It’s Okay to Talk to Strangers: 2023 Benefactors Day Lecture by Dr. Kristen Pond

by Anna Clark, Master’s Student in History and Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

Every fall semester, the Armstrong Browning Library hosts a guest lecturer to celebrate Benefactors Day. The annual event, held this year on October 20th in the Hankamer Treasure Room, recognizes our benefactors who support the Armstrong Browning Library in its mission to educate and share with visitors the lives and works of the Brownings and their Victorian contemporaries. We would like to extend our gratitude to the Guardian Angel Fund who made this year’s celebration possible.

On this Benefactors Day, Library Director Jennifer Borderud highlighted the generosity of the Brown Foundation, which sponsors the Armstrong Browning Library’s Margarett Root Brown Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies at Baylor University. Established in 1970, the Brown Foundation funds the current scholar-in-residence’s research and public scholarship.

This year’s lecturer was Dr. Kristen Pond, our newly selected Margarett Root Brown Chair, who gave a presentation titled It’s Okay to Talk to Strangers: Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë on Enchanting Encounters.” Her lecture was her inaugural address after being named the seventh Browning Chair this fall, and Dr. Pond will continue to collaborate with the ABL in the years to come as our in-house scholar on all things Browning and Victorian.

In her talk, Dr. Pond explored the ways we experience both wonder and enchantment in our lives and how encounters with strangers are often linked to these feelings of wonder and enchantment. Her address draws from her research on the importance of space and the figure of the stranger in Victorian literature.

Dr. Kristen Pond, the new Margarett Root Brown Chair of Robert Browning and Victorian Studies at Baylor University

In addition to serving as our new Margarett Root Brown Chair, Dr. Pond is also an Associate Professor in the Baylor English Department, the Interim First-Year Writing Director, and an Affiliate Faculty Member of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department. She teaches courses on 18th and 19th century British literature, and her research largely focuses on the 19th century novel, its development, and the rhetoric and ethics of sympathy. Her new book, Strangers and the Enchantment of Space in Victorian Fiction, 1830-1865, was just released this October and delves further into the themes she discussed in her Benefactors Day lecture.

Wonder and Enchantment

Dr. Pond opened her lecture with a question to the audience, asking them to think about the last time they were filled with wonder. As attendees reflected on this question, Pond showed pictures of her hikes in the mountains of North Carolina and special moments spent with her children. The sense of wonder, Pond suggested, not only comes from a feeling of awe but also some sort of disruption, something outside the ordinary events of daily life. She posited the idea that to wonder at something is to not have an immediate answer or explanation for the thing you are wondering about and to be surprised or astonished by it.

Pond then explained that Victorian authors often thought and wrote about this feeling of wonder in their works, but they often used the word “enchantment” instead. As Pond described, to be enchanted by something is to be charmed, delighted, enraptured, or even spellbound by it. Pond suggested that we often use the word “wonder” in modern language because we all have access to wonder, whereas the word “enchantment” has a magical and mysterious connotation to it. To clarify further the differences between the two words, Pond explained that wonder is often depicted as a good emotion, but enchantment can be either good or bad. Later in her lecture, Pond explored the negative side of enchantment through the character of Jane Eyre.

Personally, I am filled with a sense of wonder whenever I look down at the Foyer of Meditation from the 3rd floor balcony.

Victorians and Strangers

Pond described how Victorians lived in an age of incredible scientific discovery and technological advancement, and new modes of transport, such as the train, offered more opportunities to explore the world beyond their familiar scenes of close friends and neighbors. Their growing mobility as a culture meant more encounters with strangers.

Strangers, in particular, evoked both fear and delight in the hearts of Victorians. This double-edged emotion of fear and delight, as Pond explicated, is part of this feeling of enchantment. For the Victorian traveler, the figure of the unknown stranger offered endless possibilities beyond their own realm of experience and knowledge. Handbooks on proper railway etiquette and how to interact with other passengers were popular among Victorians.

This Victorian fascination with strangers is also seen in their fiction, as authors often examined this tension between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Pond explained that this tension is a space for wonder and enchantment. The railway as a space appealed to the romanticized idea of the journey and encountering others on their own personal journeys. Charles Dickens, in particular, was fascinated by the possibility of an encounter with an unknown stranger and explored this enchantment in both his personal life and literature.

Image of a Victorian-era train taken from the UK National Archives

Charles Dickens and the Railway as a Space of Enchantment in Mugby Junction

In June 1865, Charles Dickens rode the South Eastern Railway Folkestone to London boat train, and the train derailed while crossing a viaduct, plunging from the bridge into the riverbed below. The crash resulted in the deaths of ten passengers and the injuries of another forty. Dickens and his companions were unharmed, but the traumatic experience had a profound effect on Dickens. Some of the passengers died while he tended to them, and he had to crawl back into the carcass of the train to retrieve his papers for the last installment of Our Mutual Friend. For the rest of his life, Dickens was extremely wary of railway travel and sought alternative means of transportation whenever feasible.

Engraving of the 1865 Staplehurst Rail Crash from the Illustrated London News

Despite his fear of trains, Dickens was fascinated by the railway and wrote Mugby Junction, a collection of short stories all centered around the railway as a space of enchanting encounters. In her lecture, Pond focused on two of these stories, “Barbox Brothers” and “Barbox Brothers & Co.” The character of Jackson in these two stories undergoes transformative experiences at the Mugby Junction station because of his encounters with strangers.

In “Barbox Brothers,” Jackson is first described as a solitary and unhappy man, but his encounter with Phoebe opens his eyes to the magic of the railway and the enchanting possibilities it offers. Phoebe is a sick and bedridden young woman, but unlike her body, her mind is active. As she listens to the constant activity at the station from her window, she envisions exciting journeys to exotic places and lands that she has only encountered in her imagination. The junction as a space connects Phoebe to things and places she will never see. Thanks to Phoebe, Jackson learns to appreciate the railway as a space of enchantment and begins to take an interest in the people around him. He starts to see the world through Phoebe’s eyes and to view the railway as an imagined community, connected through shared journeys. He promises to observe the people at the seven railway lines that intersect at the junction and to visit Phoebe again, so he can describe them to her and make her imagined stories a reality.

Dickens’ second installment in the Mugby Junction series, “Barbox Brothers & Co,” again follows Jackson as he meets another enchanting and imaginative girl. Polly, whom Jackson encounters in a town at the end of the seventh railway line, asks him to tell her a story. At first, Jackson tells her that he does not have any stories to tell her, and she admonishes him. Then Polly spins a tale about a fairy, and Jackson’s imagination is opened to other perspectives of the world. He gets over his initial awkwardness with the little girl and continues her story about the fairy. In doing so, Jackson begins to deviate from his self-centeredness and to consider other people’s happiness. Polly turns out to be the daughter of the woman he once loved, and his kindness towards Polly changes her mother’s view of him. In the end, Jackson settles down in Mugby Junction and spends the rest of his days doting both on Phoebe and Polly.

Ultimately, Dickens’ two stories, Pond argued, are about human relationships. Through the characters of Jackson, Phoebe, and Polly, Dickens portrays the railway as a space of enchantment, where encounters with strangers could expand the imagination and foster meaningful connections with others. Jackson is utterly transformed by his encounters with Phoebe and Polly into a much happier and personable man.

In her lecture, Pond recognized the ABL’s possession of the Every Saturday journal in our collections, this copy having installments of Dickens’ Mugby Junction.

Charlotte Brontë and Becoming a Stranger in Jane Eyre

Pond then shifted her attention to another famous Victorian author: Charlotte Brontë. In her novel, Jane Eyre, Brontë shows us that it’s okay to be a stranger too. In addition to the importance of talking to strangers, Pond stressed the reality that we may sometimes be the stranger ourselves. Brontë’s titular character Jane chooses to become a stranger again and again throughout the novel.

Pond asked the audience to reimagine the novel as a journey that follows Jane from Gateshead Hall, the family home of her unkind aunt and cousins, the Reeds; Lowood School, where she receives an education and loses her only friend Helen Burns; Thornfield Hall, where she becomes a governess for Adele and falls in love with Mr. Rochester; Moor House, a place of refuge after her flight from Thornfield upon learning the existence of Bertha Mason Rochester and the home of St. John Rivers and his two sisters; and finally to Ferndean Manor, the secluded house where Jane seeks out Mr. Rochester to rekindle their relationship after Bertha burns down Thornfield. Every time Jane leaves one of these places, she becomes a stranger again, but she does so to preserve something inside her that is fundamental to who she is as a person.

The first time Jane becomes a stranger, taken from one of the ABL’s editions of Jane Eyre which features Monro S. Orr’s illustrations

Pond argued that Jane continually adopts the identity of a stranger to protect herself, and she used the example of Jane’s surprise at Mr. Rochester’s calling her “Jane Rochester” when they are first engaged to demonstrate the self-protective nature of the novel’s protagonist. Jane expresses reluctance to giving up her name, and Brontë describes her heroine having both a nervous fear and a sense of wonder at the prospect of becoming Mr. Rochester’s wife. Pond explained Jane’s conflicting feelings in this moment as a sort of a negative enchantment; Jane is delighted at Mr. Rochester’s proposal of marriage because she loves him, but she is fearful of becoming a stranger to herself. She instead becomes a stranger to him by leaving Thornfield and casting herself at the mercy of strangers, particularly the Rivers family. Jane refuses to become Mr. Rochester’s mistress or to falsely present herself as his wife.

Despite Jane adopting the identity of a stranger in her flight from Thornfield Hall, Jane keeps true to who she is and only trusts us, the readers, with this hidden secret of her true identity. Pond referenced the famous line, “Reader, I married him,” to demonstrate that Jane does not want to be a stranger to herself or us. She continually breaks the fourth wall throughout the story and addresses the reader affectionately as if we were a close friend or confidant. She reveals her feelings to us as both Mr. Rochester and St. John Rivers try to fit her into plans that do not align with her understanding of who she is or her vision for her life.

The only time in the novel that Brontë distances us from Jane is when Jane asks the innkeeper about the recent events at Thornfield Hall after she returns to find it a desolated ruin. Jane does not reveal her identity to the innkeeper as he weaves his tale of Mr. Rochester being bewitched by a governess, not knowing the woman in question is Jane. He tells Jane that the governess had entrapped Mr. Rochester with her charms and that would have been better for Mr. Rochester if that woman had been sunk in the sea before she ever came to Thornfield Hall. Through this harsh appraisal of Jane’s character and intentions, the audience feels a gulf between us and who we know Jane to be.

Jane and Mr. Rochester in the forest near Ferndean, another of Monro S. Orr’s illustrations

Brontë’s use of space is particularly important in the scene in which Jane searches for Mr. Rochester’s remote manor home, Ferndean. She describes Jane feeling lost in the forest and struggling to find the entrance to the secluded house. The physical deterioration of the house itself invokes the 19th century literary device of connecting the inner spiritual state of the landowner to the outer physical state of his home. The fact that Mr. Rochester is at Ferndean, in the first place, forces us to confront the uncomfortable reality that his wife Bertha burned down Thornfield Hall, partly out of anger at him for conspiring to marry another woman. Pond explained that Brontë’s employment of space in this chapter reminds us to consider other perspectives.

For Pond, one of the biggest lessons from Jane Eyre is the importance of being challenged on our views of the world, especially of other people. When the innkeeper recounts his version of the events that occurred at Thornfield Hall, we are forced as an audience to consider other perspectives of Jane’s narrative. The local community has reached a verdict on who they think Jane Eyre is, and Jane presents a version that differs from the villagers’ perception of her throughout the rest of the story. However, Jane’s choosing to become a stranger again and again requires the audience to reconsider what we know of Jane’s identity as she continually seeks change. She does not allow us to remain familiar with who she is, but rather, she constantly reveals new facets of her identity. By slowly revealing the hidden depths and the strength of her character, Jane enchants us, the readers.

It’s Okay to Talk to Strangers

To conclude her lecture, Pond encouraged the audience to take inspiration from Dickens and Brontë and seek these enchanting encounters with strangers. Like the Victorians, we may be fearful of an encounter with a person we do not know, but there are infinite possibilities in every stranger one encounters. In these spaces of disruption from our ordinary behavior and actions, we have an opportunity to encounter the extraordinary. We may be opened to a new perspective, a new way of looking at the world, that we otherwise may have never possessed if we did not garner up the courage to say hello. As Dr. Pond reminds us, it’s okay to talk to strangers, and it may even be wonderful.

Browning Day 2023, “Translated into Song: Robert Browning and a Picture at Fano”

by Anna Clark, Master’s Student in History and Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

Every spring, the Armstrong Browning Library hosts a guest lecturer for its annual Browning Day which commemorates the legacy of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This year’s lecture was given by Dr. Kevin A. Morrison in the Hankamer Treasure Room on April 27th.

This year’s Browning Day lecture, “Translated into Song: Robert Browning and A Picture at Fano,” explored the connections between sensory and perceptual experience of material culture and the written word. Dr. Kevin Morrison’s presentation was based on Robert Browning’s 1855 poem, “The Guardian Angel: A Picture at Fano.” This poem was the first that Robert Browning wrote after his marriage to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and their relocation to Italy. The poem’s inspiration came to Browning after traveling to the small town of Fano, Italy, located on the Adriatic coast. While he was in Fano with Elizabeth, they entered a chapel where a painting entitled L’angelo Custode (The Guardian Angel) by the Italian Baroque painter Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (known as Guercino) was on display.

We were at Fano, and three times we went
To sit and see him in his chapel there,
And drink his beauty to our soul’s content
—My angel with me too: and since I care
For dear Guercino’s fame (to which in power
And glory comes this picture for a dower,
Fraught with a pathos so magnificent)—

And since he did not work thus earnestly
At all times, and has else endured some wrong—
I took one thought his picture struck from me,
And spread it out, translating it to song.

-Excerpt from Robert Browning’s “The Guardian Angel: A Picture at Fano”

Kevin A. Morrison, Professor of British Literature at Henan University and ABL Visiting Scholar

Morrison is a Professor of British Literature at Henan University in Kaifeng, China, and a Visiting Scholar of the Armstrong Browning Library. His latest book, Victorian Liberalism and Material Culture: Synergies of Thought and Place, was published by the Edinburgh University Press in 2018 and won the 2020 MLA Prize for Independent Scholars. Morrison’s book explores the links between Victorian material culture and liberal political theory through the study of four Victorian writers, including Robert Browning. Morrison is also a founder and the current president of the Society for Global Nineteenth-Century Studies as well as the editor of the society’s journal. His newest book, The Provincial Fiction of Mitford, Gaskell, and Eliot, is set to release this fall. 

In his lecture, Morrison explained how this poem, one of Browning’s least studied, marked a shift in the poet’s literary approach. Morrison detailed the history of the poem, the significance it held to Browning, and how Browning refined his sensory alertness to and perceptual engagement with historical materiality. The poem is largely a story of the relationship between person and object: a story of Browning and his relationship with a painting he viewed in a small church in Fano, Italy. For Browning, this particular painting struck a chord with him, and he was encouraged by Elizabeth to translate his visual and emotive experience into “song.” What Browning is doing in “The Guardian Angel” poem is translating his ideahis experienceof the painting into a poetic and auditory medium.

Morrison described how for the poet, the painting spoke to his soul before it generated any thought. In the poem, Browning attempts to convey to the reader this spiritual encounter with the painting that occurred apart from rational contemplation of it. Morrison further explained how the poem does not simply give a description of the painting; if the poem were just reduced to an artistic description of what it is physically depicted on the canvas, then it would still remain Guercino’s artistic expression. What is innovative here is Browning’s own personal engagement with the painting. In the poem, Browning captures his deep desire to re-engage in a religious appreciation of beauty through his experience of sitting in front of the painting and his prayerful contemplation of it. In this way, Browning’s pedagogical activity is different than his peers and even his earlier works of poetry.

Dear and great Angel, wouldst thou only leave
That child, when thou hast done with him, for me!
Let me sit all the day here, that when eve
Shall find performed thy special ministry,
And time come for departure, thou, suspending
Thy flight, mayst see another child for tending,
Another still, to quiet and retrieve.

-Excerpt from Robert Browning’s “The Guardian Angel: A Picture at Fano”

The ABL’s copy of the Guardian Angel painting hanging in the Leddy-Jones Research Hall. Guercino’s painting depicts a child perched on a tomb whose hands are clasped by those of his or her guardian angel. The pair appear to be in prayer, looking up to the heavens where three cherubs peer down.

In the audience, members of a Baylor Lifelong Learning Class held at the ABL were present as well as Baylor faculty and students and members of the general public. The lecture was the culmination of three weeks of study for members of the Lifelong Learning Class who met at the ABL weekly to discuss and study the works and lives of the Brownings using library materials.

In her opening remarks, library director Jennifer Borderud highlighted the Guardian Angels, a group of library patrons who help support the ABL’s ability to provide free public admission, expand its material collections, and make possible events such as the annual Browning Day lecture. If you are interested in donating a gift to the Guardian Angel Fund to support the ongoing development of our unique collection of materials dedicated to the Brownings and their Victorian contemporaries as well as the hosting of Browning Day and other public programs, the Armstrong Browning Library thanks you for your generosity.

Additionally, if you are interested in experiencing the moving pathos of Guercino’s The Guardian Angel painting yourself, we encourage you to travel to Fano, Italy, and to send a postcard to the ABL. Once we receive the news that you have visited the painting in Fano, you will become a lifelong member of the exclusive Fano Club, which meets at the library every year around Robert Browning’s birthday (May 7th).

The Armstrong Browning Library would like to express its sincerest gratitude to Dr. Kevin A. Morrison for this year’s lecture and his ongoing collaboration with us to promote the study of the works and lives of poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. To learn more about Dr. Morrison’s previous visits to the library and his archival research at the ABL, the following link is provided: Reflections from a Visiting Scholar: Archival Expectations and Unexpected Surprises | Armstrong Browning Library & Museum (


Heartiest Christmas Wishes

from your friends at the Armstrong Browning Library.

The image on the front of the Armstrong Browning Library's 2022 Christmas card.

Jean-Arnould Heyermans’ oil painting of Pen Browning painting while seated between a cobbler and his daughter. H0011, Brownings’ Works of Art & Effects.

The Armstrong Browning Library recently acquired three oil painting by Robert Wiedeman Barrett (Pen) Browning (1849-1912), son of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and an oil painting by Pen’s teacher, Belgian artist Jean-Arnould Heyermans (1837-1892). The front of the ABL’s Christmas card features the Heyermans painting, which depicts a cobbler and his daughter with an artist seated between – the artist is Pen Browning. Robert Browning often stated his gratitude to Heyermans for instructing his son: “I cannot let it go without expressing once again my deepest thanks to you for all you have done for my boy. I consider it one of the most extraordinary pieces of good fortune which have ever befallen me that he came under your notice, — convinced as I am that no master in the world would have done so much for him.” The Armstrong Browning Library is grateful to the generous donors who made the acquisition of these paintings possible.

The Armstrong Browning Library will be closed from December 23rd, 2022 through January 2nd, 2023. We hope to see you in the new year!


Benefactors Day: “Harriet Martineau, Spirit of the Victorian Age”

By Carolina Criscione, Assistant to the Curators

On November 17th, The Armstrong Browning Library had the distinct privilege to learn about a fascinating historical figure in the lecture “Harriet Martineau, Spirit of the Victorian Age” from the distinguished Dr. Deborah A. Logan, this year’s speaker for Benefactors Day. Benefactors Day is a yearly celebration of our wonderful community of supporters that ensures the future of the Armstrong Browning Library’s scholarship and programming work. A professor emerita of Victorian Literature at Western Kentucky University, Dr. Logan captured this year’s audience by shedding light on the life and works of the Victorian author, economist, journalist, sociologist, and Browning correspondent, Harriet Martineau.

Dr. Logan’s lecture

It is safe to say that if Martineau had a LinkedIn profile back in the day, her accomplishments, publications, and skills sections would run about a mile long. As a self-supported woman, who was also deaf and battled long bouts of illness, Martineau refused to be contained by the typical societal constraints placed on Victorian women. She was a widely celebrated and respected writer in her day and offered progressive ideas to Victorian society about the world around her. Martineau wrote about topics ranging from the global anti-slavery movement, religion, health, farming, and the economy (to mention just a few). Her book Illustrations of Political Economy (1832) was an instant success, even though Martineau’s literary and intellectual fame came with its fair share of detractors and challenges. In this lecture, Dr. Logan emphasized Martineau’s commitment to exploring the relationship between one’s principles and practices. Dr. Logan offered insight into Martineau’s life based on her extensive research into the author’s personal correspondence and on her own exploration of the geographic world Martineau inhabited (Dr. Logan once stayed the night in Martineau’s room!). The afternoon’s lecture finished with a Q&A session, which was then followed by lively discussion during a reception in the Cox Reception Hall. For those interested in learning more about Harriet Martineau, we have included a recording of Dr. Logan’s lecture here:



Floral arrangement and Martineau biography

Also accompanying the special event was the official debut of several items related to Harriet Martineau, donated to the ABL by Dr. Logan herself! Dr. Logan’s gift includes over 100 volumes of literary works by Martineau, as well as scholarly critiques, all of which are now available at the library for research. The ABL invites you to visit the Hankamer Treasure Room to view the temporary display, curated by graduate assistant Anna Clark, highlighting the recent acquisition. You can also learn more about the collection here .The Martineau display will be available through 1 March 2023.

Reception Table – Photograph by Lexie Renee Photography

We look forward to the future scholarship and learning this collection will facilitate, especially in bringing female historians like Martineau back into the narratives of history. We are very grateful for Dr. Logan’s support for the Armstrong Browning Library’s mission and are thankful for all ABL benefactors who make our research, collection expansion, and programming possible. We look forward to seeing you at next year’s Benefactor Day!

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.

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!

Browning Scholar Enjoys Long-Awaited Research Visit

A photo of Marta Gimenez Orti outside of the Armstrong Browning Library & Museum

Marta Gimenez Orti

In late 2019, Marta Gimenez Orti, a doctoral student from Spain, received a scholarship from Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The award enabled her to conduct dissertation research for a semester at Armstrong Browning Library & Museum at Baylor University, which is the international center for research on the lives and works of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. However, as she began to make travel plans it soon became clear her Baylor visit would be delayed due to COVID-19.

Orti completed her undergraduate degree and two masters degrees in education and translation in Spain. However, she decided to pursue a Ph.D in literature. Her love of literature and Italian drew her to the works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

When Orti found out she was awarded the scholarship, she was excited because she was working full-time as a high school teacher while trying to complete work on her Ph.D. The research leave would enable her to focus on her dissertation research and complete her degree.

“I had to wait for two years. I had to keep on working which was hard for me, and I also had to do a lot more paperwork to come here,” said Orti. “I had to go to the embassy to do my visa and I had to do a lot of COVID-19 tests.”

Orti’s research asks why Elizabeth Barrett Browning is not as highly recognized as other English writers from the Victorian era.

“She [Elizabeth Barrett Browning] was like the Shakespeare of women, and she influenced a lot of writers such as Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe. However, today they are much more popular than her and few study her. I want to know why she is not well-known anymore, even though she is a pioneer among English authors.”

Reductions in COVID travel restrictions enabled Orti to make her journey to Baylor in August. Now that she is at the Armstrong Browning Library she enjoys the atmosphere around campus.

“I am happy that Marta was finally able to join us, and I look forward to learning what her research reveals about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s reputation and reception in Italy,” said Director of Armstrong Browning Library Jennifer Borderud. “I am also happy that Marta has been able to experience campus life at Baylor and explore Waco and Texas.”

One of the biggest differences between Baylor and her school in Madrid is the amount of help that Orti has received at Armstrong Browning Library.

Coming to a place like Armstrong Browning Library allows Orti to have resources all in one building, where in Spain, she described having to go to different cities to find certain resources. She is also appreciative of the staff that accompanies her at Armstrong Browning Library as they have greatly helped her adjust to life in the United States.

“I thought that adjusting to life in the United States would be harder, but it’s not. Christi and Jennifer at the Armstrong Browning Library are helping me a lot. They even looked for an apartment for me here,” said Orti. “I have also met some people here at the library and I have been spending time with them, so I thought that it would be harder but I am very good here actually.”

Since coming to the United States, Orti is also pleasantly surprised at the amount of student activities that Baylor offers compared to universities in Spain.

“It is so different from Europe. Here you have a lot of activities for students and organizations and I have a lot of opportunities to go out, so that’s something new for me as a student and I really love it.”

Orti plans on completing and defending her dissertation in January and would love to remain at Baylor for a little longer as a professor of language or literature.

Female Poets at Baylor: Fiona Sampson and EBB


This gallery contains 5 photos.

By Katrina L. Gallegos, M.A. Candidate Museum Studies Graduate Assistant Armstrong Browning Library and Museum Last month the Armstrong Browning Library and Museum in partnership with the Beall Poetry Festival hosted distinguished English poet Fiona Sampson. Over the course of … Continue reading

Kress Collection Digitally Reunited

By Madeleine L. Svehla, MDiv, George W. Truett Theological Seminary

The launch of the Kress Collection’s Digital Archive continues Samuel H. Kress’ vision of making his 13th-19th century European art collection permanently available to the public. The beauty and magnitude of his collection of over 3000 pieces of art is now digitally reunited and can be accessed here: The famous Kress Collection which is known as the premier collection of European art from the 13th to 19th century was distributed all over the United States to various museums, universities, and galleries in what the February 1962 edition of Life called the “Great Kress Giveaway.”

One of the Kress Collection's paintings on display at the Armstrong Browning Library

Francesco Zuccarelli’s “Landscape with Bridge” (1720) was acquired by the Kress Foundation in 1950 and is on display in the Armstrong Browning Library.

Building & Distributing the Kress Collection

The Kress Collection had its beginnings in the 1920s but the story behind the collection begins earlier. This is a story that involves hard work, brotherhood, and legacy. This legacy has been grown like a tree sheltered during its sapling state by the efforts of a younger brother committed to carrying out his older brothers’ vision. This vision could never have been developed without the perseverance shown by Samuel H. Kress in developing his entrepreneurship and building his company from the ground up. This is his story.

Christ the Man of Sorrows 1540 is by Giampietrino an Italian painter. It was acquired by the Kress collection in 1939.

Samuel H. Kress (1863-1955) was born during the Civil War and named after an uncle who recently died in the Battle of Gettysburg. He was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse while he saved up to purchase a Stationery and Notions Shop and eventually a Wholesalers. He opened his first 5 and 10 Cent Store in Memphis, TN in 1896. These stores became wildly popular and new locations opened across the United States. Through the success of these stores, Samuel Kress became one of the wealthiest men in America.

Italian art was not readily available in America in the 1920s when S. Kress through a suggestion by a friend began to be interested in collecting Italian art. He worked with Contini- Bonacossi to build his collection. He came to view it as his duty to share the masterpieces he had discovered. As the collection expanded, the Kress Foundation was founded to take care of the growing needs of the collection. The Kress Foundation was the most active buyer of European Art throughout WWII. Parts of the Collection were selected to tour the country and these local exhibitions were extremely popular. The Foundation decided that—rather than building a museum or gallery for the entire collection to be put on display— they would partner with museums, galleries, and universities around the US to display portions of the collection.

The Holy Family with the Infant St. John 1600 by Flaminio Allegrini. It was acquired by the Kress Collection in 1950.

In 1946, Samuel began to suffer from ill health and his brother Rush H. Kress (1877-1963) took over the foundations’ collection efforts. Under Rush’s guidance, the collection continued to expand and be displayed across the US. This collection has been preserved and remains cared for by those working for the Kress Collection and the institutions housing it. These men and women are continuing the work begun by the Kress brothers.

Kress Collection Donates 5 Paintings to Baylor University

The oldest and most valuable of these paintings is the Madonna and Child 1310. This painting is thought to be painted by a Pietro Lorenzetti follower. It was acquired by the Kress collection in 1939.

In 1961, the Kress Foundation generously donated five paintings to Baylor University that are housed in the Armstrong Browning Museum and Library. These paintings have been on permanent display in the Treasure Room for almost 60 years. Professors and students have been enriched by the ability to work with these paintings. For instance, Heidi Hornik Ph.D. (a professor of Art and Art History at BU) took her upper-division seminar class to the ABL and the students were able to examine the 14th century Madonna and Child in detail. To read more about Dr. Hornik’s work both in and out of the classroom, please visit:

Four of these paintings depict Biblical characters from Jesus’ life, such as Mary and John the Baptist. The final piece is a landscape. Each piece is a beautiful example of Italian art from the 14-18th centuries.

The Christ figure above the Madonna and Child is holding his hand in a distinctive way that has theological significance. The two fingers held up and slightly apart represent the human and divine natures of the person of Christ. The fourth and fifth fingers meeting the thumb represents the three in one mystery of the Trinity. He is also robed in blue and red which represent his divinity and humanity respectively.

Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and 3 Angels 1560 This painting is thought to be painted by an Andrea del Sarto follower. It was acquired by the Kress collection in 1950.

Robert Browning wrote the poem The Faultless Painter about Andrea del Sarto in 1855. Sarto is known for his meticulous attention to detail. Browning was inspired by one of his paintings and after researching the artist’s life wrote a poem that explores Andrea’s tragic love story with his wife. Though the Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and 3 Angels is thought to be painted by a follower of Andrea del Sarto, it provides viewers with an idea of what Sarto’s meticulous style is like.

Leaving a legacy is like planting a tree. The one who plants it may never see it grow to full size. However, future generations are blessed by basking in the coolness of its shade and it leaves a lasting mark on the landscape. None of us can ever truly know the long-lasting impact our dreams will have or how the ways that we invest in the future may one day come to fruition. Samuel H. Kress’ vision of making his collection as accessible to the public as possible is now being accomplished in ways never dreamed of during his lifetime. Yet, his legacy lives on in the splendor of this shared collection.

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Mayor of Fano, Italy Surprises Armstrong Browning Library Fano Club

Massimo Seri, mayor of Fano, Italy, was a surprise guest at this year’s annual meeting of the Armstrong Browning Library’s Fano Club on Saturday, May 15. Seri joined the virtual meeting from the Museo Archeologico e Pinacoteca del Palazzo Malatestiano in Fano which houses Guercino’s painting, The Guardian Angel, that inspired Robert Browning’s poem, “The Guardian Angel — A Picture at Fano.”

Situated in front of Guercino’s masterpiece, the mayor celebrated the long-standing relationship between the city of Fano, the Fano Club, and the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University. “I would like to be able to strengthen the bond between our city and your club, maintaining a constant and continuous relationship and, if possible, also trying to organize joint initiatives aimed at enhancing our artistic heritage with the hope of seeing one another again soon.” He also offered the possibility of hosting a meeting of the Fano Club in Italy in 2022 and visiting Waco and the Armstrong Browning Library in the near future.

Mayor Massimo Seri

Screenshot of Massimo Seri, Mayor of Fano, Italy, addressing the Fano Club on Zoom on May 15, 2021

Armstrong Browning Library Director Jennifer Borderud appreciated the mayor making himself available to speak to Fano Club members. “The Fano Club was thrilled to hear from Mayor Seri at this year’s meeting. I am grateful to him for his kindness and for taking the time to talk with us about the history of Fano, its artistic and cultural heritage, and the unique connection our two cities share. I look forward to finding new ways to collaborate with the city of Fano and to encouraging Baylor students and Browning enthusiasts to visit.”

The Fano Club was established in 1912 by William Lyon Phelps, a Browning scholar at Yale, and later passed to Baylor professor A.J. Armstrong in 1943. Its membership shares Robert Browning’s experience of traveling to Fano, Italy, on the Adriatic coast and seeing Guercino’s Guardian Angel. Postcards mailed from Fano to the Armstrong Browning Library establish membership in the club, which gathers annually in Waco, Texas, for a dinner to share their experiences of Fano and to hear Browning’s poem read aloud. The Armstrong Browning Library houses a copy of Guercino’s Guardian Angel as well as a stained-glass rendering of this work of art created in 1924.