Introducing the Armstrong Browning Library’s Graduate Research Assistant, 2022-2023

The Armstrong Browning Library has a new Graduate Research Assistant this fall. A graduate research assistantship provides a student insight into the day-to-day operations of a special collections library and the uses and importance of primary source materials. Graduate Research Assistants receive practical experience handling, processing, and preserving rare books and manuscripts. Additionally, they have the opportunity to digitize materials, develop and install exhibits, and prepare and participate in delivering instruction sessions for classes utilizing Armstrong Browning Library materials.

Anna Clark

Hometown: Jackson, MI

Major: History

Why are you completing an MA in History?
I am interested in teaching and writing about different historical perspectives. I am especially passionate about US and British history, more specifically transatlantic relations between the United States and Great Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. My interest in transatlantic relations has largely been influenced by my study-abroad experience at the University of Oxford where I had the opportunity to study various British perspectives of the American Revolution. I hope to continue my education and eventually earn a PhD degree to become a college history professor.

What do you hope to learn while working at the ABL?
I hope to learn more about nineteenth century writers such as the Brownings and other literary figures whose work is featured in the Armstrong Browning Library and Museum. I am interested in writing my MA thesis regarding foreign policy, particularly the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Great Britain from the era of the American Revolution through the American Civil War, and I hope my exposure to nineteenth century archival materials at the ABL will inspire and assist me in my own historical research.

What are you looking forward to about working at the ABL?
I am excited to work with the staff at the ABL and to assist others in their research inquiries as well as contribute my own research to the institution. I am also looking forward to learning more about the nineteenth century through historical study of the Brownings and their contemporaries.

The Lawrences Auction

by Rachel Jacob, Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

In September of 2020, the Armstrong Browning Library acquired multiple new Browning related objects. These objects were at auction from Lawrences Auctioneers in Sommerset, England. It is usual for a few Browning items to be at an auction, but for this Lawrences auction, a descendant of the Brownings put their Browning collection up for sale. Below are the items the Armstrong Browning Library added to our collection from this Browning-filled auction.

The Brownings’ Library

Talfourd, Thomas Noon. Dramatic Works. 11th ed. London, 1852.  Browning Guide # A2240.1 .

Hill Legacy Collection in Browning and 19th Century Studies

Presentation Volumes

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. Aurora Leigh. London: Chapman and Hall, 1857.  Browning Guide #C0005.2.

Hill Legacy Collection in Browning and 19thCentury Studies

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. Poems Before Congress. London: Chapman and Hall, 1860. Browning Guide # C0120.

Hill Legacy Collection in Browning and 19thCentury Studies

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. The Greek Christian Poets and the English Poets. London: Chapman & Hall, 1863. Browning Guide # C0039.1.

Hill Legacy Collection in Browning and 19thCentury Studies

Browning, Robert. Selections from the Poetical Works of Robert Browning. London: Chapman and Hall, 1863. Browning Guide #C0544.2.

Hill Legacy Collection in Browning and 19thCentury Studies

Wey, Francis Alphonse. Rome. Introduction by W.W. Story. London, 1875. Browning Guide #C0641.05.

Hill Legacy Collection in Browning and 19thCentury Studies

Browning Letters

Third draft copy of letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Lord Somers, October 1817.

Margaret Cox Endowed Fund

Manuscripts of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. The African (“Cold shone the moon on distant mountains”). Transcript by Mary Moulton-Barrett with revisions by EBB. Browning Guide #D0015.1.

Margaret Cox Endowed Fund

The African by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Manuscript.

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. The Enchantress (“Above the ’Egean wave, the sun is glancing”). Fair copy, revised, in the hand of Mary Moulton-Barrett and EBB, with pencil revisions in EBB’s hand. Browning Guide #D0231.1.

Margaret Cox Endowed Fund

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. The Enchantress (“Above the ’Egean wave, the sun is glancing”). Transcript, revised, by Mary Moulton-Barrett and EBB. Browning Guide #D0231.2.

Margaret Cox Endowed Fund

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. The Enchantress (“Above the ’Egean wave, the sun is glancing”). Transcript by Mary Moulton-Barrett.  Browning Guide #D0233.1.

Margaret Cox Endowed Fund

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. The Enchantress (“Above the ’Egean wave, the sun is glancing”). Transcript by Mary Moulton-Barrett.  Browning Guide #D0233.2.

Margaret Cox Endowed Fund

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. An Essay on Mind (“Since Spirit first inspir’d, pervaded all”). Transcript by Mary Moulton-Barrett. Browning Guide #D0251.1.               https://www.browningguide.org/browning-collections/search-results/?start-date=&end-date=&name=&name-select=&role=&title=&description=&location=&section=4&entry-number=0251.1&order-by=entry-number&search-submit=Search

Margaret Cox Endowed Fund

Likenesses of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Copy of Charles Hayter’s oil portrait of Elizabeth Barrett Browning as a child walking into the porch at Hope End, followed by a spaniel carrying her hat. Browning Guide #F0002.

Margaret Cox Endowed Fund

Copy of Charles Hayter’s oil portrait of Elizabeth Barrett Browning as a child

Works of Robert Browning, SR.

Browning, Robert, Sr. The Druidical Tumulus, Pornic. Wash and ink drawing. Pornic, 1862. Browning Guide #J0025.05

Margaret Cox Endowed Fund

Other Association Manuscripts and Document

[Moulton-Barrett, Edward Barrett (brother)]. Criticism of EBB’s The Seraphim. Browning Guide #L0186.1

Margaret Cox Endowed Fund

Moulton-Barrett, Mary. Passage from Pizarro by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Browning Guide #L0212.1

Margaret Cox Endowed Fund

 

“Puppy Love” Closing Announcement

By Allison Scheidegger, PhD Student, Department of English, Baylor University

This spring, the Armstrong Browning Library is hosting “Puppy Love: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships,” an exhibition on dog ownership and depictions of dogs in the Victorian period, with a focus on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush. January 15, 2022 – August 15, 2022.

“Puppy Love: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships” will close on August 15th, 2022. Come and see it before it’s gone!

Illustration from Horses and Dogs. 1876.

One of my favorite parts of curating the “Puppy Love” exhibit has been uncovering networks of connection between writers that are founded on pet ownership. Two major kinds of networks come to mind: between writers who are fellow dog owners, and between writers who give one another dogs. In this blog post I will share some avenues I’ve found for further exploring these doggy networks.

The shared experience of owning a dog can create a bond between strangers. The first case of the exhibit, “Flush and Friendship,” showcases a pair of letters between E. B. Browning and fellow poet Thomas Westwood. Browning and Westwood forged a letter-writing friendship that was founded on a shared interest in poetry and dogs. In the first letter in the exhibit, Westwood reaches out to Browning to ask for a copy of one of her poems. Westwood’s tone is that of a star-struck fan: in this letter, he admits that he only found courage to write to Browning after reading her “To Flush, My Dog.” Because Browning loves dogs so much, Westwood reasons, she must be kind. This letter is available in full on the Baylor libraries digitization page: https://digitalcollections-baylor.quartexcollections.com/Documents/Detail/5-august-1843.-westwood-thomas-to-browning-elizabeth-barrett./339971?item=339972. Click the “Transcript” tab for help decoding the handwriting!

Browning’s response (available in Baylor’s digital collections: https://digitalcollections-baylor.quartexcollections.com/Documents/Detail/ca.-8-august-1843.-browning-elizabeth-barrett-to-westwood-thomas./339976?item=339977) is kind and sympathetic—she is more than happy to talk about dogs! In her reply to Westwood, Browning includes an imaginary response from Flush to Flossy. Overjoyed at her response, Westwood then sends a flurry of letters. Although in his anxiety to make a good impression, Westwood comes across as flattering and awkward early in the correspondence, the two manage to talk about their shared interests. See this letter from Browning to Westwood  (https://digitalcollections-baylor.quartexcollections.com/Documents/Detail/2-september-1843.-browning-elizabeth-barrett-to-westwood-thomas./340099?item=340100) for a discussion of the writing of Tennyson and Robert Browning (E. B. Browning’s future husband). Westwood and Browning would continue their correspondence for over ten years, connecting over the common ground of poetry and dog ownership.

But there is an even more significant kind of canine connection: the connection between friends who give one another the gift of a dog. Mary Russell Mitford made her friend Browning a dog owner when she sent her a spaniel she had bred. Mitford sent Flush the spaniel to Browning to comfort her after the death of her favorite brother Edward. Flush succeeded in rousing Browning from debilitating depression and inspired several poems. Browning acknowledges in the footnote in “To Flush,” her spaniel was “the gift of [her] dear and admired friend Miss Mitford.”

Mary Russell Mitford, by Benjamin Robert Haydon (d. 1846). National Portrait Gallery.

Mitford was a fellow author who encouraged Browning in her writing. Although today Browning’s work is more prized, at the time Mitford was the more established author.

As I researched Woolf’s writing of Flush: A Biography, I realized that the story of Browning and Flush must have fascinated Woolf because in many ways it paralleled Woolf’s own story with her cocker spaniel, Pinka.

Lady with a Red Hat [Vita Sackville-West], by William Strang. 1918. Oil on canvas. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Woolf’s friend and lover Vita Sackville-West, who was herself a popular poet and author, gave Pinka to Woolf. Completing the parallels between the Mitford-Browning and Sackville-West-Woolf stories, Pinka posed as Flush for the frontispiece of the first edition of Woolf’s Flush (Steele xvii).

Frontispiece of Woolf’s Flush. 1933.

Mitford and Sackville-West were the more established and popular writers when they became friends with Browning and Woolf, respectively. In honor of these mentors’ literary and canine contributions to the development of Browning and Woolf, I unearthed some dog writing of their own. Mitford wrote several short stories about dogs, including “The Widow’s Dog,” a story about a spaniel named Chloe (read on Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/22842/22842-h/22842-h.htm), and one about a heroic hound (read “Scotland: Sir Allan and His Dog” from Findens’ Tableaux on Google books:  https://www.google.com/books/edition/Finden_s_Tableaux_A_Series_of_Picturesqu/cttJAAAAcAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1). Sackville-West, meanwhile, wrote Faces: Profiles of Dogs, which pairs humorous commentary with photographs of dogs by Laelia Goehr. Visit Goehr’s official site (available at: https://www.laeliagoehr.com/dogs) to see some of these striking dog portraits. Although the “Puppy Love” exhibit delves into the world of animal writing, there is much more to discover.

 

Works Consulted

Sackville-West, Vita. Faces: Profiles of Dogs. Daunt Books, 2019.

“Scotland: Sir Allan and his Dog. In Finden’s Tableaux. Edited by Mary Russell Mitford. 1838.

Steele, Elizabeth. “Introduction.” In Flush: A Biography. Edited by Elizabeth Steele. Shakespeare Head Press, 1999, pp. xi-xxxi.

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. Letter to Thomas Westwood. [ca. 8] August 1843. Browning Correspondence.

—. Letter to Thomas Westwood. 2 September 1843.

Westwood, Thomas. Letter to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 5 August 1843. Browning Correspondence.

 

Read more in this series of blog posts about the exhibit “‘Puppy Love’: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships”:

 

The Armstrong Browning Library’s 2021 Baylor Book Society Acquisitions

by Rachel Jacob, Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

The Baylor Book Society, established in 1970 as the Moody Memorial Library Book Fund, provides a way for donors to strengthen the book purchases of Baylor Libraries and create a lasting tribute. The contribution of an individual or group creates a legacy as the Libraries place a special plate with the name of the donor and the honoree in the first volume which the funds help acquire.

The Armstrong Browning Library purchased the following books through donations to the Baylor Book Society.

 

In memory of Dr. Margaret Jones Chanin by Gretchen Peterson Thomas

Anna Barton’s Nineteenth-Century Poetry and Liberal Thought: Forms of Freedom. [ABL Non-Rare 821.809 B293n 2017]

In memory of Celia Dilworth Morgan, Class of 1938, by Nancy and Phil Wedemeyer

Catherine Phillips and R.K.R. Thornton’s The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1852-1881. Volumes I & II. [ABL Non-Rare 821.8 H794c 2006]

In honor of the Anna and Bob Wright Family by Mike and Kay Brown

Stephen Cheeke’s Transfiguration: The Religion of Art in Nineteenth-Century Literature Before Aestheticism. [ABL Non-Rare 820.9382 C515t 2016]

In honor of Connie Schuetz Wright by Melvin H. Schuetz

Caley Ehnes’ Victorian Poetry and the Poetics of the Literary Periodical. [ABL Non-Rare 821.809 E33v 2019]

In memory of Carroll Hague

Philip Hoare’s RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR. [ABL Non-Rare 820.9358 R313b 2017]

In honor of Lynn Schuetz by Melvin H. Schuetz

Sarina Moore, Emily Morris, and Lesa Scholl’s Place and Progress in the Works of Elizabeth Gaskell. [ABL Non-Rare 823.8 S368p 2015]

In memory of Louise H. Schuetz by Melvin H. Schuetz

Colin Carman’s The Radical Ecology of the Shelleys. [ABL Non-Rare 821.7 C287r 2019]

In honor of Shirley Schuetz by Melvin H. Schuetz

Emma Mason’s Christina Rossetti: Poetry, Ecology, Faith. [ABL Non-Rare 821.8 M398c 2018]

In memory of Dr. Cornelia Marschall Smith by Martha and Roger Brooks

Patricia Murphy’s Reconceiving Nature: Ecofeminism in Late Victorian Women’s Poetry.  [ABL Non-Rare 821.8099287 M978r 2019]

In memory of Dr. Avery Thomas Sharp by Pattie and Steve Orr

Laurence W. Mazzeno and Ronald D. Morrison’s Animals in Victorian Literature and Culture: Contexts for Criticism. [ABL Non-Rare 820.9362 M477a 2017]

In memory of Jesmarie Harvey Hurst by Libraries Board of Advisors and Library Staff

Sarah Parker’s Michael Field: Decadent Moderns. [ABL Non-Rare 821.8 P243m 2019]

In honor of William F. Schuetz, Jr by Melvin H. Schuetz

Alexander Regier’s Exorbitant Enlightenment: Blake, Hamann, and Anglo-German Constellations. [ABL Non-Rare 820.9005 R335e 2018]

In loving memory of my parents Mr. and Mrs. Ben Skrabanek by Rita S. Patteson

Joshua King and Winter Jade Werner’s Constructing Nineteenth-Century Religion. [ABL Non-Rare 820.9382 K53c 2019]

In honor of Mary Barton Robinson, BA 1950, by Kathy Robinson Hillman

Linda K Hughes’ The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Women’s Poetry. [ABL Belew Scholars’ Room Reference 821.8099287 H893c 2019]

In honor of Frankie Carson by Melvin H. Schuetz

Karen Bourrier’s Victorian Bestseller: The Life of Dinah Craik. [ABL Non-Rare B C887b 2019]

In honor of Sue and Wilburn “Dub” Wright by George W. Monroe

Patricia Cove’s Italian Politics and Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Culture.[ABL Non-Rare 820.9 C873i 2019]

In honor of my Wife, Carol L. Schuetz, by Melvin H. Schuetz

Virginia Woolf’s Flush: A Biography, illustrated by Katyuli Lloyd. [ABL Non-Rare 823.91 W913flu 2018]

In memory of Dr. Margaret Jones Chanin by Gretchen Peterson Thomas

Laurence W. Mazzeno and Ronald D. Morrison’s Victorian Environmental Nightmares. [ABL Non-Rare 820.936 M477v 2019]

In memory of Carroll Hague

Laura Eastlake’s Ancient Rome and Victorian Masculinity. [ABL Non-Rare 820.9353 E13a 2019]

In honor of Connie Schuetz Wright by Melvin H. Schuetz

Jan Marsh’s Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Painter and Poet. [ABL Non-Rare B R8293ma 1999]

In memory of Rev. Al Novak, 1929, by Rynell and Joseph Novak

Christopher W. Corbin’s The Evangelical Party and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Return to the Church of England. [ABL Non-Rare 283.42 C791e 2019]

In honor of Frankie Carson by Melvin H. Schuetz

Kathleen Krull’s Writers and Their Pets, illustrated by Violet Lemay. [ABL Non-Rare 636.088 K94w 2019]

In loving memory of my parents Mr. and Mrs. Ben Skrabanek by Rita S. Patteson

Kirstie Blair’s Working Verse in Victorian Scotland: Poetry, Press, Community. [ABL Non-Rare 821.809 B635w 2019]

In memory of Celia Dilworth Morgan, Class of 1938, by Nancy and Phil Wedemeyer

Brenda Ayers’ Victorians and Their Animals: Beast on a Leash. [ABL Non-Rare 820.9362 A985v 2019]

By Charlotte and Robert Lloyd

John Simons’ Rossetti’s Wombat: Pre-Raphaelites and Australian Animal in Victorian London. [ABL Non-Rare 759.2 S611r 2008]

In memory of Hannah McKay Crofts by Frances McKay Andrews and Ellen Andrews Gage

Juliette Atkinson’s French Novels and the Victorians. [ABL Non-Rare 843.809 A876f 2017]

In memory of Celia Dilworth Morgan, Class of 1938, by Nancy and Phil Wedemeyer

Lesa Scholl’s Hunger, Poetry and the Oxford Movement: The Tractarian Social Vision. [ABL Non-Rare 821.809 S468h 2020]

In honor of Mary Barton Robinson, BA 1950, by Kathy Robinson Hillman

Jan Marsh’s Christina Rossetti: A Writer’s Life. [ABL Non-Rare B R829ma 1995]

In memory of Dr. Susan Burrow Colón by Ivy, Greg, and Luke Hamerly

Andrew O. Winckles and Angela Rehbein’s Women’s Literary Networks and Romanticism: A Tribe of Authoresses. [ABL Non-Rare 820.99287 W775w 2017]

In memory of Dorothy Cunningham Lamberth by many Tyler friends who love her

Lesa Scholl’s Hunger Movements in Early Victorian Literature: Want, Riots, Migration. [ABL Non-Rare 823.809353 S368h 2016]

In memory of Jesmarie Harvey Hurst by loving Tyler friends

Ayesha Mukherjee’s A Cultural History of Famine: Food Security and the Environment in India and Britain. [ABL Non-Rare 363.90954 M953c 2019]

In honor of Sue and Wilburn “Dub” Wright by George W. Monroe

Kevin A. Morrison’s Victorian Liberalism and Material Culture: Synergies of Thought and Place. [ABL Non-Rare 306.0941 M879v 2018]

In honor of Rebekah Novak Proctor by her parents Rynell and Joseph Novak

William Baker and Jeanette Roberts Shumaker’s Jewish Writing: A Reference and Critical Guide to Jewish Writing in the UK, Volume 1. [ABL Non-Rare 820.9 B167j 2019]

In honor of Joseph R. Novak, BU1951, by Dr. Rynell S. Novak

William Baker and Jeanette Roberts Shumaker’s Jewish Writing: A Reference and Critical Guide to Jewish Writing in the UK, Volume 2. [ABL Non-Rare 820.9 B167j 2019]

By Martha Withers Brooks

Sheshalatha Reddy’s British Empire and the Literature of Rebellion: Revolting Bodies, Laboring Subjects. [ABL Non-Rare 820.9358 R313b 2017]

 

More information about the Baylor Book Society and other Baylor Library programs can be found at:

https://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=1671

https://www.baylor.edu/library/index.php?id=975620

https://www.baylor.edu/library/index.php?id=975621

New Faces of Armstrong Browning Library

Recently the Armstrong Browning Library has welcomed three new employees. They are Rachel Bates, Caleb Lindgren, and Carolina Criscione. I asked each of them a couple questions so that we can get to know them better.

Rachel Bates:

Where are you from and what is your background before coming to Baylor Libraries?

I am from the great small town of West, Texas (just north of Waco).  I graduated high school from there, then made my way to the Texas Hill Country where I went to school at Texas State in San Marcos and received my Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Science, and a Minor in Mass Communications.  After college, I entered the events/wedding industry where I worked for over a decade coordinating events and weddings. I also managed a floral company for weddings and specialty events.

What does your new position entail?  

I wil­l be in charge of scheduling and coordinating events held in the Library and overseeing daily operations of the public areas of the building. I will manage the Gift Gallery, supervise the part-time hosts of the Library and the work-study students assigned to the main floor. I will also oversee all specialty events at the Library.

What is your favorite part of your role (or Baylor) so far?  

I have really enjoyed meeting my new team, and the work study-students that will work with me. I have also enjoyed getting to see the excitement of people who come to the library/museum for the first time.  They get to see what a treasure Armstrong Browning Library is, and how lucky we are to have it here on campus.

What do you like to do in your free time? What is a fun fact about you?  

I spend most of my free time with my friends and family.  I like to catch live music when I can and am a big fan of podcasts.

Fun Facts:  In my floral industry days, I probably created close to 1,000 bridal bouquets.  Floral design is still a passion of mine that I hope to carry throughout my life.

Caleb Lindgren:

Where are you from and what is your background before coming to Baylor Libraries?

I came to Baylor Libraries about one year ago after getting married to my wife, Katherine, who is a current Baylor PhD student (in history). Previously, I worked as the theology editor for Christianity Today magazine until 2020, when I left full-time work there to pursue my own PhD in theology (at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois).

What does your new position entail?  

My role is a library host at the Armstrong Browning Library, and I primarily supervise the student workers who sit at the front desk and greet visitors and give tours. I train them on their duties and how to give a tour. I am also here to answer any questions the student workers can’t answer and to work with the rest of the library staff to make sure the library is welcoming and safe.

What is your favorite part of your role (or Baylor) so far? 

I really have enjoyed getting to know my co-workers and the student workers. Baylor brings incredible people from all over the world, and I’ve loved getting to know them. Also, it is wonderful to work in such a peaceful (and beautiful) environment.

What do you like to do in your free time? What is a fun fact about you?  

I am an avid runner and an avid reader. I am also a military aviation buff, though I am not a veteran myself.

Carolina Criscione

Where are you from and what is your background before coming to Baylor Libraries?

I am originally from the Chicagoland area (Wheaton, IL). I studied Art History and Spanish at Wheaton College, and then moved to Boston to attend Simmons University for my M.L.I.S. degree. I concentrated in cultural heritage studies and explored the many different historic landmarks, museums, and libraries of New England as a student. After my wedding last summer in Maine, I moved to Texas to join my husband, David Criscione, as he completes his PhD program here at Baylor.

What does your new position entail?  

I serve as the Assistant to the Curator at the Armstrong Browning Library. My primary responsibility is supervising the Library Services area, more specifically assisting library patrons and visiting scholars. I also am involved in the circulation of library materials, fulfilling Interlibrary Loan requests, compiling library statistics, and recording climate data. One task I especially enjoy is performing research and other supportive tasks for the ABL Curator.

What is your favorite part of your role (or Baylor) so far? 

My favorite part about working at Baylor is my team of coworkers! I’ve been amazed by their kindness and patience as I’ve learned the ropes at the ABL.  Since they are all very knowledgeable about, and dedicated to, the preservation of rare books, I have learned a lot about special collection care and archives work from them!

What do you like to do in your free time? What is a fun fact about you?  

In my free time, I enjoy reading (a librarian who enjoys reading? It’s horribly cliché, I know!). I am also an avid gardener, and while I do not have a yard here in Texas, it’s been fun to learn about the geography and wildlife native to Texas. A fun fact about myself is that I have been a strict vegetarian most of my life!

We are so grateful to have Rachel, Caleb, and Carolina join the Armstrong Browning Library team!

“Puppy Love”: What I Learned Through the Process

By Allison Scheidegger, PhD Student, Department of English, Baylor University

This spring, the Armstrong Browning Library is hosting “Puppy Love: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships,” an exhibition on dog ownership and depictions of dogs in the Victorian period, with a focus on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush. January 15, 2022 – August 15, 2022.

When I began the summer internship of curating the ABL’s “Puppy Love” exhibition, my motivations had little to do with a deep love for dogs. On the contrary, I came to the “Puppy Love” exhibit as an outsider. Because I didn’t grow up with pets, I’ve never been sympathetic to affection for dogs. The mess, the fur, the noise, the smells—dogs to me were a recipe for inconvenience and annoyance. Instead, my goals coming into the internship were academic. I knew that I would need to use the ABL’s special collections for my dissertation research, and I wanted to familiarize myself with the ABL’s resources and databases ahead of time. But in the process of curating this exhibit, I researched my way into liking dogs! This blog post tells the story of my evolving feelings about dogs, as well as how I am integrating the experiences gained into my teaching roles.

Illustration by W. J. Morgan of two girls walking, one is carrying a dog, in Molesworth’s Lucky Ducks (1891).

Illustration by W. J. Morgan in Molesworth’s Lucky Ducks. 1891.

I’ve already begun to see how my experience curating this exhibit will enhance my teaching. This past fall, after spending the summer working on this exhibit, I taught an honors colloquium session on Browning’s Flush poems and Woolf’s Flush: A Biography. I enjoyed pushing students not only to consider how the social issues raised in Flush persist today but also to bring personal experiences of pet ownership to bear in the conversation. Channeling my audience’s natural enthusiasm about a topic, rather than insisting on a purely academic discussion, is a skill I developed in this internship.

In the future, when I teach British literature, I also plan to involve my students in the process of archival research. Special collections can be intimidating for the student researcher—they certainly were for me! They tend to use different organization methods and require different procedures for requests. I want to equip my students with strategies for using the ABL’s special collections and for approaching special collections in general.

“Dignity and Impudence,” in Horses and Dogs. 1876.

As one of my fellow English graduate students aptly expresses it, “I recognize that my dislike for dogs is a deficiency in my soul.” After spending the summer perusing dog stories of all kinds, I’m convinced that one of the functions of literature is to train us to love good things (in this case, dogs). The poems, letters, and stories I read this summer retrained me to have an appreciation—even a fondness—for dogs. The “Puppy Love” exhibit showcases several collections of animal stories written for the purpose of early childhood training, alongside a few unusual animal stories that prompt adults to reconsider their pets in a new light. One of these animal stories for adults, E. B. Browning’s poem “Flush or Faunus,” was particularly meaningful for me.

Text of E. B. Browning’s “Flush or Faunus,” in The Poetic Album (1854).

E. B. Browning’s “Flush or Faunus,” in The Poetic Album. 1854.

As Flush comforted Browning after the death of her favorite brother, Browning was surprised by the emotional capacity of what she had considered a “low creature.” In comparing Flush with Faunus, a half-man, half-animal god of revelry, Browning suggests that pets offer an unconditional, inter-species love that mirrors God’s transcendent love. This poem taught me not to dismiss people’s love for their dogs as empty sentimentality or the projection of emotions, but rather to appreciate the ways in which pets offer a unique type of friendship and comfort which human friends can’t provide. The physical and emotional bond between Browning and Flush is fascinating: they are so close that at times they resemble each other!

Heavy curls hung down on either side of Miss Barrett’s face; large bright eyes shone out; a large mouth smiled. Heavy ears hung down on either side of Flush’s face; his eyes, too, were large and bright: his mouth was wide. There was a likeness between them. As they gazed at each other each felt: Here am I—and then each felt: But how different! (Woolf 26)

The difference between them is equally important. While Flush is sympathetic to Browning’s sadness, he also manages to cheer her with his cuteness and his antics, which Browning describes in “To Flush, My Dog”:

Leap! thy broad tail waves a light;

Leap! thy slender feet are bright,

Canopied in fringes.

Leap —those tasselled ears of thine

Flicker strangely, fair and fine,

Down their golden inches (The Poetic Album 235)

In my reading, I’ve been struck by how deeply Victorian pet owners like Browning celebrate the physical presence of their dogs. In “Flush or Faunus,” Flush interrupts Browning’s grief by invading her space. He pushes his head against Browning’s face and flaps her with his ears to wipe the tears from her cheeks. E. B. Browning’s and Virginia Woolf’s depictions of Flush taught me to appreciate dogs for their doggy-ness, and for how, by their presence and their unconditional love, they forge a close bond with us. This project convinced me to pet a dog and let him lick me instead of recoiling in horror as I would have in the past! A few weeks later, I was ecstatic when a friend’s dog jumped up beside me on the sofa and rested his head on my lap. I experienced this summer how stories can train—or re-train—us to appreciate animals.

Illustration by Vanessa Bell, in Woolf’s Flush. 1933.

 

Works Cited

Aunt Louisa’s Choice Present: Comprising Famous Horses, Noted Horses, Famous Dogs, Noted Dogs (or Horses & Dogs). Illustrated by John Frederick Herring, Sr., and Sir Edwin Landseer. Printed by J. Butterfield. London: Frederick Warne and Co., 1876.

Molesworth, Mary Louisa. Lucky Ducks and Other Stories. Illustrated by W. J. Morgan. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1891.

The Poetic Album: Containing the Poems of Alfred Tennyson, Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Alexander Smith. Philadelphia: Willis P. Hazard, 1854.

Woolf, Virginia. Flush: A Biography. Hogarth Press, 1933.

 

Read more in this series of blog posts about the exhibit “‘Puppy Love’: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships”:

 

“The Truth Is –It Is An Immature & Imperfect Work”: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s New Objects In The Collection

by Rachel Jacob, Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

As the library with the largest collection of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning materials, the Armstrong Browning Library is continually seeking out and acquiring new items to strengthen the collection. Every new material acquired gives an insight into the lives of the Brownings, the society in which they lived, or the legacy they left behind. In 2020, the Library was able to acquire three new items which focus on Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The African

Manuscript of ‘The African’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The first is a poem in two cantos, “The African,” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This is a lesser-known work by Barrett Browning about a once African prince who is now enslaved in Jamaica. The poem was inspired by Barrett Browning’s first cousin once removed, Richard Barrett, when he told a story of a runaway slave. This acquisition was made possible with an endowment established by Margaret Cox. 

A Portrait of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Contemporary copy of Charles Hayter’s portrait of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The second is a portrait of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The painting portrays Elizabeth Barrett Browning followed by a dog carrying her hat. They are entering the porch at Hope End near Ledbury, Herefordshire. This is an oil on canvas in its original 19th-century rosewood frame. It is a contemporary oil copy of Charles Hayter’s original portrait; however, there is speculation as to whether this was created by Arabella Moulton-Barrett, Barrett Browning’s sister, or Pen Browning, her son. If you are visiting the Armstrong Browning Library you can see works by the two artists and decide for yourself. Moulton-Barrett painted the top of the sewing table in the Elizabeth Barrett-Browning Salon. Pen Browning has artwork all over the library, including in the stairwell. This acquisition was made possible with an endowment established by Margaret Cox. 

A Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Louis Cappel

The final acquisition is a letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This letter, dated 29 July 1843, is to Louis Cappel, Pastor of St. George’s German church in London. Louis Cappel had recently received a copy of her translation of Prometheus as a gift from Barret Browning’s brother Edward. In this letter, Elizabeth Barrett Browning corrects Cappel’s incorrect assumption that Prometheus was a gift from her. Instead, she writes, “The truth is –it is an immature & imperfect work […] thus I cast it behind my own back, & never make gifts of it to others. May it perish!” She then offers him a copy of The Seraphim, and Other Poems to make amends. We also have that copy of The Seraphim in our collection. This letter was a gift to the Baylor University English Department in Honor of Dr. Dianna Vitanza. 

Gift from Elizabeth Barret Browning to Louis Cappel

For more information on our collections visit:
http://www.baylor.edu/library/index.php?id=974966

Reception of E. B. Browning’s and Virginia Woolf’s Dog Writing

By Allison Scheidegger, PhD Student, Department of English, Baylor University

This spring, the Armstrong Browning Library is hosting “Puppy Love: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships,” an exhibition on dog ownership and depictions of dogs in the Victorian period, with a focus on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush. January 15, 2022 – August 15, 2022.

Although “Puppy Love” considers Victorian dog ownership and depictions of dogs more broadly, the exhibit concept began with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush, and the literature he inspired. Elizabeth Barrett Browning to wrote two poems and multiple letters describing Flush’s appearance and antics. Nearly a century later, the modernist author Virginia Woolf revisited this celebrity dog in the novel Flush: A Biography, which retells Flush’s story through his own perspective. This blog post explores how Browning and Woolf viewed their own dog writings, how their popular and critical audiences received them, and how these perspectives illuminate cultural attitudes about female authors and animal writing.

In the nineteenth century, prejudice lingered regarding female authors’ ability to produce great literary works. In 1850, a writer for The English Review lamented,

Female Poetry! this scarcely seems to us, ungallant as we are, a delightful theme, or a glorious memory; for is it not, generally speaking, mawkish, lackadaisical, and tedious? To us, at least, it is. Look at the “Literary Souvenir,” or “Book of Beauty,” if you want to see the kind of thing we mean: what people denominate poetry of the affections.  (Gurney)

In this reviewer’s mind, female poetry is associated with mediocrity, dullness, and sentimentality: it is not true poetry. The reviewer explicitly exempts Browning from this critique and even counts the poem “To Flush, My Dog” among his favorites in the recent edition of Browning’s Poems. But despite this ultimately positive verdict, the threat of being dismissed as a “poet of the affections” would have been a real concern to Browning as she considered how the inclusion of such a “light” poem might affect her literary reputation.

Displays the poem as published in The Poetic Album.

Browning’s “To Flush” in The Poetic Album. 1854.

“To Flush” is certainly a poem of affection and sentiment, as Browning recognized. But Browning was determined to keep “To Flush” in Poems, despite the cautions of a few of her friends, because Flush was important to her.

Writing about animals as a female author was doubly dangerous. As still holds true today, animal stories were frequently written for the purpose of entertaining and educating children. By comparing and contrasting themselves with misbehaving pets or loyal and brave pets, children could learn a moral lesson. One of the most popular examples of this sort of book is Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s Lessons for Children, which E. B. Browning grew up reading.

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Animal writing after Barbauld tended to target children, a trend of which the “Puppy Love” exhibition displays several examples. Because of this intended audience and the desire to teach moral lessons, animal writing was often highly sentimental and moralizing—harsh critics might lump animal writing with female poetry as “mawkish, lackadaisical, and tedious.” Despite this risk, and despite their budding reputations as serious female authors, both Browning and Woolf experimented with animal writing for the sake of Flush.

Authors’ Self-Perceptions and Critical Reception

Perhaps because of the common perception that animal writing was didactic, sentimental literature for children, both Browning and Woolf seemed to assume that their writings about Flush could not be serious literature. Browning dismissed “To Flush, My Dog” as light poetry and Woolf found Flush an embarrassment. When Browning shared “To Flush, My Dog” with friends before publishing it, she often described the poem critically. When Browning’s friend and mentor Hugh Stuart Boyd critiqued “To Flush,” she wrote in reply that she was “humbled” by his “hard criticism of [her] soft rhymes about Flush.” She admitted, “As for Flush’s verses, they are what I call cobweb verses, thin and light enough” and their significance is not “worth a defence” (Letter to Hugh Stuart Boyd). But Browning’s belittling of her work may be a kind of self-protection, a way to show that she is aware that animal poems are not serious and also to suggest that she is capable of greater things. Browning seems to want to set herself apart from the stereotypical female author who writes only such “cobweb verses.” Yet these supposedly “soft” verses grapple with interspecies relations, the death of a brother, and Browning’s mourning process.

The same is true of Flush: A Biography. Woolf was even more dismissive of her work: “I wanted to play a joke on Lytton – it was to parody him. But then it grew too long, and I dont think its [sic] up to much now” (23 February 1933, Virginia Woolf to Ottoline Morrell, Letters 5, 161–62). Lytton Strachey, the author of Eminent Victorians, wrote biographies in a detailed psychological style, commenting on Victorian culture through the study of individuals. Woolf thought it would be delightful to give as much (mock) serious attention to the life of an eminent Victorian dog. Woolf’s inspiration to write Flush came from reading the correspondence between Robert and Elizabeth Browning: “I was so tired after the Waves, that I lay in the garden and read the Browning love letters, and the figure of their dog made me laugh so I couldn’t resist making him a Life” (Woolf to Morrell 161). Following the Browning correspondence, Flush traces the story of the Brownings through their courtship, marriage, and escape from London to Italy, but with the difference that the events are filtered through the perspective of Flush. This perspective shift enables Woolf to engage in social and psychological exploration. The first meeting of Browning and Flush, for example, does not read like a lighthearted pet story for children.

Although Woolf says that Flush is a “joke,” the mock biography deals with serious issues such as animal psychology, eugenics, and fascism. Woolf’s self-evaluation of Flush and her judgment that it is “not up to much now” seem to overlook its significance.

Ultimately, such postures as Woolf’s and Browning’s are responses to a shared sense that they have jeopardized their literary reputations by dabbling in animal writing as female authors. Woolf worried that the publication of Flush would ruin her reputation as a serious author. She counseled herself in her diary to remember that she produced quality writing and that Flush was a rare aberration:

Flush will be out on Thursday & I shall be very much depressed, I think, by the kind of praise. They’ll say its “charming” delicate, ladylike. And it will be popular. . . . And I shall very much dislike the popular success of Flush. No, I must say to myself, this is a mere wisp, a rill of water; & so create, hardly [?] fiercely, as I feel now more able to do than ever before. (Diary 4, 181)

“Charming” was, at least in Woolf’s mind, the most offensive praise for a female author to receive. Both Browning and Woolf did in fact receive this critical verdict on their Flush pieces. An American reviewer, for example, characterized “To Flush” as “a charming little copy of verses to the Poet’s Dog” (Mathews). In general, critics judged Browning’s “To Flush” more favorably than Woolf’s Flush, perhaps due to the passing of a century and shifting expectations for female authors. Browning’s cousin John Kenyon reported that “To Flush” was one of John Forster’s favorites from Browning’s recently released Poems: “Dog Flush was a great favorite of his from the mixture—he says—of humor and tenderness” (Kenyon). Although some critics bewailed sentimental “Female Poetry,” writers of “charming” poetry in the mid-nineteenth century were not quite so despised in the mid-nineteenth century as they were in the mid-twentieth.

Popular Reception and Economic Considerations

Although Browning and Woolf (and some of their critics) disparaged the Flush writings, their readers felt differently. Both “To Flush, My Dog” and Flush: A Biography enjoyed significant popular success. “To Flush, My Dog” first appeared in the Athenaeum, then was included in Browning’s Poems (which was appeared in multiple editions), in addition to being frequently selected for inclusion in poetry collections like The Poetic Album above. Woolf’s Flush-focused novel earned still more significant popular (and therefore financial) success. According to Anna Snaith, Flush sold almost 19,000 copies within six months, thus becoming Woolf’s “best-selling novel in Britain” (618).

Given Woolf’s intense dread of Flush being popular, it is ironic that she needed Flush to be popular. After the failure of her previous work, The Waves, Woolf hoped that her “little escapade” of writing Flush could provide some financial support (16 September 1931, Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville-West, Letters 4, 380). While Browning, who relied on her father’s comfortable means, did not have to support herself by writing popular poems, other female authors were not so fortunate.  In this awareness of the financial pressures of authorship, Woolf resembles E. B. Browning’s friend Mary Russell Mitford, who served as editor of and contributor to Findens’ Tableaux in order to support herself and her father. These may not have been the prestigious works she wished to write, but they sold well.

However, commercial success was a third strike against animal writing by female authors. As Woolf recognized, a work’s popularity and feminine “charm” nearly guaranteed an icy critical reception. A look back at the past century reveals why Woolf made this assumption. The Victorian and Edwardian era was marked by the proliferation of ornate collector’s albums of sentimental poems and stories, often written by and for women. Mary Russell Mitford’s Findens’ Tableaux is an example of such an album. The critic from The English Review who condemned “Female Poetry” also specifically castigates poets who contribute to sentimental collections. About the poet L.E.L, he rants,

This woman undertook for years to fill a large annual with nothing but her poetry, in illustration of certain prints to be furnished her, whatever they might be! Now this fact alone expresses far more than any condemnation of ours could do. What a vista of dreary, morbid, boundless common-place does this disclose to us! And contemporary criticism could applaud, could think this annual undertaking perfectly natural, and rather sublime.

Although the reviewer heaps shame on L.E.L. while excusing E. B. Browning, Browning’s poems would also appear in such contexts. “To Flush, My Dog” and “Flush or Faunus” both appear in The Poetic Album (1854), a collection which places decorative engravings of ladies’ heads alongside poetry, with little regard for relevancy. The social and economic pressures on female authors, particularly when compounded with the lowly status of animal writing, often placed them in the difficult position of risking their literary reputation because of financial need or (in the case of Browning) because of their real affection for the subject of their work. Perhaps saddest of all, existing stereotypes made female authors reticent to consider their animal writing worthwhile.

 

Works Cited

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. Letter to Hugh Stuart Boyd. 6 [or 8] September 1843.

—. “To Flush, My Dog.” In The Poetic Album: Containing the Poems of Alfred Tennyson, Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Alexander Smith. Willis P. Hazard, 1854.

Gurney, Archer Thompson. “Poetesses—Mrs. Browning and Miss Lowe.” The English Review, December 1850, pp. 320–332. As reprinted in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 16, 325–329.

Kenyon, John. Letter to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 4 October 1844. Browning Correspondence.

Mathews, Cornelius. “A Drama of Exile.” The United States Magazine, and Democratic Review, October 1844, pp. 370–377. Reprinted in The Brownings’ Correspondence, vol. 9, pp. 340–345.

Snaith, Anna. “Of Fanciers, Footnotes, and Fascism: Virginia Woolf’s Flush.” Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 48 no. 3, 2002, p. 614-636.

Woolf, Virginia. The Letters of Virginia Woolf. Edited by Nigel Nicholson and Joanne Trautmann, vol. 4: 1929-1931, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975.

—. The Letters of Virginia Woolf. Edited by Nigel Nicholson and Joanne Trautmann, vol. 5: 1932-1935, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975.

—. The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Edited by Anne Olivier Bell, assisted by Andrew McNeillie, vol. 4: 1931-1935, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977.

—. Flush: A Biography. Hogarth Press, 1933.

 

 

Read more in this series of blog posts about the exhibit “‘Puppy Love’: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships”:

“A Wild Book —Abounding In Beauty, Tho”

Link

by Rachel Jacob, Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

The Armstrong Browning Library has the largest collection of works by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the world. It also holds works relating to the Brownings’ circle of literary friends or of 19th century significance. These factors are all considered as the ABL acquires new objects for its collection. Not every object will initially have a clear connection to one of these aspects, but could still make an important addition to ABL’s collection. The new exhibit in the Hankamer Treasure room explores how the ABL grows its collection with Ebenezer Jones’ Studies of Sensation and Event as an example.

Ebenezer Jones did not have documented contact with the Brownings and was not a well-known 19th century writer, but his work connects to the Brownings. The objects on display show Jones’ connections to the ABL’s collection.

Ebenezer Jones’ Studies of Sensation and Event. 1st Edition. London: Charles Fox, Paternoster Road, 1843.

The main focus of the display is Ebenezer Jones’ Studies of Sensation and Event. This is a first edition of Ebenezer Jones’ first and only collection of poetry. This copy contains extensive manuscript annotations and additions by Jones including poem corrections, unpublished poems, and a letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Richard Herne Shepherd. The copy on display was likely used by Richard Herne Shepherd with the new publication as Shepherd’s updated edition of Studies of Sensation and Event includes the edited annotations that appear in this copy.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s letter to Richard Herne Shepherd in Ebenezer Jones’ Studies of Sensation and Event.

A letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Richard Herne Shepherd is tipped into Ebenezer Jones’ Studies of Sensation and Event. Richard Herne Shepherd edited and published a later edition of Jones’ work as well as publishing a later edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s work.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti thought highly of Ebenezer Jones’ work as evident in the letter on display where he thanks Shepherd for showing him Jones’ work. Additionally, Rossetti wrote a review of Studies of Sensation and Event for the journal Notes and Queries, in which Rossetti called Jones’ work, “Nearly the most striking instance of neglected genius in our modern school of poetry”. Rossetti and Robert Browning were close friends and often discussed writers and their works together.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Ebenezer Jones” in Notes and Queries, Feb 1870, p.154.

Robert Browning was aware of Jones and in an 1844 letter from Browning to his close friend Alfred Domett, he states, “A certain Ebenezer Jones vented a wild book —abounding in beauty, tho’– I want to get & send it to you.” Although the letter between the two is in the collection at the British Library in London, an excerpt of it is on display.

John Kenyon’s letter to Elizabeth Barrett Browning [March 1844].

 

Robert was not the only Browning aware of Jones. In a letter from John Kenyon, a close friend of both the Brownings, to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Kenyon writes “I hear of rival poetry– There is a Mr. Ebenezer Jones—who they say writes very well”. This letter is on display. 

These objects bring the connection of Jones and the Brownings into focus. The ABL saw the relation to the Brownings with this work and acquired it for the collection. Stop by the Hankamer Treasure room in the ABL to see this insight into the ABL’s collection.

For more information on how to visit see our website:
https://www.baylor.edu/library/index.php?id=974968

Victorian Print Culture and Pet Culture

By Allison Scheidegger, PhD Student, Department of English, Baylor University

This spring, the Armstrong Browning Library is hosting “Puppy Love: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships,” an exhibition on dog ownership and depictions of dogs in the Victorian period, with a focus on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush. January 15, 2022 – August 15, 2022.

A stack of 4 books on a ladder.

Victorian Print Culture and Pet Culture

Both print culture surrounding pets and pet ownership in the Victorian era reflect a hunger for status in the midst of increasing affluence. As the middle class became more able to afford luxuries, print culture and pet ownership experienced corresponding economic trends. Middle-class pet owners purchased dogs with carefully documented bloodlines from dog breeders (sometimes called dog “fanciers”). These dogs could become ladies’ lapdogs or gentlemen’s sporting dogs; either way, they offered their owners more than usefulness or affection: they offered prestige. Pedigreed pets became status symbols—no one wanted to be seen walking a mutt! Like owning a lapdog, owning a gilded album revealed the owner’s wealth. The nineteenth century saw the flourishing of ornate collector’s books featuring—or even dedicated to—more frivolous topics like pets. Just as a lady’s lapdog was considered a frivolous pet, such collections would not have been considered serious literature. This blog post highlights some of the ornate artifacts included in the “Puppy Love” exhibit, along with some not included, reconsidering them in the light of Victorian print culture and pet culture.

 

The Poetic Album: Containing the Poems of Alfred Tennyson, Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Alexander Smith. Philadelphia: Willis P. Hazard, 1854.

Back board, spine, and front board of a green cloth bound books with gilt title and ornamentation.

The Poetic Album. 1854.

The Poetic Album is an excellent example of a collector’s album meant to be a status purchase. The Poetic Album is a collection of “minor poems” (in this case meaning shorter poems) by Tennyson, Browning, and Smith. The covers of The Poetic Album are ornate, and it is extravagantly illustrated with eight engravings of fine ladies. These engravings, which are modeled after illustrations by “the best artists,” according to the book’s title page, have no clear connection with the poems they accompany. In the preface, the publisher Willis P. Hazard classifies these three poets as “three of the best poets of this century.” Hazard also adds that the poems in the collection were selected by “a lady of taste”—a word choice which suggests that purchasing this album could be a way of asserting one’s own gentility.

In a decorative collection like this one, there is room for pet poems which might be considered frivolous elsewhere. Both of E. B. Browning’s Flush poems—“Flush or Faunus” and the earlier “To Flush, My Dog”—appear in this collection, whereas in many collections of Browning’s work only “To Flush” is included. Browning’s note below “To Flush” acknowledges both the personal and monetary value of Flush.  Customers who could afford to purchase this ornate gift book likely could also afford the expenses of buying and caring for a purebred dog, and therefore would be interested in such poems.

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Findens’ Tableaux: A Series of Picturesque Scenes of National Character, Beauty, and Costume. Edited by Mary Russell Mitford. Engraved by William and Edward Finden. 1838.

Findens’ Tableaux is a collection of illustrations and stories edited by Mary Russell Mitford, the friend who would give E.B. Browning her spaniel Flush in 1841. Like The Poetic Album, Findens’ Tableaux presents ornate illustrations. Each engraved illustration becomes a tableau, or still picture, that acts out, in freeze-frame, the story or poem it accompanies. The 1838 volume of the Tableaux focuses on stories set in various countries of the world. “Scotland: Sir Allan and his Dog,” the story featured here, was written by Mitford herself. Although the buyers of such a collection would have been very comfortably wealthy, Mitford herself struggled financially (Taneja 131-2). For “ladies of taste” who lacked money, editing collections like the Tableaux and The Poetic Album became a helpful source of income.

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I considered Findens’ Tableaux for inclusion in the exhibit, but ultimately had to omit it due to space constraints: the book is 15 inches tall by 11 ½ inches wide.

 

Friendship’s Forget-Me-Not. London: Thomas Nelson, 1849.

On my trips to the ABL stacks, I noticed that ornamental books—much like prized breeds of dog—tend to be either very large or very small. On the opposite end of the size spectrum from Findens’ Tableaux is Friendship’s Forget-Me-Not, measuring 4 ¾ inches tall by 3 ¼ inches wide. Friendship’s Forget-Me-Not was designed to be a memento given to a friend upon parting. This book was not included in the exhibit because it reprints E. B. Browning’s most frequently anthologized dog poem, “To Flush, My Dog”—a very appropriate choice for a collection of poems sharing the themes of friendship and gifts. Like this ornate gift book, Flush was an extravagant gift between friends.

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As the detailed description of the poem establishes, Flush is a highly decorative spaniel: Browning revels in his “fringed” feet, “tasselled ears,” and “silver-suited breast.” In a similar way that the gilding of Friendship’s Forget-Me-Not can indicate the quality of a friendship, Flush’s beauty serves to demonstrate the quality of Browning’s relationship with Mitford and, in turn, to enhance Browning’s relationship with Flush. Although linking friendship with consumerism in this way might seem problematic, in “To Flush” at least Browning affirms that love, not appearance, is the primary thing.

While Mary Russell Mitford and Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote dog literature for adults (albeit “light” literature), the majority of animal writing throughout the 1800s is written for children. The “Puppy Love” exhibit highlights several examples of animal writing in children’s literature. The following two collections (which appear in the exhibit) focus exclusively on animal stories and target an audience of children rather than adults. But as with the ornate collector’s books written for adults, publishers marketed these colorfully illustrated and gilded books in the hope of inducing rich parents to buy.

 

Aunt Louisa’s Choice Present: Comprising Famous Horses, Noted Horses, Famous Dogs, Noted Dogs (or Horses & Dogs). Illustrated by John Frederick Herring, Sr., and Sir Edwin Landseer. Twenty-Four Pictures Printed in Colours by J. Butterfield. London: Frederick Warne and Co., 1876.

This decorative collection presents 24 color pictures of horses and dogs, printed by J. Butterfield from illustrations by Herring and Landseer, who were prominent animal painters of the Victorian period. Although as the preface notes, these paintings were not originally intended to be paired with text, the accompanying narratives comment on society through the stories of these animals, with the intent of making these images interesting and educational for children. The displayed story questions whether the “high life” of a lady’s pet is the life this dog would choose.

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Mary Louisa Molesworth’s Lucky Ducks and Other Stories. Illustrated by W. J. Morgan. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1891.

Book's front board is blue with title in gilt and author's name in red. There is an illustrattion of a young woman feeding several ducks in a field.

Molesworth’s Lucky Ducks and Other Stories. 1891.

Mary Louisa Molesworth’s story of the pampered, naughty dog Dandy parallels the story of Fido in Horses and Dogs: a lady’s dog must live in confined circumstances when he would like to run in the countryside and chase geese. Though Molesworth invites children to notice how pets’ desires and emotions might differ from their owners’, she characterizes Dandy’s actions as naughtiness rather than natural canine behavior. She does not acknowledge that perhaps Dandy’s “lapdog existence” is not best for him, and thus tacitly affirms the upper-class treatment of lapdogs. Although Molesworth herself was born into middle-class circumstances, she tended to write about upper-class concerns (Avery). For a generation of middle- and upper-class children, Molesworth’s animal stories reinforced popular assumptions about status, class differences, and the treatment of animals.

 

Works Cited

Aunt Louisa’s Choice Present: Comprising Famous Horses, Noted Horses, Famous Dogs, Noted Dogs (or Horses & Dogs). Illustrated by John Frederick Herring, Sr., and Sir Edwin Landseer. Twenty-Four Pictures Printed in Colours by J. Butterfield. London: Frederick Warne and Co., 1876.

Avery, Gillian. “Molesworth [née Stewart], Mary Louisa (1839–1921), Novelist and Children’s Writer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-37776

Findens’ Tableaux: A Series of Picturesque Scenes of National Character, Beauty, and Costume. Edited by Mary Russell Mitford. Engraved by William and Edward Finden. 1838.

Friendship’s Forget-Me-Not. London: Thomas Nelson, 1849.

Molesworth, Mary Louisa. Lucky Ducks and Other Stories. Illustrated by W. J. Morgan. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1891.

The Poetic Album: Containing the Poems of Alfred Tennyson, Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Alexander Smith. Philadelphia: Willis P. Hazard, 1854.

Taneja, Payal. “Gift-Giving and Domesticating the Upper-Class Pooch in Flush.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, vol. 49, no. 1, 2016, pp. 129-144.

 

Read more in this series of blog posts about the exhibit “‘Puppy Love’: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships“: