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.
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 This copy contains extensive manuscript annotations and additions by Jones including poem corrections, unpublished poems, and a letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Richard Herne Shepherd.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.
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.
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.
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.
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