Armstrong sent bits of Browning literature to China, and Dryden sent bits of Chinese culture back to Dr. Armstrong.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 2 October 1928. Page 1.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 2 October 1928. Page 2.

In the  letter above Dryden reports that “several years ago Browning was voted the most popular English poet by the Chinese students in America. The reason? Because he is terse, succinct, witty, epigramatic, unique in a brilliant use of words, profound, a lover of nature, and of human nature, a lover of life. Last year, perhaps I wrote you, I spent several hours a week with one of the most accomplished scholars in West China (in the city of Chengtu, the old home of Chinese poets and statesmen). Half of the time I studied Chinese lyric poetry with Mr Song; half of the time we read Browning together. When we finished, he exclaimed, ‘This is an amazement to me; I never realized that you in the West had any poets who could think, and write, as Browning does. Why, he is like one of our own poets!’ One of the highest services we can render China at this moment is to open her eyes to such men as Browning.”

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 10 December 1928. Page 2.

Again in a letter of 10 December 1928, Dryden affirms that “there is not the slightest question in my mind but what Browning will become the favorite foreign poet of the Chinese instantly he becomes known for there is a striking similarity between his thought imagery and style and that of the old T’ang and Song poets.” In a letter of 31 July 1934, he asserts “that Browning’s penetrating understanding of life and his absolute devotion to God and understanding of his love will be like a great stream of clear water running through the new life in the Far East.”

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 7 January 1934.

In the letter above, Dryden sends the “Yenching Hymnal containing a translation of Browning’s poem, probably by the editor  & poet Prof. T. C. Chao of Yenching.”

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 29 March 1935. Page 1.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 29 March 1935. Page 2.

With this letter Dryden sends the copy of Browning’s poem made into a hymn, displayed in the earlier blog and recounts a Chinese poet’s rendition of “The Grammarian’s Funeral.”

Dryden continued to correspond with Dr. Armstrong, who furnished the WCUU library with Browning materials. Shortly before the Armstrong Browning Library opened, Dryden and his wife Margaret visited Dr. Armstrong in Waco.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong, [1952]. Page 1.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. [1952]. Page 2.

Dryden thanks Dr. Armstrong for his hospitality.

Margaret and I leave Waco with your loving hospitality warm within our hearts. To see and come to know you, to see the glorious library, the work of your hearts and minds, is an American experience that will be remembered and remembered. You two precious people belong to the givers of the world.

You [have impressed] Margaret & we feel that we may join that inside circle of those who love you. And that library set in the midst of these generations of young people, placing steadily before their faces the primacy of truth and beauty & love —

We can never forget this day.

Dryden never had the chance to visit the Armstrong Browning Library, but he reciprocated Armstrong’s generosity by passing on some items that he inherited from his uncle’s estate to the Armstrong Browning Library, probably most notably the copy of The Guardian Angel painting which hangs in the John Leddy-Jones Research Hall.

They Asked For A Paper–An Incendiary Jacket

Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,”  highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

I have been transcribing a set of letters collected by Mr. and Mrs. Higford Burr. Daniel Higford Davall Burr (1811-1885) was a Member of Parliament, Justice of the Peace, and High Sheriff of Berkshire. He and Anna-Margaretta, like the Brownings, were married at St. Marylebone Parish Church. Anna-Margaretta Higford Burr (1817-1892) was an English water-colorist. She traveled extensively and entertained often at the family’s estate, Aldermaston. When her husband died, she moved to Venice where she died in 1892. Many of the letters from this album are correspondence with artists and musicians from the nineteenth century. Although the Burrs had much in common with the Brownings (art, acquaintances, Venice), only two letters of their correspondence are noted, both from the summer of 1864, and both unlocated. Robert does record going to Mrs. Higford Burr’s house to meet the Layards in a letter to  Pen on 23 March 1889, the year of his death. He reports another engagement with Mrs. Burr and the Layards on 4 July 1889.

Although she does not appear in the Brownings’ correspondence, Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon (1821-1869) seems like someone they might have liked to have known.

Lucie Austin, by a school friend, aged 15.

Having become fluent in German while on a trip to Germany with her parents, John and Sarah Austin, she became a proficient translator.

Lucie Duff-Gordon, sketch by Frederick Watts, ca. 1848.

She married Lord Duff-Gordon in 1840 and their home attracted a remarkable circle of friends and acquaintances. Lady Lucie was known for her progressive and tolerant views. In 1861 she contracted tuberculosis, and moved to South Africa and later Egypt in search of a better climate.

Lucie Duff-Gordon, by Henry W. Phillips, ca. 1851.

She is most well known for  her Letters from Egypt, 1863–1865 (1865) and Last Letters from Egypt (1875), written to her family while she was living in Egypt. She returned to England for visits in 1863 and 1865.

This undated letter  from Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon to Mr. Burr, written from The Gordon House, Esher, in Surrey, thanks him for his gift of an “incendiary jacket.” She says that she had just received the gift that morning and had already made use of the jacket and “put a bit into my pipe and smoked it.” Oddly, she was reported to have smoked cigars when she went riding, because “they suppressed the racking coughs caused by consumption,” not a treatment that would have been recommended today.

Letter from Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon to Mr. Higford Burr. Undated. Page 1.

Letter from Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon to Mr. Higford Burr. Undated. Pages 2 and 3.

They Asked For a Paper–Chinese Manuscripts at the ABL

Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,”  highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

In preparing the Victorian Letters and Manuscripts of the Armstrong Browning Library for digitization, I came across these five Chinese manuscripts, which according to the note on the items, were donated by Dryden Linsley Phelps, nephew of William Lyon Phelps. William Lyon Phelps was Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Harvard University and a distinguished Browning scholar. The Fano Club was begun by Phelps. The club is a group of people who have traveled to Fano, Italy, viewed the guardian angel painting, L’Angelo Custode, (1640) by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, in the Civic Museum, and sent back to the Armstrong Browning Library a postcard from Fano. The club meets for dinner on Robert Browning’s birthday, May 7, and for a reading of Browning’s poem, “The Guardian Angel,” performed by the youngest member of the club. Phelps commissioned and donated a copy of the painting of “The Guardian Angel” to the ABL. Robert Browning’s desk chair, a gift to Phelps from his students, has also been on loan to the ABL since 1989.

William Lyon Phelps’s nephew, Dryden Linsley Phelps, was a Baptist missionary to China at the West China University, Chen-tse, Szechuan, China, a translator, and a mountain climber. Dryden Linsley Phelps’s son was also named William Lyons Phelps II, in honor of his distinguished uncle.

Letter from Dryden Linsley Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 1 August 1946.

In this letter to Dr. A. J. Armstrong, Dryden Phelps thanks Armstrong for a Browning Christmas card and shares that he intends to pass the card along to the Chinese bishop who had “done considerable study of Browning.”

Thank you most heartily for the Browning Christmas Cards. I am tremendously happy to have these. I am taking them to China, and shall use them out there. One of them next Christmas will surely go to Bishop Dong Ch’eng-chih, in my first Chinese Browning Class, who has done considerable study of  Browning.

These Chinese manuscripts were a gift to the ABL from Dryden Phelps, the Baptist missionary to China.

Chinese Hymn based on Isaiah 43: 5-7

This hymn is based on the text from Isaiah 43: 5-7.

Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;

I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;

 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.  (KJV)

Chinese Hymn, “Then Welcome Each Rebuff.”

Translation of Chinese Hymn, “Then Welcome Each Rebuff.”

This handwritten hymn is based on Robert Browning’s poem, “Rabbi Ben Ezra.”

Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth’s smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three-parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe! (31-36)

The next three manuscripts are translations of Alfred Tennyson’s poem, “Flower in a Crannied Wall.”

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Alfred Tennyson, “Flower in a Crannied Wall.” Translated into Chinese.

Alfred Tennyson, “Flower in a Crannied Wall.” Translated into Chinese. Verso.

Alfred Tennyson, “Flower in a Crannied Wall.” Translated into Chinese.

Alfred Tennyson, “Flower in a Crannied Wall.” Translated into Chinese.

The Armstrong Browning Library would be grateful for translations of any of these manuscripts? Does anyone recognize the signatures on the two translations of “Flower in a Crannied Wall?” Are there other Chinese Hymns that are based on texts of Robert Browning’s poems? Does anyone know when these manuscripts came to be gifted to the Armstrong Browning Library? Could anyone suggest a date for any of these manuscripts?

They Asked For A Paper–Charlotte Yonge Letters at the ABL

Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,”  highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

Charlotte Mary Yonge

The Armstrong Browning Library owns three letters from English novelist Charlotte Yonge. The first is from Yonge to Anna Butler, written from Otterbourne, September 19, [1856].

Letter from C. M. Yonge to [Anna] Butler. 19 September [1856]. Page 1.

Letter from C. M. Yonge to [Anna] Butler. 19 September [1856]. Pages 2 and 3.

My dear Miss Butler

Your note came as I was meditating enquiries of Glympton on your whereabouts, and just in time for the enclosed, which I hope you will be able to send on to Derby at once as we
[Page 2]
are rather behindhand this month. I am glad your trip was successful, we have made a little one to Sidmouth, a grand affair for us. There was a lame grey haired lady with two foreign looking young ones whom we always called Mde Bronevska and her grand daughters
[Page 3]
making their English visit

Charlotte Mitchell, Senior Honorary Lecturer at University College London and editor of The Letters of Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901), points out that the letter, although undated, is likely from 1856. The lame woman mentioned in the letter, Madame de Bronevska, and her granddaughters are characters in Butler’s story called “Likes and Dislikes,” serialized in Monthly Packet, of which Charlotte Yonge was the first editor, July 1855-Nov 1856. They first appear in the issue of September 1856. Mitchell also points out that Anna Butler’s brother, the Very Rev. William John Butler, was Vicar of Wantage and Dean of Lincoln, quite a well-known Victorian Tractarian clergyman & founder of the Anglican nunnery at Wantage.

A second letter, written on April 5, 1876, has an unknown recipient.

Letter from C. M. Yonge to [Unknown]. 5 April 1876. Page 1.

Letter from C. M. Yonge to [Unknown]. 5 April 1876. Pages 2 and 3.

Dear Sir

I am afraid I cannot boast of much if any fact for the foundation of the Heir of Redclyffe. I had the scenery of Clovelly in my eye when describing Redclyffe bay
[Page 2]
and Malvern with St. Mildred’s, but all the rest is imaginary. The print is Albert Durer’s Knight of Death — There are many photographs of it — and “Sintram” translated from the German is published both
[Page 3]
by Master’s & Warne.

In this letter Yonge answers questions about the “foundation” of her novel The Heir of Redclyffe and the origin of a print in the book. The letter is part of an album of letters collected by John Rooker, possibly the vicar of Coldharbour, Surrey.

A third undated letter is written to Miss Fitzgerald, probably Mabel Purefoy Fitzgerald, from Elderfield. Yonge lived at Elderfield from 1862 until her death in 1897.

Letters from C. M. Yonge to [Mabel Purefoy] Fitzgerald. 28 March [ny]. Page 1.

Letters from C. M. Yonge to [Mabel Purefoy] Fitzgerald. 28 March [ny]. Pages 2 and 3.


My dear Miss Fitzgerald

I know of plenty of dialogues for boys, but those for girls are more uncommon. –
One that would do with a little adapting is the story of the geese that ate the brandy cherries, seemed to die, were plucked
[Page 2]
and came to life again
It is in the G F S book Stories for Our Girls but is told in narrative and would require arranging
Miss Marshead is coming to spend the day with me tomorrow and if she knows of anything better, I will write –
We had some [wax] [works] last
[Page 3]
night, which did famously with a clever exhibition.

In this letter Yonge suggests some “dialogues for girls” and mentions a wax works exhibition that they had attended.

The Armstrong Browning Library  has an 1857 copy of Yonge’s The Heir of Redclyffe with this inscription: “Mary Fitzgerald on her 16th birthday / from her Mother/ 17 July 1859 / London,” possibly in the hand of Elizabeth Purefoy Fitzgerald.

The book also contains a latter inscription: “Never to be/lent or taken/M.P.FG.”

It is very likely that the inscription above belongs to Mabel Purefoy Fitzgerald.

These letters pose a number of questions: Who was the recipient of the second letter? Does this information about The Heir of Redclyffe offer any new perspectives? Why was Albert Durer’s print chosen? What is the date of the third letter? Is the recipient of the third letter really Mabel Purefoy Fitzgerald? What is the story of the geese that ate the brandied cherries? Who is Miss Marshead? What became of the “dialogues for girls”? What was the wax works exhibition? Is “Mary Fitzgerald” in the inscription Mabel’s sister? If so, was she born on January 17, 1843, and is the inscription in her mother’s hand or her grandmother’s hand?

They Asked For A Paper–Irish Poets at the ABL

Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,”  highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

March 15-17, 2017, Baylor will be hosting the 23rd Annual Beall Poetry Festival, featuring Catriona O’Reilly, Margaret Mills Harper, Adrian Rice, Micheal O’Siadhail, and a poetry panel, moderated by Chloe Honum. The festival this year has a decidedly Irish tenor, featuring three Irish poets and an American Yeats scholar, who teaches at the University of Limerick, as the festival’s guests. The festival will also end on St. Patrick’s Day.

However, visits by poets to the Baylor campus were not exclusive to the twenty-first century. Dr. A. J. Armstrong, head of the English Department at Baylor for 40 years, from 1912-1952, made a conscious effort to invite famous literary men and women to speak at Baylor, including many poets, such as Robert Frost, Vachel Lindsay, Amy Lowell, Carl Sandburg, and William Butler Yeats.

The Beall Poetry Festival has invited Irish poets in the past, most notably Seamus Heaney, who spoke here in 2013, shortly before his death. Dr. Armstrong, early in the twentieth century also invited Irish poets to speak at Baylor University.

Padraic Colum

Padraic Colum (1881-1972), Irish poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, playwright, children’s author and collector of folklore, was one of the leading figures of the Irish Literary Revival. He visited Baylor University on January 23, 1929, giving a lecture on the musical, oral quality of poetry and leaving a manuscript copy of lines from his poem, “An Old Woman of the Roads.”

Padraic Colum. Lines from “An Old Woman of the Roads.” Autograph manuscript signed.

Och! but I’m weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there’s never a house nor bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!

 

Lennox Robinson

Esmé Stuart Lennox Robinson (1886-1958), an Irish dramatist, poet and theatre producer and director who was involved with the Abbey Theatre, visited Baylor February 11, 1932. The Abbey Irish Players performed at Baylor on February 20, 1932. These telegrams from the Robinsons’s agent accept the engagement and inform of their arrival:

Telegram from M. C. Turner to Dr. A. J. Armstrong, accepting an invitation to speak at Baylor University.

Telegram from M. C. Turner to Dr. A. J. Armstrong, informing him of the Robinsons’s arrival the following day via the Texas Special train.

 

George William Russell (AE)

George William Russell (AE) (1867-1935), an Irish writer, editor, critic, poet, artistic painter and Irish nationalist, spoke at Baylor on December 11, 1930. A manuscript copy of his poem, “Outcast,” is now in the collection at the Armstrong Browning Library.

George William Russell. “Outcast.” Autograph manuscript signed.

Sometimes when alone
at the dark close of day
Men meet an outlawed majesty
and hurry away.

They come to the lighted house,
They talk to their dear,
They crucify the mystery
with words of good cheer

When love and life are over
And light at an end
on the outcast majesty
They lean as a friend.

 

William Butler Yeats, holding a volume of William Blake’s Poetical Sketches. Yeats edited an edition of Blake’s collected works in 1893.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), one of the greatest poets in the twentieth century, was the first Irishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923.

Yeats lectured and read his poetry at Baylor on April 16, 1920. The Lariat, Baylor’s student newspaper, reports that he recounted several literary men who had influenced his life, remarking that “A number of those friends were slaves to intoxicants and their best poems … were written while they were somewhat in the state of sadness or dissipation. Yeats stated that he did not believe men had to lead a dissipated life to be great, but that it had somewhat of an influence over him.”

Letter from George Yeats to Mrs. A. J. Armstrong, 21 April 1920.

This is a transcription of a letter from George Yeats, William Butler Yeats’s wife, to Mrs. A. J. Armstrong. In the letter  George Yeats describes how much she and Willy enjoyed their visit to Baylor. The letter was probably transcribed by Lois Smith Douglas in preparation for her biography of Dr. A. J. Armstrong, Through Heaven’s Back Door. The whereabouts of the original letter is unknown.

The Armstrong Browning Library also has letters, archives, manuscripts, and books from many Irish poets from the nineteenth century, including George Darley, Aubrey de Vere, William Allingham, Lady Jane Wilde, Katharine Tynan, Richard D’Alton Williams, and Lizzie Mary Little.