Rhyme and Reform Symposium

A group of children in dirty clothing, appearing to be from the 19th century

On October 4-5, 2018, the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University jointly hosted “Rhyme and Reform” with the University of Strathclyde and the University of Manchester. This symposium recognized the 175thanniversary of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “The Cry of the Children” through a series of events that fostered a critical dialogue between the poem and representations of labor by Victorian working-class authors.

A man gestures to a projector screen with two people on a video conference while an audience looks on.

Dr. Joshua King opens the “Orphans of earthly love” exhibit at the ABL. Connor Watkins and Sakina Haji, students who helped design the exhibit, join via video-conferencing.

The innovative symposium sought to bridge digital and physical spaces, with activities held at both the ABL and across the Atlantic at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. Dr. Joshua King (Assoc. Prof. of English and ABL scholar in residence) and ABL Director Jennifer Borderud were the lead organizers for the ABL site, and Prof. Kirstie Blair (U of Strathclyde) and Dr. Mike Sanders (U of Manchester) were the lead organizers for the Glasgow site.

Video-conferencing allowed the two sites to interact and share events, but the “Rhyme and Reform” website also hosted an online version of the physical exhibition at the ABL and allowed participants anywhere in the world to live stream the presentations. This exhibition remains available through the website, where it is now joined by recordings of events from both symposium sites.  This will allow scholars, teachers, and students to engage with “Rhyme and Reform” long after its official end.  One teacher has already written a blog about her class’s experience of “Rhyme and Reform.”

Jennifer Reid, singing

Jennifer Reid sings a nineteenth-century working-class ballad

One of the highlights of “Rhyme and Reform” was an arresting performance of narrative and balladry by Jennifer Reid and Dr. Mike Sanders depicting nineteenth-century working-class life in Manchester, England. You can hear a 15-minute excerpt of the performance here.

The symposium also included engaging and insightful talks by top scholars including Prof. Marjorie Stone (Dalhousie U) and Prof. Beverly Taylor (UNC), both leading experts on EBB, and Prof. Florence Boos (U of Iowa), an authority on Victorian working-class women poets. You can listen to their talks on the symposium website here. Be sure explore the “Sessions” tab on the website to find recordings of the other talks from both sides of the Atlantic.

A group of scholars sit together participating in a workshop

Prof. Marjorie Stone, Prof. Linda Hughes, Prof. Florence Boos (Front L-R), Dr. Melinda Creech, and Rachel Kilgore (Back L-R) participate in the ABL COVE workshop on EBB’s poem.

Both the University of Strathclyde and ABL sites participated in workshops on digital scholarship and teaching using COVE. They used the suite of the digital tools to collaboratively annotate EBB’s “The Cry of the Children,” with the intention of ultimately building an online scholarly edition of the poem.

EBB's poem "The Cry of the Children" annotated with different colored text boxes

The working annotations of EBB’s poem following the ABL’s and University of Stathclyde’s COVE workshops.

And finally, “Rhyme and Reform” also included a physical exhibit on “The Cry of the Children” at the ABL created by Dr. Joshua King’s spring 2018 Victorian Poetry senior seminar: “Orphans of earthly love: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Protest for Working Children.” The exhibition also appears online on the symposium website alongside an exhibition of working-class poetry from “Piston, Pen & Press,” an AHRC-funded project directed by Prof. Kirstie Blair and Dr. Mike Sanders on the literary cultures of industrial workers in the North of England and Scotland. Click here to visit the two online exhibitions and consider how their juxtaposition invites you to compare EBB’s “The Cry of the Children” with working-class verse.

Two juxtaposed photos of two boys working at looms in factories. One is from the present and one from the 19th century. Next to the photos is a QR code accompanied by the question "Can we hear The Cry of the Children in our world?

These two young boys working looms in factories—one in the nineteenth century and one in the present—appeared in the physical exhibit at the ABL. Viewers were encouraged to engage in the exhibit by scanning the QR code to “hear” echoes of “The Cry of the Children” in the present day.

The dual-site, digitally connected nature of this symposium allowed international collaboration and participation with limited travel and thus a reduced economic and environmental impact. Further, it opened access to the events across the world. You can see some of interactions among participants by viewing the hashtag #RhymeandReform on Twitter. Over just the two days, the symposium website received nearly 200 visitors from seven countries. Some of these included groups of faculty and students, such as the self-organized viewing by the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. Thus, we estimate “Rhyme and Reform” engaged around 260 participants, the audience size of an annual conference for a mid-sized scholarly association.

A man and woman view a museum exhibit

Visitors view rare materials from the ABL at the “Orphans of earthly love” exhibit.

We encourage you to visit the “Rhyme and Reform” website yourself to take part in the symposium. And if you’re in the Waco, TX area, be sure to visit the physical exhibition at the Armstrong Browning Library, which will be on display on the main floor through April 1, 2019.

Melvin Schuetz for the Moon

Melvin Schuetz with his House Resolution. Photo by Carl Flynn.

Melvin Schuetz with his House Resolution. Photo by Carl Flynn.

Melvin Schuetz, the Armstrong Browning Library’s assistant to the curators, is having an amazing year!

The documentary he co-produced on space artist Chesley Bonestell, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future, made its debut at the Newport Beach Film Festival in May and took home the Audience Award in the Art, Architecture, and Design category. The film then went on to win Best Documentary at the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival in San Diego, California, in July.  In October, Melvin received a resolution from the State of Texas congratulating him on the success of his documentary and commending him for his expertise and contributions to the film.

Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future will screen this Monday, October 29, at 7:00 pm at the Waco Hippodrome as part of Baylor Student Activities’ “Movie Mondays.” The screening is already SOLD OUT, but the trailer can be viewed below.

The Armstrong Browning Library is proud of Melvin for his hard work and success!

To learn more about Melvin, his interest in Bonestell and space, and his involvement with Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future, visit the following links:

Eric Ames. “Documentary Co-Producer Melvin Schuetz Talks Chesley Bonestell and ‘Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future.’” Promoting Discovery: Presenting Stories from the Baylor University Libraries. Updated May 31, 2018.

Carl Hoover. “Sci-fi documentary aided by Baylor assistant to curators gets Comic-Con screening.” Waco Tribune-Herald. July 19, 2018.

Carl Hoover. “Baylor library worker co-produces Comic-Con prize-winning documentary.” Waco Tribune-Herald. July 29, 2018.

Liesbeth Powers. “Bonestell Film Gains Momentum Throughout the Summer.” Baylor Media Communications. August 8, 2018.

Carl Hoover. “Space movies coming to Waco screens, plus ‘Neighbor,’ ‘RBG.’” Waco Tribune-Herald. August 22, 2108.

Waco Showing Scheduled for ABL Staff Member’s Award-Winning Documentary.” Baylor University Libraries. October 11, 2018.

Armstrong Browning Library Welcomes New Library Host

Kacie Collin, Library Host, Armstrong Browning Library

The Armstrong Browning Library is pleased to welcome Kacie Collin as a part-time library host. Kacie began working at the ABL in August. She works in the afternoons on the main floor of the library greeting visitors and providing tours. She also assists in the Gift Gallery and with special events. Kacie is new to Waco. She is originally from Washington State. She has a BA in History with minors in French and Biblical Studies from George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon.

Why were you interested in working as a Library Host at the ABL?

As someone who is fresh out of undergrad with a history degree, I was often met with the question “so what are you going to do with that?” That question often puzzled me, as it has always seemed clear that a well-rounded knowledge of history and the historical method is something that transcends the classroom. History itself encompasses all the disciplines and draws people in – creating links between the larger narrative of mankind and an individual’s experience. I cannot tell you how many tours I have given where people resonate personally with a piece of art, with a poem, or call to mind a memory from their childhood – all from listening to stories from the past. This link between history and individual, and my ability to help convey it, is what drew me to pursue the Library Host position at Armstrong Browning Library.

What has been your favorite part of the job so far?

As a self-proclaimed history nerd, let me be the first to say that nothing brings me more joy than giving tours and helping to draw the listener in to the story of Dr. Armstrong, Robert, and Elizabeth. I have taken pleasure in doing my own research to find out fun facts about Robert Browning that I convey during the tour to add a bit of humor to the experience. For example, in the Research Hall, there is a painting of Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of good health. It belonged to Robert and it hung in his home in Casa Guidi. I take it upon myself to mention that as a testament to his robust health, it was said that “Browning could eat a pint of mayonnaise with a spoon, like ice cream, and then go horseback riding.” That one always gets a good chuckle.

What are your career goals and how might this position help you achieve those goals?

In the future, I would like to be a university professor and teach theology and church history. In a position such as that, one must be able to synthesize research in order to make it accessible to those listening. That means knowing what information most pertains to one’s audience, and understanding the importance of voice control and projection. I cannot think of a better position than mine at ABL to help prepare me for such a career.

Rhyme and Reform Symposium: An Instructor’s Perspective

By Meagan Anthony, English Ph.D. Candidate, Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

On October 4th and 5th, the Armstrong Browning Library co-hosted our first hybrid symposium, Rhyme and Reform: Victorian Working-Class Poets and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “The Cry of the Children”, along with the University of Strathclyde and the University of Manchester. This multi-site, digitally-networked symposium about Victorian portrayals of industrial labor and verse coincided with the 175th anniversary of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “The Cry of the Children,” which protested the abuse of child workers in British mines and factories. Rhyme and Reform’s schedule of events included in-person and live-streamed presentations, on-site workshops featuring the digital editing tool COVE, and an exhibition. Below, Armstrong Browning Library’s Graduate Research Assistant, Meagan Anthony writes about her decision to bring her English course to the opening reception of Rhyme and Reform’s exhibit.

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As an instructor, I think linking classroom discussion with real world events is an important tool for students to transition classroom ideas into their everyday lives. This semester I am teaching the FAS (Freshman Academic Seminar) Protest Writing and Civil Disobedience.  We began looking at the protest writing of the American Independence Movement and will continue up to the #MeToo Movement and March for Our Lives.

Students from Meagan Anthony's English class interact with the Rhyme and Reform exhibit.

Students from Meagan Anthony’s English class interact with the Rhyme and Reform exhibit.

Coincidentally, the week Rhyme and Reform took place, my class was reading about the protest writing of the American tenement dwellers and factory workers. The symposium fit in with our discussion perfectly. Not only could the students see how other scholars presented work regarding protest literature, but they were able to see and experience that the issues with working and living conditions in 19th century America were not limited to America, or that century. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry also offered the students a new genre for discussion. Our active questions included: How does the genre of protest writing effect the message? What rhetorical techniques are unique to certain genres and which are shared by others? By what past text is this author influenced? How would readers have responded to this text at the time? How should we respond to it?

Meagan Anthony leads her class in a discussion of the Rhyme and Reform exhibit.

Meagan Anthony leads her class in a discussion of the Rhyme and Reform exhibit.

My class thoroughly enjoyed their experience at the ABL and noted that the few classmates who were unable to make class that day had truly missed out. Events like Rhyme and Reform help us to keep literature and historical writing relevant and living. Throughout the semester my class will engage with many instances of injustice and reform through historical texts and literature in order to come to the understanding that these issues are cyclical. We are not experiencing new forms of oppression or disenfranchisement; we are simply experiencing new waves of conflict. Looking back at former protest voices aids us by showing where we have come from and envisioning what our next steps should be.

Armstrong Browning Library Welcomes New Curator

Laura J. French, Associate Librarian and Curator, Armstrong Browning Library

We are pleased to welcome Laura J. French as associate librarian and curator of the Armstrong Browning Library. Laura joined the ABL in May, bringing with her significant experience in reference, instruction, and outreach. Before joining the ABL, she held positions as Special Collections and Digital Archives Librarian at California State University, Stanislaus; as Instruction and User Services Librarian, also at CSU, Stanislaus; and as Interim Librarian for Rare Books and Literary Manuscripts at the University of Maryland, College Park. Previously, Laura taught English and Social Sciences at the secondary level. Laura earned her BA in History with a minor in Literature from High Point University in North Carolina, and her MA in Medieval History from California State University, Sacramento. Laura completed all coursework toward an MA in Education with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction and earned her MLS from the University of Maryland, College Park.

How did you become interested in librarianship?

I became interested in librarianship because of challenges I faced as a high school social science and English language arts teacher. I would search the internet for digital versions of primary sources that I could use in my classes. While I found many interesting digital collections, the content rarely aligned to content standards. If I could find digitized primary sources aligned to content standards, frequently the images were file sizes too small to create reproducible facsimiles and many could not be downloaded at all. So it was dissatisfaction with the then current state of many digital collections and a desire to help teachers interested in teaching with primary sources which prompted my interest in librarianship.

Describe your role at the Armstrong Browning Library and what interests you most about the position?

Dr. Sebastian Langdell's English 2301 course visited the Armstrong Browning Library in September to explore 18th Century printings of Shakespeare's play "The Tempest."

Laura French introduces students in Dr. Sebastian Langdell’s English 2301 course to the ABL’s 18th-century printings of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”

As a curator at the Armstrong Browning Library I provide access to and promote the use of the library’s nineteenth-century research materials. I offer research support to individuals with questions about Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and their circle. The part of my responsibilities which I find most engaging is the collaborative work I do with Baylor faculty designing instruction sessions utilizing the ABL’s resources to enhance student learning experiences. Attempting to increase awareness on campus, in the local community, and within scholarly circles of the ABL’s resources is the most creatively challenging aspect of my work.

Describe a project on which you are currently working and a project you hope to begin the near future?

Currently, I am working on an exhibit manual. This will be a tool for ABL employees and interns to offer guidance for individuals putting together an exhibit for the first time and reminders for those putting up their fiftieth. It will have some resources to help individuals curating an exhibit at the ABL keep track of the parts of an exhibit, locate supplies, and identify employees in other departments who have key roles in exhibit curation at Baylor Libraries.

Next, I will work on documentation for the ABL’s instruction program. I would like to be able to provide faculty with a description of the types of instruction that the ABL offers and ensure that all faculty are aware of their options when in comes to requesting instruction sessions utilizing the ABL’s research collections.

The Brownings’ Literary Network: Curator Interview

The Armstrong Browning Library & Museum’s current exhibit, “The Literary Network of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning” will be coming down on Friday, September 28th. But before it does, we asked Dr. Kristen Pond a few questions about her course on literary networks. We hope you enjoy reading Dr. Pond’s responses and take this final opportunity to drop by and see her students’ hard work while it is still on display.

Students set up artifacts for English 3351 exhibit project.

Students set up artifacts for English 3351 exhibit project.

Where did your interest in literary networks begin and how has it grown or changed?

While periodization is always something that we debate as literary students and scholars, it still organizes the way we teach our classes and the way we divide up the work of research and teaching in each period. I did not really question the notion of periods and all of those survey courses marching linearly through time that I took as an undergraduate. Until, that is, I was taking a Nineteenth Century British Literature survey course and we were looking at William Wordsworth that day. I had just been working on a project for another class on the Victorian period and what was happening in the year 1850. In the class on William Wordsworth the professor hit the highlights of his life and then mentioned he died in 1850. I remember thinking – wait, what?! He is a Romantic poet but he was alive at the height of the Victorian period. Then I looked at the publication dates of his work and noticed how many of them were in the Victorian, not the Romantic, period. This was the beginning of the tension I feel in cordoning off time periods and putting writers in boxes accordingly.

This interest has changed in focus slightly from the issue of dating to the issue of networks itself. These authors did not write alone or in isolation, but they had important networks of friends, family, and peers that had a vital influence on the kind of works they produced. I discovered most of these networks through my interest in minor writers, usually female, that get left out of the canon. Once you start exploring these women you begin to realize just how connected they are to the “major” male writers that tend to make it on course syllabi. Dorothy Wordsworth is perhaps the most famous example, and she is in fact often included in anthologies now (though clearly as the minor counterpart to her brother William). Thinking about the Brownings or the Shelleys as couples who formed literary networks is fun, and of course there are lots of groups who were well known enough to have earned names, such as the Lake School, the Cockney School, and the Bloomsbury group.

What do you enjoy most as you teach students about authors’ literary networks?

I most enjoy teaching my literature survey courses as networks because students begin to see these authors as human beings. For some reason, I think this creates a different comfort level where students feel able to respond and critique their work. A poem no longer becomes this perfect historical artifact preserved for its perfection, but a work in progress created out of joy and pain in the company (and through the critique) of others. I also enjoy the confusion that emerges from the messiness of trying to learn in a pattern that is not linear but circular and recursive. It is a productive chaos J.

Students in Dr. Pond's English 3351 course view their exhibit.

Students in Dr. Pond’s English 3351 course view their exhibit.

How have students responded to the literary networks exhibit assignment?

Students in general seem to really enjoy a different approach to a literary time period. They always have some new insight they learn specifically from the design set-up, an insight that they would not have gleaned from a traditional march through time looking at writers in isolation. Students also gain a lot from working with the library archives and collections. I have had numerous students go on to graduate school for library science because they realized their passion for working with those kinds of materials.

Armstrong Browning Library Welcomes Three-Month Research Fellow

By Meagan Anthony, ABL Graduate Research Assistant and PhD candidate, Department of English

Professor Clare Simmons, ABL Three-Month Research Fellow for 2018

On Friday, September 7, the Armstrong Browning Library (ABL) welcomed Professor Clare Simmons to Baylor with a reception held in the ABL’s Cox Reception Hall where she was introduced by Dr. Joshua King, Margarett Root Browning Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies, and Jennifer Borderud, Director of the ABL. Professor Simmons is the ABL’s Three-Month Research Fellow for the fall of 2018. The library offers this research fellowship every year to established and recognized scholars of nineteenth-century studies from outside Baylor. This fellowship is offered as a means to support in-residence research for scholars to advance a major project using ABL’s unparalleled resources connected to the Brownings and other influential authors from the nineteenth-century.

Professor Clare Simmons with faculty from Baylor’s English Department

Professor Simmons is one of the foremost scholars of nineteenth-century medievalism. Her extensive publications include books as well as scholarly articles and demonstrate her dedication to the use of archival materials. Professor Simmons’s past publications contribute to our understanding of how nineteenth-century Britain used conception of the medieval period in their texts, and she illuminates how the British people conceptualized their own history and national identity. Additionally, as the director of undergraduate studies for the Ohio State English Department, she has shared her passion for literature with the next generation of scholars through interactive workshops and engaging presentations.

In her three-month residency at the ABL, Professor Simmons will be conducting research to complete a book on “festive medievalism” in nineteenth-century literature and culture. As well as researching, Professor Simmons will be interacting with Baylor students and faculty through presentations and workshops. Consequently, on Friday, September 21, Professor Simmons will be presenting a workshop titled “Publishing Your First Article and Submitting to Conferences.” This presentation will be from 3:30-4:30 pm in the Armstrong Browning Library’s Seminar Room. Toward the end of her residency, on November 16, Professor Simmons will give a talk encapsulating the results of her research during her fellowship at the Armstrong Browning Library. The focus of this talk will center on the festivities of the Christmas season.

Learn more about Professor Clare Simmons here. Learn more about the ABL’s Three-Month Research Fellowship here.

Rhyme and Reform: Victorian Working-Class Poets and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Cry of the Children”

a multi-site, digitally networked symposium organized by
the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University (US)
and the Universities of Strathclyde and Manchester (UK)

October 4-5, 2018
To register and learn more, please visit
baylor.edu/library/rhymeandreform

Many know that Victorian factories and mines were dangerous places to work, but how often do we really consider the human lives and stories they shaped?  What was it like to be a child working in these places? How did workers write about their conditions? How did authors on the outside respond to reports of labor abuse? Can these stories still speak to our times?

Please join us in considering these questions at “Rhyme and Reform” as we investigate Victorian portrayals of industrial labor in verse and narrative.  This multi-site, digitally linked series of events will be hosted by the Armstrong Browning Library in partnership with the University of Strathclyde in Scotland and the University of Manchester in England.

“Rhyme and Reform” marks the 175th anniversary of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “The Cry of the Children,” which protested the abuse of child workers in British mines and factories.

This symposium will put “The Cry of the Children” and representations of labor by Victorian working-class authors in conversation through scholarly presentations, performances of laboring-class balladry, interactive workshops, and a combination of physical and digital exhibitions by scholars and students.

The centerpiece of these exhibitions is “‘Orphans of earthly love’: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Protest for Working Children,” which was designed by undergraduates in my recent Victorian Poetry seminar at the Armstrong Browning Library (ABL). This exhibition will open at the ABL on the first day of “Rhyme and Reform.”  We would be especially delighted for Benefactors of the library to join us for this occasion, when students from the class will attend—in person and digitally—to discuss their work.  A version of this exhibition will also be on the event site, where it will be accompanied by displays about working-class poetry supplied by the “Piston, Pen & Press” project, which highlights the literary cultures of workers in nineteenth-century industrial Scotland and northern England.  This project is sponsored by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council, and led by faculty and staff at the University of Strathclyde, the University of Manchester, and the National Railway Museum (York, UK).

Through “Rhyme and Reform,” we hope to illuminate the contexts, concerns, and ongoing relevance of Victorian depictions of industrial labor. Calling these subjects “relevant” might seem a stretch.  Most who witness this conference will probably have no personal experience of mines or factories, which have largely moved out of eyesight in “first-world” countries.  Yet our wardrobes and powerplants still depend upon their often-inhumane operation around the globe, and far more children endure slavery and forced labor today than in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s time.  Furthermore, people everywhere are feeling the effects of another legacy from Britain’s industrial age, dependency on fossil fuels.  How we respond to this inheritance will define our shared future.

This symposium seeks to contribute to that response by experimenting with a more sustainable form of international conferencing and collaboration.  Rather than flying everyone to one site, it will digitally link two event centers across the Atlantic, use a digital suite of tools called COVE to create a cooperative annotation of “Cry of the Children,” and invite participants around the world to access exhibitions and live-streamed presentations through the event website.

I warmly encourage you to visit this website to review the schedule and make time in yours to attend.  If you are unable to join us physically, please make a note to return to the website during the symposium for streamed and prerecorded events.

Dr. Joshua King
Associate Professor of English, Baylor University
Margarett Root Brown Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies
Armstrong Browning Library

The Literary Network of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Literary Network Of Robert Browning And Elizabeth Barrett Browning Exhibit Poster

The Literary Network Of Robert Browning And Elizabeth Barrett Browning Exhibit Poster

In fall 2017, students in Dr. Kristen Pond’s upper-level English course, “Literary Networks in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,” explored the relationships between writers of the Romantic, Victorian, and Modernist Periods utilizing the letters, manuscripts, rare books, and other collection materials at the Armstrong Browning Library.

The course revealed the discrepancy between the image of a ‘solitary genius’ creating art in isolation handed down from the Romantics and the act of literary creation. The nineteenth century boasts some of the most fascinating relationships between famous literary figures. Authors did not work alone but often collaborated, either directly by each person contributing something to the final piece or indirectly through the influence of conversations, interactions, or from reading one another’s works.

The students ended their semester by each curating a miniature exhibition that demonstrated connections between a Romantic, Victorian, or Modernist literary figure and Robert and/or Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Authors chosen by the students range from William Wordsworth to Charlotte Bronte and from Tennyson to T.S. Eliot. Come by the exhibit to see more authors and items chosen by the class which reveal the wide literary network of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

White Star Lines–Titanic Connections at the ABL–Wilson Barrett and the RMS Teutonic

by Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, more commonly known as the White Star Line, was a prominent British shipping company.  Founded in 1845, The White Star Line, operated a fleet of clipper ships that sailed between Britain, Australia, and America. The ill-fated Titanic was perhaps their most famous ship. The Armstrong Browning Library has a few connections to the Titanic. One connection relates to a set of postcards that disappeared with the Titanic and another relates to the author of the hymn, “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” the song that was purportedly playing as the Titanic sank. The Armstrong Browning Library’s collection includes a letter with the White Star logo in its heading and several letters written on board ships or while individuals were preparing to board ships. The letters, written between 1841 and 1912, are lines from people who were passengers on SS (Steamer Ships), RMS (Royal Mail Steamers), or HMS (Her Majesty’s Ship). It is interesting to note that one of the first purposes of steamers crossing the Atlantic was to deliver the mail. These lines, written from steamer ships, may shed some light on the adventure and danger presented by steamer travel in the late nineteenth century.

Wilson Barrett, British actor, theater manager, and playwright, 1883. A photograph from “The Theatre”, A Monthly Review, Volume I, January to June, 1883, David Bogue, London, 1883.

Wilson Barrett (1846-1904) was an English manager, playwright, and actor. In 1893 he packed up his touring company and came to the United States, landing at New York. Newspaper reports the company performing, interestingly enough, in New Orleans, Houston, and Galveston.

Ad in the Houston Post. 13 March 1894.

In the following letter, Barrett regretted that he could not have brought his play to London, but the White Star Line required his scenery by the 6th of November.

I should have come to London with Virginius but the White Star Steamship C’y will not take my scenery after the morning of the 6th – & as I do not finish in Liverpool until the 7th – it became impossible.

Wilson Barrett to Charles Osborne. 20 October 1893.

Wilson Barret to Charles Osborne. 20 October 1893. Page 1

Wilson Barret to Charles Osborne. 20 October 1893. Pages 2 and 3.

Wilson and his troupe made their trip to the United States on the White Star Line’s SS Teutonic.

RMS Teutonic

During the first eighteen years of service from 1889 to 1907, the Teutonic sailed on the route from Liverpool to New York City, making an average of one sailing per month. In October, 1913, the ship narrowly avoided the same fate as the Titanic when, at 172 miles east of Belle Isle off the Newfoundland coast, she ran so close to an iceberg that she avoided collision only by reversing her engines and putting the helm hard aport. According to the October 29, 1913 issue of the Chicago Tribune,

…the liner passed within twenty feet of the iceberg. The fog was so thick that even at that small distance the berg could scarcely be distinguished. It was so close that there was danger that the propeller of the ship would strike it as the vessel went around. The passengers were not aware of their peril until it had been averted. They signed a testimonial to the captain and his officers expressing their gratitude and admiration for the care and skill displayed by them.