Making Connections: Literary Networks in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

In fall 2016, students in Dr. Kristen Pond’s upper-level English course, “Literary Networks in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,” explored the relationships between writers of the Romantic, Victorian, and Modernist Periods and the influences they had on each other’s works. “Authors did not, in fact, work alone,” Dr. Pond argued, “but often collaborated, either directly by each person contributing something to the final piece or indirectly through the influence of conversations, interactions, or from reading one another’s works.” Utilizing the letters, manuscripts, rare books, and other collection materials at the Armstrong Browning Library, the students ended their semester by curating an exhibition that uncovered connections between one particular literary figure and Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning—the centers of the literary network for the course—or another significant literary figure.

The exhibition Making Connections: Literary Networks in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries is on display in the Hankamer Treasure Room, Armstrong Browning Library, until April 21, 2017.

The Armstrong Browning Library would like to thank Dr. Kristen Pond and the students who made this exhibition possible:

Marcus Appleyard, Rebecca Causey, Victoria Corley, Annie Dang, Taylor Ferguson, Casey Froehlich, Madelynn Lee, Mollie Mallory, Anne McCausland, Emily Ober, Shannon Ristedt, Chris Solis, Alexander Stough, Alex Ueckert, Baylee Versteeg, and Jonathan White.

Seeing Many Beautiful Things: Ruskin’s Letters About Art

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, an active art patron, an accomplished draftsman, and a gifted water-colorist and painter. Several of the letters owned by the Armstrong Browning Library mention topics related to art.


Letter from John Ruskin to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. [1855]

In this brief note to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, [1855], Ruskin says: “I like my picture[s] & mightily—but want you to order the frame and try any experiment you like on it thoroughly.” It is not possible to clearly determine which picture or pictures Ruskin is talking about. He bought several paintings from Rossetti and from Elizabeth Siddal, Rossetti’s wife.



Letter from John Ruskin to Alfred Harris. 6 May [1864]. Page 1.


Letter from John Ruskin to Alfred Harris. 6 May [1864]. Page 2 and 3.


Letter from John Ruskin to Alfred Harris. 6 May [1864]. Page 4.

In this letter to Alfred Harris, Ruskin recounts a humorous conversation he had overheard  about himself while riding in a carriage. In the conversation Ruskin was described as “cracked,” and it was conjectured that “All them genius’s have something wrong about them you know.”  Ruskin then tells Harris that he  has “been looking for the pretty Princess portrait I told Miss Ella of” with “the blue eyes.” He said he had purchased it and sent it to Mr. Harris for Ella, possibly, his daughter.



Letter from John Ruskin to Albert Goodwin. [ca. 1870]. Page 1.


Letter from John Ruskin to Albert Goodwin. [ca. 1870]. Page 2.

In this letter Ruskin critiques Goodwin’s painting, offers to buy it at a reduced price, and asks for it to be loaned to him for a lecture. Goodwin was a close friend and protégé of Ruskin. Although he describes the painting as beautiful, Ruskin critiques Goodwin’s perspective on his drawing of pots, his “blundered dog,” “slurred arabesques,” and “lost curls of ample hair” in the painting. Although the painting is not named, the descriptive clues suggest a possible identification.



Letter from John Ruskin to Sidney Colvin. 19 March 1873. Page 1.


Letter from John Ruskin to Sidney Colvin. 19 March 1873. Page 2.

Sidney Colvin, a scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, became a fellow of his college in 1868. In 1873, when this letter was written, he was Slade Professor of Fine Art, and was appointed to the directorship of the Fitzwilliam Museum the following year. Ruskin himself was appointed the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University in August 1869, and continued to teach at Oxford until 1879. He taught there again from 1883-1884. In this letter Ruskin tells Colvin that “that book of drawing will be left for some days yet in Mr. Reid’s charge—and I have asked him to let you look over it at your leisure, whenever you wish.” George William Reid was curator of the Print Room in the British Museum.



Letter from John Ruskin to Sidney Miles. 24 September 1879.

In this faded letter Ruskin informs Miles that his engagements prevent him from the verification of pictures. However, he submits “this general recommendation—never to buy pictures unless you enjoy them—and if you enjoy them—never to mind whose they are.”


Letter from John Ruskin to [William] Kingsley. 18 February 1886. Page 1.

Letter from John Ruskin to [William] Kingsley. 18 February 1886. Page 1.


Letter from John Ruskin to [William] Kingsley. 18 February 1886. Page 2.

Ruskin thanks Kingsley for loaning him the delightful sketchbook belonging to Kingsley’s wife, saying that “the light and colour of some bits [of her landscapes] were exactly true and the character perfect.” William Kingsley, Rector of South Kilvington, near Thirsk, was a close personal friend of both John Ruskin and J. M. W. Turner. An account of their association can be found in  Yorkshire Remembrances, by Marmaduke Charles Frederic Morris (1922). Kingsley lived to be 101; his wife died the following year at the age of ninety. Mrs. Kingsley’s sister was married to Tom Taylor, the dramatist and editor of Punch.


Letter from John Ruskin to Tom Taylor. [Undated].

Letter from John Ruskin to Tom Taylor. [Undated].

Although the signature of this letter is excised, the heading and the handwriting suggest it to be Ruskin’s. The letter is Ruskin’s refusal to buy the sketches that Taylor has offered. He says:

I had much rather give you ten pounds for any body in distress, than buy what I do not want—I have bought  sketches like them —or better—for fifteen or twenty shillings—in the old times, and would not buy many, then.—at first rate thing is always worth—what one must give for it—a second rate thing—worth only what it is worth however the market may be—


Letter from John Ruskin to [Unknown]. [Undated].

Letter from John Ruskin to [Unknown]. [Undated].

In this letter to an unknown correspondent, Ruskin gives drawing instructions to a student. He says:

“Begin any other of the pencil subject like that you have just done, which seems easiest to you. … Practice, at home, a quantity of pencil shading thus [six columns of lines drawn back and forth from left to right] And lines, thus, straight and thick and upright lines [eleven diagonal lines that appear to be smudged at the bottom and seven straight lines] thus.”










Color Our Collections

Coloring enthusiasts get ready! The Armstrong Browning Library and more than 30 other special collections libraries and cultural heritage institutions are inviting you to #ColorOurCollections, an event organized by the New York Academy of Medicine Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health. From February 1-5, 2016, download images from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection, color them, and share them on social media using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections.

To download an image, click on the image below and then print or click on the image, right click, and “save image as” before printing. To download the coloring book version of the image, click on the link provided.

Special thanks to Eric Ames, curator of digital collections for the Baylor Libraries, for creating the coloring book pages for us!

Happy coloring!

The Grave, a Poem by Robert Blair. Illustrated by Twelve Etchings Executed from Original Designs [by William Blake]. London: Printed by T. Bensley, for the proprietor, R.H. Cromek, and sold by Cadell and Davies, [etc.], 1808. [ABLibrary Rare OVZ X 821.59 B635g]

Coloring book version: Blake Coloring Page

The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning. Illustrated by Jane E. Cook. London: Printed for Private Circulation, 1880. [ABLibrary Rare OVZ X 821.83 O1 C771p c.2]

Coloring book version: Browning Coloring Page

Sketch by Robert Browning, Sr., father of poet Robert Browning. [Browning Collections J4]

Sketch by Robert Browning, Sr., father of poet Robert Browning. [Browning Collections J4]

Sketch by Robert Browning, Sr., father of poet Robert Browning. [Browning Collections J23.1]

Sketch by Robert Browning, Sr., father of poet Robert Browning. [Browning Collections J23.1]

The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Now Newly Imprinted. Ornamented with pictures designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and engraved on wood by W. H. Hooper. Upper Mall, Hammersmith, Middlesex: Kelmscott Press, 1896. [ABLibrary 19thCent OVZ PR1850 1896]

Coloring book version: Chaucer Coloring Page

Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti, with two designs by D. G. Rossetti. Cambridge, London: Macmillan and Co., 1862. [ABLibrary 19thCent PR5237 .G6 1862 and online]

Coloring book version: Rossetti Coloring Page

Aratra Pentelici. Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870 by John Ruskin. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1891. [ABLibrary 19thCent ND467 .R93 1891]

Coloring book version: Ruskin Coloring Page

The Works of Mr. William Shakespear. London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, 1709. [ABL Stokes Shakespeare 822.33 S527w 1709 v.1]

Coloring book version: Shakespeare Coloring Page

Beyond the Brownings–Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

NPG P56; The Rossetti Family by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)© National Portrait Gallery, London

Written by Melinda Creech, Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

Christina Georgina Rossetti shared the limelight with Elizabeth Barrett Browning as the greatest female poet of the nineteenth century. After Barrett Browning’s death in 1861, readers saw Rossetti as Barrett Browning’s rightful successor. She wrote a variety of devotional, romantic, and children’s poems, and is perhaps most well-known for the lyrics of the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter,” her long poem Goblin Market, and her love poem “Remember.”

Christina was the youngest child of an extraordinarily gifted family, Maria Francesca, Gabriel Charles Dante, William Michael, and Christina Georgina, all born between 1827 and 1830. Maria was distinguished by her study of Dante, Dante Gabriel by his poetry and painting, William Michael by his art and literary criticism, and Christina by her poetry.

The Armstrong Browning Library holds over thirty of Christina’s books and two letters.

Goblin-market-1862Goblin-Market-1862-2 Goblin-Marker-18624Goblin-Market-18625Christina Georgina Rossetti. Goblin Market and Other Poems. Cambridge, London: Macmillan and Co, 1862.

This volume is a first edition, advance proof copy sent to the Brownings. There are notes on the flyleaf and an attached postcard noting the provenance of the volume.

Goblin-Market-1902-1 Goblin-Markekt-1905-2Goblin-Market-1905-3Goblin-Market-1905-4Christina Georgina Rossetti. Goblin Market. London : New York: George Routledge and Sons, Limited ; E.P Dutton & Co, 1905. The Broadway Booklets.

This volume contains illustrations by Christina’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The volume also contains Robert Browning’s poem, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.”

Speaking-LikenessesSpeaking-Likenesses-1Speakeing-Likenesses-2Christina Georgina Rossetti. Speaking Likenesses. Illustrated by Arthur Hughes. London: Macmillan and co, 1874.

Christina dedicated this volume:

 To my/ Dearest Mother,/ In Grateful Remembrance Of The/ Stories/ With Which She Used To Entertain Her/ Children. Christina-Rossetti-letterLetter from Christina G. Rossetti to an Unidentified Correspondent. 29 December 1884.

This brief letter to an Unidentified correspondent conveys wishes for a Happy New Year (1885).

Beyond the Brownings–Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

NPG P56; The Rossetti Family by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)© National Portrait Gallery, London

Written by Melinda Creech, Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the second born child in the Rossetti family. Dante Gabriel was a poet, illustrator, painter, translator, and founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Sensuality and Medieval revivalism characterized his art. According to John Ruskin and Walter Pater, Dante Gabriel Rossetti was the most important and original artistic force in the second half of the nineteenth century in Great Britain.

 The Armstrong Browning Library holds six of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s letters and over forty of his books, some of them rare.


Letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to [Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori Rossetti]. [ca. 4 February 1864].

Dante Gabriel invites his mother, Maria, Christina, and William to tea on Saturday. He says in a postscript that he is also asking Browning. He also lets her know that

 I have a little picture just finished which will be leaving me for Gambait on Monday morning.

Early-ItalEarly-Ital.-2Early-Ital-3Early-Ital.-4Early-Ital-5Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Dante Alighieri, eds. The Early Italian Poets from Ciullo d’Alcamo to Dante Alighieri (1100-1200-1300): In the Original Metres, Together with Dante’s Vita Nuova. London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1861.

This volume is Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s first regularly published book, said to have been financed by John Ruskin.  This volume is the same edition that was given by Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Robert Browning as a Christmas gift in 1861.

 DCR-poemsDGR-Poems-2DGR-Poems-3DGR-Poems4Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Poems. London: F. S. Ellis, 1870.

This volume is one of twenty-five copies printed on large paper for private circulation only. This is John Ruskin’s copy with his bookplate.


Beyond the Brownings–John Ruskin (1819-1900)


NPG x13293; John Ruskin by Elliott & FryCourtesy of the Armstrong Browning Library

Written by Melinda Creech, Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

John Ruskin, the leading art critic of the nineteenth century, was also an art patron,  a draughtsman, a watercolorist, a prominent social thinker, and a philanthropist. Modern Painters (1843), an extended essay that argued for “truth to nature,” won him widespread appeal. He supported the Pre-Raphaelites and championed social and political causes. Ruskin’s influence has become global, influencing artists, architects, writers, social planners, educators, politicians, and economists.

The Armstrong Browning Library holds seventeen letters written by John Ruskin and over one hundred books, some of them rare.

Ruskin-to-W.-M.-RossettiLetter from John Ruskin to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. [1855].

Ruskin tells Rossetti that he likes his picture and wants him to order the frame and

 Try any experiment you like on it thoroughly.

Ruskin-to-FudgeLetter from [John Ruskin] to [Fudge]. [1871].

David Fudge was the Ruskins’ coachman for nearly fifty years, often taking Mr. Ruskin to out of the way places and waiting while Ruskin went for walks or sketched scenes. In this heavily worn, fragment of a letter, Ruskin  assures his driver, Mr. David Fudge, that he should receive orders from Mrs. Severn just as he would from Mr. Ruskin and assures him that

 Neither she nor I will ever treat you with injustice….You can always appeal to me.

to-David-Rudge-1to-David-Rudge-2Letter from Joan R. Severn to David [Fudge]. [ca. 1898].

Mrs. Severn acknowledges the “pretty Christmas card” sent to her and to Mr. Ruskin and informs David that she has sent a “little Xmas box” to him.

Ruskins-Mornings-in-Florence-1Ruskins-Mornings-in-Florence-2Ruskins-Mornings-in-Florence-3 John Ruskin. Mornings in Florence: Being Simple Studies of Christian Art for English Travellers. Copyright ed. Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1907.

This volume was intended to be used as a travel guide for persons viewing the art in Florence. The text gives Ruskin’s notes relating to Santa Croce, The Golden Gate, Before the Soldan, The Vaulted Book, The Straight Gate, and the Shepherd’s Tower.

Beyond the Brownings: The Victorian Letter and Manuscript Collection

By Melinda Creech, Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

Beyond-the-BrowningsScholars know the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University as a world-class research library devoted to the lives and works of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. In addition to housing the world’s largest collection of books, letters, manuscripts, and memorabilia related to the Brownings, the library houses a substantial collection of primary and secondary materials related to nineteenth-century literature and culture. The Victorian Letter and Manuscript Collection includes almost 2,500 items from literary, political, ecclesiastical, scientific, and cultural figures in the nineteenth century. Letters, manuscripts, and books from Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, Matthew Arnold, Charles Babbage, J. M. Barrie, William Cullen Bryant, Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Michael Faraday, W. E. Gladstone, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Victor Hugo, Thomas Henry Huxley, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, George MacDonald, John-Henry Newman, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, John Ruskin, Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Makepeace Thackeray, John Greenleaf Whittier, and William Wordsworth will be featured in the exhibit. In future blogs about the exhibit you can find out how Elizabeth Barrett Browning was related to Charles Babbage, where Victor Hugo spent his summer vacation, who was b__k b__ll__ed, and what happened to Miss Brodie’s cow.

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Christina Rossetti. “The World” from The Goblin Market and Other Poems. Cambridge, London: Macmillan and Co., 1862.

Dr. Antony H. Harrison, Distinguished Professor and Head, Department of English, North Carolina State University, and author of several books on Christina Rossetti, recommends this sonnet as one of his favorite. Rossetti uses the Petrachan sonnet, usually a device for expressing erotic love and seduction, to express the temptation of erotic sin in the world. She rejects the traditional role of the Petrachan sonnet along with the traditional role of erotic love.

Christina Georgina Rossetti was one of four children born to Italian parents who were exiled from Italy. Rossetti was educated at home by her mother and began composing before she could write. By the age of twelve, Rossetti had written and dated poetry in her notebooks, which was privately published by her grandfather. Her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a famous Pre-Raphaelite painter, and Christina sat for several of his paintings. Christina primarily wrote poetry and is best known for her symbolic religious works. Two of her poems, “Love Came Down at Christmas” and “In the Bleak Midwinter” were set to music and even today are popular Christmas carols.

The ABL has ten volumes written by Christina Rossetti and published during her lifetime. One of the books, Goblin Market and Other Poems, was part of Robert Browning’s library.The frontispiece and vignette title page were illustrated by Christina’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The ABL’s advance copy of this work was sent to Robert Browning by the Rossetti family and remained in his library until his death.

Christina Rossetti. Goblin Market and Other Poems.  Cambridge, London: Macmillan and Co., 1862.

 The ABL also owns one letter from Christina Rossetti to Robert Browning. In this letter Christina asks Browning to dinner and sends her Mother’s compliments:  “May we hope that you will again help us to as pleasant an evening as we have not forgotten?”

Letter from Christina Rossetti to Robert Browning.
[21 December 1868].

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)

Julia Margaret Cameron
and Her Children Charles and Henry (1859)
Photograph taken by Lewis Carroll

Therefore it is with effort I restrain the overflow of my heart and simply state that my first [camera and] lens was given to me by my cherished departed daughter and her husband, with the word, “It may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude at Freshwater.”

The gift from those I loved so tenderly added more and more impulse to my deeply seated love of the beautiful and from the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour, and it has become to me as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigour…. I longed to arrest all beauty that came before me….

I turned my coal-house into my dark room, and a glazed fowl house I had given to my children became my glass house! The hens were liberated, I hope and believe not eaten. The profit of my boys upon new laid eggs was stopped, and all hands and hearts sympathised in my new labour, since the society of hens and chickens was soon changed for that of poets, prophets, painters and lovely maidens, who all in turn have immortalized the humble little farm erection.

When I have had such men before my camera my whole soul has endeavored to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man. The photograph thus taken has been almost the embodiment of a prayer.

Julia Margaret Cameron
Annals of my Glass House (1874)

Julia Margaret Cameron was born in Calcutta, India. She met her husband, Charles Cameron, on a trip to southern Africa. After her husband’s retirement in 1848, the family moved from India back to England. She took up photography in 1863, at the age of 48, when she was living next door to Alfred Tennyson on the Isle of Wight. She produced photographs for only ten years, but her photographic subjects included Robert Browning, Tennyson, William Makepeace Thackeray, John Ruskin, Thomas Carlyle, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Abbott McNeil Whistler, and G. F. Watts. Most of her photographs have a soft, ethereal quality to them.

For the exhibition poster for Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face, I chose a quotation from an untitled, unfinished poem found in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s pocket notebook, dated 1842-1844,  and a photograph taken by Julia Margaret Cameron in 1864. The contemporaneity of the poem and the photo echo the timelessness of the nineteenth century women’s voices featured in the exhibit.

The subject of the photograph was sixteen-year-old Ellen Terry, a young Shakespearean actress and close friend of Cameron. Ellen had become acquainted with George Frederick Watts, a famous Victorian painter, forty years her senior, when she sat for him for a painting. At the urging of friends, they were married in February 1864. The photo was probably taken during their honeymoon on the Isle of Wight. The couple separated within a year and were formally divorced in 1877.  At some later date Cameron titled the photo “Sadness.”

The ABL owns eight original photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron, many with inscriptions. A letter from Robert Browning to Julia Margaret Cameron (24 July 1866) thanking her for her generous gift of photographs is also a part of the collection. Sarianna Browning, sister of Robert Browning in a letter to Joseph Milsand (27 December 1866), records another generous Christmas gift of twelve photographs from Mrs. Cameron.

Although Mrs. Cameron turned, quite successfully, to photography later in life, her first love was literature. She wrote an autobiography, translated German, and published poems and fiction. This poem was written shortly before she and her husband left England for Ceylon.

Julia Margaret Cameron
“On a Portrait”
Macmillan Magazine  (February 1876)

Melinda Creech


Notes and Queries: There is an engraving of Joseph Milsand by F. Johnson in Records of Tennyson, Ruskin, and Browning by Anne Thackeray Ritchie. The caption under the engraving reads: “Mr. Milsand / from a copyrighted photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron.” The Armstrong Browning Library has a large Joseph Milsand Collection. A letter from Joseph Milsand to Philbert Milsand (23 May [1874]) indicates that Joseph Milsand was to spend a day on Isle of Wight where Miss Thackeray would introduce him to Tennyson. Another letter from Joseph Milsand to Claire Milsand (11 Feb 1884) talks about Cameron’s beautiful photo of the tall, angel-like white lady which is displayed in his house. Does anyone know the whereabouts of either of the photographs, Milsand’s photographic portrait or the “angel-like white lady” photograph that he owned?