Reflections from a Visiting Scholar

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

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

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

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

“A Woman’s Question”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A Fairy Palace”

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

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

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

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

“Prima Donna”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Introduction”

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

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

“Song of the Seaweed”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moral

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

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

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

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

 

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Armstrong’s Stars: Marian Anderson

Friday’s Lariat announced the expectation of a performance on Monday by Marian Anderson, Baylor Lariat, March 24, 1939.

Friday’s Lariat announced the expectation of a performance on Monday by Marian Anderson, Baylor Lariat, March 24, 1939.

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 Amanda Mylin, graduate assistant, The Texas Collection.

When renowned African-American singer Marian Anderson was not permitted to sing in the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall in Washington, D. C., in March 1939, the nation reacted (in large part) with astonishment. Anderson is quoted in an article published in the Baylor Lariat saying, “It shocks me beyond words that after having appeared in the capitols of most of the countries of the world, I am not wanted in the capitol of my own country” (“D.A.R. and Americanism,” 2).

Eleanor Roosevelt’s response was the most notable: the First Lady protested the move by resigning from the DAR, and encouraging a concert at an even more prominent venue. Anderson performed a free open-air concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, encouraged and arranged by the First Lady, Anderson’s manager, Walter White of the NAACP, and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes.

In the midst of this drama, Anderson came to Baylor. Two weeks before her famed Easter concert, Anderson performed at Baylor University’s Waco Hall at the behest of Dr. A. J. Armstrong and Sigma Tau Delta. She was the first African-American soloist to grace the Hall. Her March 27 performance included an array of spirituals and compositions by Handel, Schubert, and Carissimi. The Baylor Lariat for March 3 stated that Sigma Tau Delta had taken the “liberal side of the week’s race question” by selecting Marian Anderson to perform (“Negro Singer Will Follow First Lady,” 4). The same article also noted that Mrs. Roosevelt would speak in Waco Hall on March 13, two weeks before the concert. A nationwide commotion had found its way to Baylor’s campus in a small capacity.

Anderson’s performance was well-received by the Waco audience even though it was primarily formed of a distinct “cross-section of the community’s white citizenship.” The Waco News-Tribune for the next day stated that this turn-out “was pretty much proof that the DAR of Washington, D. C., acted in silly fashion to say the least” (“Marian Anderson is Well Received by Waco Audience”). Furthermore, this article mentioned that Anderson’s well-attended performance was an instance of a slow but steady “solution of a leading American problem.”

“‘Procrastination is the thief of time’–and good seats!” Tickets sold quickly for Anderson’s upcoming performance, according to this ad in tThe Waco News-Tribune, February 26, 1939. Newspapers.com.

“‘Procrastination is the thief of time’–and good seats!” Tickets sold quickly for Anderson’s upcoming performance, according to this ad in The Waco News-Tribune, February 26, 1939. Newspapers.com.

Interestingly enough, even Waco Hall remained segregated for Anderson’s concert, with a special portion of the balcony reserved for African-Americans. Eventually, Anderson would insist upon what she called “vertical” seating for her concerts, with available seats throughout the auditorium reserved for African-Americans, and by 1950, she refused to sing for segregated audiences. Yet in the wake of the Constitution Hall incident, Anderson was pleased to perform at Baylor by invitation of Dr. Armstrong.

Dr. Armstrong attempted to bring Anderson back to Waco again in the 1940s, but her schedule was full. Her booking agency offered instead the Don Cossack Chorus, which did come to Waco that February. Anderson, Marian, Records of Visiting Celebrities, Armstrong Browning Library.

Dr. Armstrong attempted to bring Anderson back to Waco again in the 1940s, but her schedule was full. Her booking agency offered instead the Don Cossack Chorus, which did come to Waco that February. Anderson, Marian, Records of Visiting Celebrities, Armstrong Browning Library.

Although Anderson was in a hurry and allegedly declined to discuss her recent deterrence by the DAR and the First Lady’s defense of her attempt to perform, she did offer a small informal interview to the Baylor Lariat. She had never been to Waco and commented on the beauty of driving through the Texas countryside from San Antonio. Her enthusiasm and unstoppable energy seemed to bubble over as she explained, “I think America offers vast unlimited opportunities for youthful singers who have the seriousness and determination to become great artists no matter what their race of color” (“Eleanor Roosevelt Versus D.A.R. Feud is Closed; Field Unlimited, Says Anderson,” 1).

Sources:

Negro Singer Will Follow First Lady,” Baylor Lariat, March 3, 1939.

D.A.R. and Americanism,” Baylor Lariat, March 23, 1939.

Eleanor Roosevelt Versus D.A.R. Feud is Closed; Field Unlimited, Says Anderson,” Baylor Lariat, March 28, 1939.

Marian Anderson to Sing in Waco Hall: Famous Conductor Says Negro Artist is Best Living in This Day,” Baylor Lariat, March 22, 1939.

http://marian-anderson.com

“Marian Anderson is Well Received by Waco Audience,” The Waco News-Tribune, March 28, 1939, Newspapers.com (accessed April 9, 2015).

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Imagining Charity for All: Anti-Slavery Writings at the Armstrong Browning Library

Imagining Charity for All posterWhen Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, visited the White House in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln purportedly welcomed her by saying, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War!” But Stowe was not alone. As the Baylor University Libraries observe the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War by mounting exhibits under the overarching theme “with charity for all,” taken from President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, the Armstrong Browning Library’s exhibit Imagining Charity for All highlights works by some of the men and women who, like Stowe, used their literary talent to promote freedom and equality. The items on display from the collection of the Armstrong Browning Library represent a small, but powerful, portion of the large body of anti-slavery writings produced prior to and during the Civil War that furthered the cause of ending slavery.

Imagining Charity for All is on display in the Hankamer Treasure Room of the Armstrong Browning Library through June 1, 2015. Items on display can also be viewed below.

***

Harriet Beecher Stowe

harriet-beecher-stoweHarriet Beecher Stowe. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. London: J. Cassell, 1852.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s best-known work Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which originally appeared in serial format in the weekly newspaper The National Era from 5 June 1851 to 1 April 1852, became an immediate bestseller when it was published in Boston as a book in two volumes in 1852. The anti-slavery novel sold 300,000 copies in the United States and 1.5 million copies in Great Britain in its first year of publication and was translated into over 60 languages. This London edition was published the same year in one volume, with illustrations by George Cruikshank. [ABLibrary 19thCent PS2954 .U5 1852]

Stowe UTC***

Harriet Beecher Stowe. The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Presenting the Original Facts and Documents Upon Which the Story Is Founded. Together with Corroborative Statements Verifying the Truth of the Work. London: Clarke, Beeton, and Co., 148 Fleet Street; and Thomas Bosworth, Regent Street, [1853].

Responding to critics who challenged her depiction of slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe published The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1853, which contained documentary evidence in the form of newspaper accounts and legal proceedings to support the claims she made in her novel. [ABLibrary 19thCent E449 .S896 1850z]

Stowe Key t.p. finalStowe Key 1 Final***

Little Eva; Uncle Tom’s Guardian Angel. Composed and Most Respectfully Dedicated to Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Poetry by John G. Whittier. Music by Manual Emilio. Boston: Published by John P. Jewett & Company; Cleveland, Ohio: Jewett, Proctor & Worthington, 1852.

As part of his efforts to increase the circulation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe’s American publisher John P. Jewett commissioned John Greenleaf Whittier to write a poem about the novel’s young abolitionist character Little Eva. The poem, which first appeared in the anti-slavery newspaper The Independent, was set to music by Manuel Emilio. [ABLibrary 19thCent Jumbo M1619.5.E45x L5 1852]

Little Eva Song Final***

[Harriet Beecher Stowe]. Pictures and Stories from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Boston: Published by John P. Jewett & Co., [1853].

This version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published by John P. Jewett as part of his Juvenile Anti-Slavery Toy Books series, was “designed to adapt Mrs. Stowe’s touching narrative to the understandings of the youngest readers and to foster in their hearts a generous sympathy for the wronged negro race of America.” [ABLibrary 19thCent OVZ PS2854 .U5 1853c]

Stowe UTC for children finalThe last page of Picture and Stories from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which includes John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “Little Eva Song. Uncle Tom’s Guardian Angel,” printed with music.

Little Eva Song***

Crowe UTC cover finalCatherine Crowe. Uncle Tom’s Cabin for Children. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1867.

This version of Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was adapted for children by Catherine Crowe (1790–1872), an English writer best known for her novels, including The Adventures of Susan Hopley, or, Circumstantial Evidence (1841), The Story of Lilly Dawson (1847), and The Night Side of Nature, or, Ghosts and Ghost Seers (1848). [ABLibrary Offices]

Crowe UTC Final***

Stowe Dred cover finalHarriet Beecher Stowe. Dred; A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp [2 vols.]. Boston: Phillips, Sampson and Company, 1856.

Stowe wrote her second anti-slavery novel Dred in response to the violence that broke out between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in Kansas following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed white male settlers in those territories to determine through popular sovereignty whether they would allow slavery within each territory. The novel was popular, selling over 100,000 copies in its first month of publication. [ABLibrary 19thCent PS2954 .D7 1856 v.1-2]

Stowe Dred Final

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John Greenleaf Whittier

John_Greenleaf_Whittier_webJohn Greenleaf Whittier. Anti-Slavery Reporter. A Periodical, Containing Justice and Expediency; or, Slavery Considered with a View to Its Rightful and Effectual Remedy, Abolition. Vol. 1, No. 4. New York: Issued monthly, and for sale at the book stores, September, 1833.

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) was a Quaker, a popular American poet, and a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society. In this pamphlet published in 1833, he called for the immediate and unconditional emancipation of slaves. With 5,000 copies printed and distributed for free by abolitionist Arthur Tappan, this appeal publicly aligned Whittier with the anti-slavery cause and made him a leading figure of the abolitionist movement. [ABLibrary 19thCent OVZ HT1031 .W54x 1833]

Whittier Justice Final 2***

Whittier Constitution FinalThe Constitution of the American Anti-Slavery Society: with the Declaration of the National Anti-Slavery Convention at Philadelphia, December 1833, and the Address to the Public, Issued by the Executive Committee of the Society, in September 1835. New York: Published by the American Anti-Slavery Society, 1838.

Whittier signed the Declaration of the National Anti-Slavery Convention in 1833, an action he considered more important than any of his literary achievements. The Anti-Slavery Declaration is reprinted in this pamphlet along with the Constitution of the American Anti-Slavery Society. [ABLibrary 19thCent OVZ HT853 .A53x 1838]

Whittier Declaration 1 FinalWhittier Declaration 2 Final***

John Greenleaf Whittier. Poems Written During the Progress of the Abolition Question in the United States, Between the Years 1830 and 1838. Boston: Published by Isaac Knapp, 1837.

Whittier’s anti-slavery poems, which appeared in various periodicals during the 1830s, were published collectively in this volume in 1837 by Isaac Knapp, publisher of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator. The volume begins with a tribute to William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), a prominent abolitionist, editor of The Liberator, and a founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society. [ABLibrary 19thCent PS3250 .E37a]

Whittier Abolition Question t.p. FinalWhittier Abolition Question poem FinalThe conclusion of Whittier’s poem “To William Lloyd Garrison.”

Whittier To William Lloyd Garrison Conclusion***

Narrative of James Williams, an American Slave, Who was for Several Years a Driver on a Cotton Plantation in Alabama. New York: Published by the American Anti-Slavery Society; Boston: Isaac Knapp, 1838.

Despite widespread attacks on escaped slave James Williams’s credibility, the American Anti-Slavery Society published this account of Williams’s life as an enslaved man in Virginia and Alabama. John Greenleaf Whittier, who was working as the secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society at the time, met Williams, heard his story firsthand, and produced the text for this narrative, which he stated in the preface to the published work “presents an unexaggerated picture of slavery as it exists on the cotton plantations of the South and West.” [ABLibrary 19thCent E444 .W743 1838]

James Williams***

John Greenleaf Whittier. Poems. Philadelphia: Published by Joseph Healy; Boston: Weeks, Jordan & Co.; New York: John S. Taylor, 1838.

This collection of Whittier’s poems was edited by Whittier and published by Joseph Healy, financial agent of the Anti-Slavery Society of Pennsylvania. The volume contains 24 anti-slavery poems and 26 poems on miscellaneous subjects. Whittier placed the following quotation from Samuel Taylor Coleridge on the book’s title page:

“There is a time to keep silence,” saith Solomon; but when I proceeded to the first verse of the fourth chapter of the Ecclesiastes, “and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun, and beheld the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of the oppressors there was power;” I concluded this was not the time to keep silence; for Truth should be spoken at all times, but more especially at those times when to speak Truth is dangerous. [ABLibrary 19thCent PS3250 .E38 c.2]

Whittier Poems 1838 FinalWhittier’s poem “The Moral Warfare” in Poems (1838).

Whittier The Moral Warfare ***

John Greenleaf Whittier. The Branded Hand. [Salem, Ohio: The Anti-Slavery Bugle, 1845].

Whittier wrote The Branded Hand in response to an event in 1844 in which a tradesman named Jonathan Walker tried to help seven slaves escape by boat from Florida. Walker was caught, tried, convicted in a federal territorial court, and branded with the initials “S.S.” for “slave stealer,” which is depicted on the first page of this tract. Walker was considered a hero by abolitionists and images of his branded hand and literary praises like Whittier’s were widespread. [ABLibrary 19thCent OVZ E450 .W17]

Whittier Branded Hand p.1 final***

John Greenleaf Whittier. Voices of Freedom. Sixth and Complete Edition. Philadelphia: Published by Thomas S. Cavender; Boston: Waite, Pierce and Co.; New York: William Harned, 1846.

The introductory note to this collection of anti-slavery poems states:

Since the last edition was issued, several years have passed, and a new and vigorous host has entered the service of Freedom. With all classes, Whittier has been a favorite Poet; and the publication of his writings, especially those devoted to that cause, seems to be generally desired. These are all included, it is believed, in the present collection.
[ABLibrary 19thCent PS3269 .V6 1846]

Whittier Voices Final***

Whittier Sabbath cover finalJohn Greenleaf Whittier. A Sabbath Scene. Boston: John P. Jewett and Company; Cleveland, Ohio: Jewett, Proctor, and Worthington; London: Sampson, Low, Son and Company, 1854.

The headnote to Whittier’s poem “A Sabbath Scene,” appearing in the Riverside Edition of The Writings of John Greenleaf Whittier (1888) reads:

This poem finds its justification in the readiness with which, even in the North, clergymen urged the prompt execution of the Fugitive Slave Law as a Christian duty, and defended the system of slavery as a Bible institution.

Passed by the United States Congress on 18 September 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law required that all escaped slaves be returned to their masters upon capture. Law enforcement officers and citizens in the free states were expected to comply with this law. [ABLibrary 19thCent OVZ PS3265 .S2 1854]

The first page of Whittier’s poem “A Sabbath Scene.”

A Sabbath Scene p.1***

Letter from John Greenleaf Whittier to Lucy Larcom. 10 January 1863.

In this letter to poet Lucy Larcom (1824-1893), Whittier mentions the work of Charlotte Forten (later Grimké, 1837-1914), an African-American anti-slavery activist, poet, and educator, who taught freedmen in the South Carolina Sea Islands in a program known as the Port Royal Experiment. He also reflects on the outcome of the Second Battle of Murfreesboro, which had been fought from 31 December 1862 to 2 January 1863, resulting in Confederate withdrawal from Middle Tennessee.

Whittier writes:

Thee remember our young colored friend Charlotte Forten. She is now teaching at Port Royal, & we have been favored with her journal for the last two weeks. It is lively & picturesque. How well, on the whole, the poor contrabands behave!

The gloom of the war is broken by the lurid light of the Murfeesboro battle. One cannot help admiring the daring of Rosecrans—snatching by his own personal prowess victory from the very jaws of defeat. I shudder to think of the lives that must be sacrificed to open the Mississippi at Vicksburg. Ah me! It is hard to be a Quaker at these times! Yet never was I more convinced of the truth of our principles, than now.

Whittier letter with quote final***

John Greenleaf Whittier. In War Time and Other Poems. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1864.

Whittier’s poem “At Port Royal,” first published in the Atlantic in 1862 and reprinted in this collection of poems, contains the “Song of the Negro Boatmen,” in which Whittier imagines the singing of the slaves who were freed in the South Carolina Sea Islands after Union forces captured Port Royal, South Carolina, in November 1861. Written in dialect, the poem became a popular song during the Civil War. [ABLibrary 19thCent PS3259 .I5 1864]

The “Song of the Negro Boatmen” begins:

Oh, praise an’ tanks! De Lord he come
Whittier In War Time FinalTo set de people free;
An’ massa tink it day ob doom,
An’ we ob jubilee.
De Lord dat heap de Red Sea waves
He jus’ as ‘trong as den;
 
He say de word: we las’ night slaves;
To-day, de Lord’s freemen.
De yam will grow, de cotton blow,
We’ll hab de rice an’ corn:
Oh, nebber you fear, if nebber you hear
De driver blow his horn!

***

Lydia Huntley Sigourney

Lydia Huntley Sigourney. Poems by Mrs. L.H. Sigourney. Philadelphia: Key & Biddle, 1834.

Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791-1865) was a popular American poet in the early and mid-nineteenth century, who supported rights for women and the abolition of slavery, among many other reform causes. Her poem “Slavery: Written for the Celebration of the Fourth of July,” first published in this collected edition of Poems, was set to music in 1844 by lyricist and composer George W. Clark in his anti-slavery songbook The Liberty Minstrel. [ABLibrary 19thCent PS2830 .A2 1834]

Sigourney t.p. finalSigourney slavery poem finalThe poem concludes on page 66:

What hand with shameful stain
Hath marred its heavenly blue?
The yoke, the fasces, and the chain,
Say, are these emblems true?
 
This day doth music rare
Swell through our nation’s bound,
But Afric’s wailing mingles there,
And Heaven doth hear the sound:
O God of power!—we turn
In penitence to thee,
Bid our loved land the lesson learn—
To bid the slave be free.

***

Eliza Lee Cabot Follen

Eliza Lee Cabot Follen. Poems by Mrs. Follen. Boston: William Crosby & Company, 1839.

Eliza Lee Cabot Follen (1787-1860) was an editor, biographer, novelist, poet, playwright, children’s author, and lifelong abolitionist. Her Poems, published in 1839, includes political and religious verse, translations from German, and poems about slavery, including “Children in Slavery” shown here. [ABLibrary 19thCent PS1683 .F4]

Follen t.p. FinalFollen Poems Final***

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Longfellow image FinalHenry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poems on Slavery. Cambridge: Published by John Owen, 1842.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), author of “Paul Revere’s Ride,” The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline, was one of the most popular American poets of the nineteenth century. He expressed his public support of abolitionism in this volume of poems, published in 1842. Considered the most overtly political of his writings, Longfellow composed seven of the eight poems in this small volume on his return voyage to the United States after visiting with and being inspired by radical poet Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810-1876) in Germany and Charles Dickens (1812-1870) in England. [ABLibrary 19thCent PS2265 .A1 1842]

Longfellow Poems FinalLongfellow’s “The Warning” from Poems on Slavery (1842).

Beware! The Israelite of old, who tore
The lion in his path,–when, poor and blind,
He saw the blessed light of heaven no more,
Shorn of his noble strength and forced to grind
In prison, and at last led forth to be
A pander to Philistine revelry,–
 
Upon the pillars of the temple laid
His desperate hands, and in its overthrow
Destroyed himself, and with him those who made
A cruel mockery of his sightless woe;
The poor, blind Slave, the scoff and jest of all,
Expired, and thousands perished in the fall!
 
There is a poor, blind Samson in this land,
Shorn of his strength and bound in bonds of steel,
Who may, in some grim revel, raise his hand,
And shake the pillars of this Commonweal,
Till the vast Temple of our liberties
A shapeless mass of wreck and rubbish lies.

***

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poems on Slavery. [Boston]: Published by the New England Anti-Slavery Tract Association, J.W. Alden, Publishing Agent, Boston, [1843].

Seven of Longfellow’s anti-slavery poems from his volume Poems on Slavery (1842) were reprinted by the New England Anti-Slavery Tract Society and distributed for free. [ABLibrary 19thCent OVZ PS2265 .A1 1843]

Longfellow Poems Tract Final***

Longfellow Cover FinalHenry Wadsworth Longfellow. Flower-de-Luce. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

Although he did not return to the theme of slavery in his poetry after 1842, Longfellow did express hope for a reconciliation between the northern and southern states in the poem “Christmas Bells,” which he wrote on Christmas day in 1863 after his son Charles Appleton Longfellow, a soldier in the Union army, was severely injured in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia. The poem later served as the basis for the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” [ABLibrary 19thCent PS2271 .F5 1867 c.2]

Longfellow Christmas Day FinalThe conclusion of Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells” from Flower-de-Luce (1867).

Longfellow Christmas Bells Conclusion***

Charles Dickens

Dickens ABLCharles Dickens. American Notes for General Circulation [2 vols.]. London: Chapman and Hall, 1842.

While visiting Charles Dickens in England in 1842, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow read Dickens’s recently-published American Notes for General Circulation, a travel book recounting Dickens’s visit to the United States earlier that year. Dickens offered a scathing critique of the institution of slavery in the penultimate chapter of this book, which English critic John Forster described as “one of the most powerful, effective antislavery tracts yet issued from the press.” [ABLibrary 19thCent E165 .D53 v.1-2]

Dickens American Notes***

Harriet Martineau

Harriet Martineau finalHarriet Martineau. Retrospect of Western Travel [2 vols.]. London: Published by Saunders and Otley; New York: Sold by Harper & Brothers, 1838.

English writer and journalist Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) traveled extensively throughout the United States from 1834 to 1836 and recorded her observations in two books, Society in America (1837) and Retrospect of Western Travel (1838). In both books, Martineau expressed her opposition to slavery which she witnessed firsthand during her travels, finding the practice inconsistent with the idea of American democracy. [ABLibrary 19thCent E165 .M38 v.1-2]

Martineau Retrospect of Western Travel***

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

EBB Image Liberty Bell cover finalThe Liberty Bell by Friends of Freedom. Boston: National Anti-Slavery Bazaar, 1848.

English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) wrote “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point” for the Boston anti-slavery annual The Liberty Bell, published from 1839 to 1858. Barrett Browning was invited to contribute the poem for publication by Maria Weston Chapman (1806-1885), longtime editor of the annual, and poet James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), a correspondent of Barrett Browning’s since 1842. [ABLibrary Rare X 326 C466l 1848]

In a letter written to her American friend Cornelius Mathews in early 1847, Barrett Browning makes these comments about sending the manuscript of the poem to America:

My conscience has been restless about it ever since, (whenever I thought that way,) but neither head nor heart were at liberty sufficiently to do anything. What I have sent at last, my belief is, will never be printed in America, or will, if it should be, bring the writer into a scrape of disfavor. But I did only write conscientiously, you know, in writing at all; and my “Cry of the Children,” was not less written against my own country.

 ***

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point.” Autograph Manuscript. Undated.

This is the first part of a draft of “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point,” which includes stanzas 1-13, without stanza 7. In this draft, the poem is titled “Black and Mad at Pilgrim’s Point.” Robert Browning has annotated the draft in pencil.

Runaway Slave 1 finalRunaway Slave 2 final***

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point.” Autograph Manuscript. Signed “EBB.” Undated.

This final part of the above draft includes stanzas 27-36. On the final page of the manuscript, Robert Browning has enclosed Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s initials and his written word “my” in strong brackets. The middle part of the draft, including stanzas 14-26, is at the British Library. All three parts are annotated by Robert Browning.

Runaway Slave 3 finalRunaway Slave 4 final***

Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to James Russell Lowell. 17 December 1846.

Enclosed with this letter to James Russell Lowell was Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s manuscript of the “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point.”

In the letter, she refers to her recent marriage and to her concern regarding the reception of the poem:

And now for this Slave-poem, which at the eleventh hour, I enclose to you. I ought to have at once answered your request last year, & should have done so but was driven by a great wind of vexatious circumstances, altogether from my purpose. Driven up & down, distracted from writing & reading I have been since, too, .. & you will make allowances for me in remembering that I am only three month’s married, & in the sudden glare of light & happiness, here in Italy, after my long years of imprisonment in sickness & depression, without so much as the hope of this liberty. Ill or well, sad or joyful, however, the great antislavery cause must always be dear to me,—and for the sake, I will say, as much of American honour as of general mercy & right– In the poem I enclose to you I have taken up this double feeling, (with an application of the case to women especially) perhaps you will think too bitterly & passionately for publication in your country. I do not presume to decide—I leave it entirely, of course, to your judgement– I will only say, for my own part, that in writing this poem, I have not forgotten, as an Englishwoman, that we have scarcely done washing our national garments clear of the dust of the very same reproach. Neither would I have it forgotten by any of you, that I have written this poem precisely because, as an Englishwoman ought, I love & honour the American people.

EBB to Lowell p.1EBB to Lowell p.2EBB to Lowell p.3EBB to Lowell p.4***

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. “An Ode to America.” Manuscript Draft. [1846].

This draft, contained in a notebook belonging to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and acquired by the Armstrong Browning Library in 2008, was likely written by the poet around the time she was writing “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point.” The poem was not published during Barrett Browning’s lifetime, but a transcription of this draft was included in The Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, edited by Sandra Donaldson, in 2010.

EBB Ode to America 1EBB Ode to America 2Transcription of the manuscript draft of “An Ode to America” in The Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning [5 vols.] (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2010). [ABLibrary Non-Rare 821.82J D676w 2010 v.5]

Works of EBB final ***

The Liberty Bell by Friends of Freedom. Boston: National Anti-Slavery Bazaar, 1856.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “A Curse for a Nation,” denouncing slavery in America, first appeared as the opening poem in the 1856 issue of the Boston anti-slavery annual The Liberty Bell. Barrett Browning wrote the poem in response to a request from her Boston anti-slavery contacts just as she had responded some years earlier with “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point.” [ABLibrary Rare X326 C466l 1856]

curse 2 final***

Printer’s copy of “A Curse for a Nation.” [1856].

This printer’s copy of “A Curse for a Nation” shows Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s corrections and additions for publication in The Liberty Bell of 1856.

curse copy 2 final***

Napolean III finalElizabeth Barrett Browning. Napoleon III in Italy and Other Poems. New York: C. S. Francis & Co., 1860.

“A Curse for a Nation” proved to be one of Barrett Browning’s most controversial works when it was reprinted as the last poem in her Poems Before Congress (1860). The majority of the poems in this volume criticized England for its nonintervention in Italy’s struggle for liberation, leading English reviewers to believe that the curse was directed at England not America. Barrett Browning maintained that the poem was about America, but wrote to a friend:

In fact, I cursed neither England nor America … the poem only pointed out how the curse was involved in the action of slave-holding.

This copy of the first American edition of Poems Before Congress, published under the title Napoleon III in Italy and Other Poems, bears an inscription by J.S. Guitean, dated 3 July 1860, to E.N. Biddle, a Union general in the American Civil War. [ABLibrary Rare X 821.82 L F818n c.4]

***

Frances Anne Kemble

Fanny Kemble Image Frances Anne Kemble. Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1863.

Frances “Fanny” Anne Kemble (1809-1893) was a famous British actress and writer. In 1834, she married Pierce Butler, an American who, two years later, inherited his grandfather’s cotton and rice plantations on the Sea Islands of Georgia. In an effort to convince Fanny, an abolitionist, of the benefits of slavery, Butler took her to the plantations in the winter of 1838-1839. While there Fanny wrote letters to friends and kept a diary. These writings documented her observations of slavery and circulated, against her husband’s wishes, among New England abolitionists. Eventually published in 1863 during the Civil War as Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, the book was a best-seller. Fanny separated from her husband in 1845, and the marriage ended in divorce in 1849. [ABLibrary Rare X 975.803 K31j 1863]

Kemble t.p. Final

***

Bibliography:

Basker, James G., ed. American Antislavery Writings: Colonial Beginnings to Emancipation. New York: Library of America, c2012. Print.

Calhoun, Charles C. Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life. Boston: Beacon Press, c2004. Print.

Clinton, Catherine. Fanny Kemble’s Civil Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, c2000. Print.

Currier, Thomas Franklin. A Bibliography of John Greenleaf Whittier. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard UP, 1937. Print.

De Rosa, Deborah C. Into the Mouths of Babes: An Anthology of Children’s Abolitionist Literature. Westport, Connecticut; London: Praeger, 2005. Print.

Donaldson, Sandra, general ed. The Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 5 vols. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2010. Print.

Gerson, Noel B. Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Biography. New York: Praeger, 1976. Print.

Gray, Janet, ed. She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the 19th Century. London: J.M. Dent, 1997. Print.

Hansen, Andrew C. “Rhetorical Indiscretions: Charles Dickens as Abolitionist.” Western Journal of Communication 65.1 (2001): 26-44. Web. 11 March 2015

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, c2015. Web. 11 March 2015 <https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/>

Hedrick, Joan D. Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life. New York; Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994. Print.

Martineau, Harriet. Writings on Slavery and the American Civil War. Ed. Deborah Anna Logan. DeKalb: Northern Illinois UP, c2002. Print.

Stone, Marjorie, and Beverly Taylor, eds. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Selected Poems. Buffalo, New York: Broadview Editions, 2009. Print.

Trent, Hank, ed. Narrative of James Williams, an American Slave. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2013.

Woodwell, Roland H. John Greenleaf Whittier: A Biography. Haverhill, Massachusetts: Published under the auspices of The Trustees of the John Greenleaf Whittier Homestead, 1985. Print.

 

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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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