…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–William Wetmore Story (1819-1895)

William_Wetmore_Story_-_Brady-HandyWilliam Wetmore Story (1819-1895) was an American sculptor, art critic, poet, and editor.  He was the son of Joseph Story (1779-1845), who served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1811-1845.  Story initially practiced law but abandoned his legal career in 1847 to pursue training in Europe as a sculptor.  Story, along with his wife Emelyn (née Eldredge, 1820-1894), daughter Edith “Edie” (1844-1917), and son Joseph “Joe” (1847-1853), met Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Florence, Italy, in late 1848 or early 1849.  The two families became close friends and spent a great deal of time together whenever the Storys were in Italy.  Browning and his son Robert Weideman Barrett Browning, called Pen, remained intimate friends of the Storys following Elizabeth’s death in 1861.  Story sculpted busts of Robert and Elizabeth, reproductions of which can be viewed in the Martin Entrance Foyer of the Armstrong Browning Library.

Story-to-Pen-1Story-to-Pen-2Story-to-Pen-3Letter from William Wetmore Story to Robert Weideman Barrett Browning. 13 December 1889.

In this letter to Robert Browning’s son, Story reflects on his long friendship with Robert Browning following the poet’s death on 12 December 1889:

He was one of my oldest & dearest & most valued friends—& the world seems poor now that he has gone. … The last words he said to us when we said Goodbye to him at Asolo were ‘We have been friends for forty years—ay—more than forty years—& with never a break’– How true it was—there was never a break—never a cloud on our friendship for a moment—& the more I knew him the more I loved him. … He was one of the best & noblest of men. … I do not think that a small or mean thought ever knocked at the door of his spirit—much less ever was allowed to enter– Ever large hearted as large minded, grand in all his impulses—generous in all his feelings—vivid in his enthusiasms and the most loving man I ever knew.

Story-Ms1Story-Ms2William Wetmore Story.  “Robert Browning.” Autograph manuscript.  Undated.

This poem of thirty-eight lines was signed by Story and presented to Browning’s son and daughter-in-law Fannie Coddington Browning.  The inscription reads:

To my dear friends—Pen & Fanny—with the warmest love of their, & their Father’s & Mother’s old friend.

Story’s poem about RB begins:

It scarcely seems, dear Friend you can be gone—

Your voice still lingers in my ear—that tone

So clear & quiet it scarce could wait to say

Your eager thought in our prosaic way,

But leaped our critic rules, assured that we

Could follow where you leaped so easily

Still pressing on in thought, stopped by no gaps

Of broken phrasing—careless of all lapse—

FiammettaWilliam Wetmore Story.  Fiammetta: A Summer Idyl.  Edinburgh; London:  William Blackwood and Sons, 1886.

A member of the Browning family owned a copy of this edition of Story’s novel.

Grafitti-d'ItaliaWilliam Wetmore Story.  Graffiti d’Italia.  Edinburgh; London:  William Blackwood and Sons, 1868.

The poem “Praxiteles and Phryne” is dedicated to Robert Browning.

The Armstrong Browning Library owns one manuscript, eight letters, and eight books by Mr. Story.

 

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Mary Augusta Arnold Ward (1851-1920)

“You invite me to break the first law of storytelling, Miss Rose,” said the doctor, lifting a finger at her. “Every man is bound to leave a story better than he found it.”

  Mrs. Humphry Ward. Robert Elsmere.
London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1888, p. 63.

Mary Augusta Ward was an English novelist, journalist, philanthropist, and anti-suffrage leader who wrote under the name of Mrs. Humphry Ward. During her lifetime, she wrote three plays, nine non-fiction works, and twenty-five novels. Many of her novels depict contemporary theological and moral debates. Her most famous novel, Robert Elsmere, focuses on religious issues.

Mary Augusta Ward. Robert Elsmere. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1888.

This novel was Ward’s most famed work due to the controversial “deconversion” of its main character from Anglican Christianity to “a liberal, antidogmatic theology.” The story was inspired in part by her own experience with the Victorian religious crisis and by the religious indecision of her father, Thomas Arnold. W. E. Gladstone, a prominent English politician and a fourtime Prime Minister, wrote a response to Ward’s work, noting that Mrs. Ward’s aim was to “expel the preternatural element from Christianity, to destroy its dogmatic structure, yet to keep intact the moral and spiritual results.”

Her social and political novels portray her conservative beliefs, concerning both liberalism and feminism. According to Judith Wilt, Professor of English Emerita at Boston College, Ward was concerned with “…the ideal of domesticity crossed by currents of personal ambition and clear-eyed impatience with the limitations of a woman’s life evident in the ideology of separate spheres.” Wilt continues stating, “As a young matron Ward was ‘all afire’ for women’s education…and she continued to see as part of the inherited ‘domestic’ territory to be legislated and run by women as well as men not only all branches of education but also all health and social service professions, and even “local government,” including school boards, municipal boards, and other offices and activities that had become gender-neutrally votable and electable by the 1880’s. For her, ‘domesticity’ included virtually all the national business.  When in her anti-suffrage campaigns she drew the line at giving women the vote for Parliament members it was partly a not-unhealthy impatience with what we might now call the fetishization of that object, and partly a curtsy before Empire, a hesitation before the international ministries for finance, heavy industry, and war.” (Judith Wilt, Behind Her Times: Transition England In The Novels Of Mary Arnold Ward, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, p. 14.)

The Armstrong Browning Library owns forty-one volumes authored by Mary Ward, including Fenwick’s Career, which was published in London by Smith, Elder, & Co. in 1906. This edition was printed on hand-made paper. Only two hundred and fifty copies were for sale with each copy autographed by the author. The ABL’s copy is No. 36, and is signed “Mary A. Ward” on the first front leaf. The book tells the story about “a boorish, conceited, masterful young countryman…[whose] supreme longing is ‘to make a name for himself and to leave his mark on English art.”

 

Autograph by the author, Mary Augusta Ward, on the first front leaf of Fenwick’s Career, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1906.

Fannie Browning, wife of Robert Barrett Browning, owned a copy of Amiel’s Journal (1896), which was translated by Mrs. Ward; Robert Barrett Browning, Robert and Elizabeth’s son, owned a copy of The Marriage of William Ashe (1905), with the author’s inscription. Although the Armstrong Browning Library does not own this book, it does have a copy of the same edition once owned by Robert Barrett Browning.

 Tiffany Huynh
Maegan Rocio
Michael Moreno
Melinda Creech