Reflections from a Visiting Scholar: Arnold at the Armstrong Browning Library

By Rose Sneyd, PhD Candidate, Dalhousie University, Canada

Rose Sneyd

Rose Sneyd, Dalhousie University, Canada

While the Armstrong Browning Library’s (ABL’s) trove of EBB- and RB-related resources is a magnet for scholars of both poets, I was drawn to Waco, TX, by the library’s distinct collection on Matthew Arnold. As a doctoral candidate writing my dissertation on the connections between the great Victorian poet-critic and the Romantic poet Giacomo Leopardi, I was very fortunate to receive a two-week fellowship to explore the ABL’s intriguing holdings on Arnold last winter.

One of several highlights of this collection is those unpublished letters of Arnold that are held by the ABL. These include, among others, an 1865 letter to Sir Theodore Martin – one of the earliest translators of Leopardi’s poetry – who sent his translation of Goethe’s Faust to Arnold, who seems to have approved of it; letters (1866, 1873) to an American journalist and acquaintance of Emerson, Charles F. Wingate, to whom Arnold makes fascinating comments about English reviewers and their tendency to “lose[… themselves] in a number of personal and secondary questions”; and a refusal to produce an entry on Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Chambers Encyclopaedia (1888-92) sent to David Patrick in 1887. Such letters provide vital nuggets of information on Arnold’s network of friends and acquaintances on both sides of the Atlantic.

Arnold 1873_2

Letter from Matthew Arnold to Charles F. Wingate, dated 13 September 1873, page 2

Arnold Letter 1873_1

Letter from Matthew Arnold to Charles F. Wingate, dated 13 September 1873, page 1

Another fascinating element of the Arnold author collection is the many editions of Arnold’s works that were owned by prominent Victorian writers, for example: a copy of Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy that he presented to Robert Browning; an 1852 edition of Empedocles on Etna, also given to Browning; John Ruskin’s copy of Merope (1858); and Charles Kingsley’s New Poems (1867). Of peculiar interest are the markings made by some of the owners of these volumes – particularly by the latter two – that provide a delightful insight into how they read Arnold’s work. Ruskin, for instance, took issue with Arnold’s preface to Merope (Arnold’s most concerted attempt to revive the art of Greek tragedy in mid-19th century England). Here, Arnold suggests that the role of the chorus in Greek tragedy is merely to summarise, but Ruskin contends that the chorus’s role is autonomous – not reliant on the drama’s action. “[B]ut surely,” Ruskin protests in imaginary debate with Arnold, “the actors were (at least in Sophocles and Aeschylus) dependent on and subordinate to the actions of the chorus. Not vice-versa” (xliii). Shortly afterwards, Ruskin pursues this marginal disagreement with Arnold. Where Arnold writes that the chorus is “the relief and solace in the stress and conflict of the action,” Ruskin comments: “or an uncomfortable spasm of poetic inspiration” (xliv)! Perusing his copy of New Poems, the reader discovers that Kingsley was greatly interested by Empedocles’s prosaic-monotonous monologue atop Etna – a fact to which his highlighting more than a third of its stanzas testifies – but he also loaded the philosophically antithetical “Rugby Chapel” with strokes of his pencil.

Merope

Marginalia by John Ruskin in his copy of Matthew Arnold’s Merope: A Tragedy, London, 1858 (ABLibrary 19thCent PR4022 .M3 1858 c.3)

But perhaps the most valuable aspect of the Arnold collection are those 100+ volumes from Arnold’s personal library, which were purchased after the death of his grandson Arnold Whitridge. These were acquired by past ABL director Roger Brooks and include, as Brooks put it in a PR release at the time, “Many of the works [that] were well-known influences upon Arnold during his most formative years as a poet and critic.” Thus, there are editions of Aeschylus’s and Euripides’s tragedies (1843, 1855), Aristotle’s Metaphysics (1848), Arnold’s copy of Madame de Stael’s De L’Allemagne, as well as a number of his volumes on Goethe. While library staff have not yet confirmed that the marks and marginalia were written in Arnold’s hand, Brooks was convinced of it: “[Arnold’s] marginalia, underscoring, and indexing are in many of the volumes along with his well-known book plate,” he writes in the same release. Furthermore, the passages highlighted in these volumes are marked in a manner that is consistent across the books in Arnold’s library and there is a letter in an edition of Poems (1881) held by the library against which his handwriting can be compared. It does, then, seem highly likely that the illuminating “marginalia, underscoring, and indexing” are Arnold’s own.

Bouddha

Mathew Arnold’s markings in his copy of J. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire’s Le Bouddha et sa religion, Paris, 1860 (ABL Matthew Arnold Lib X 294.3 B285b 1860)

Perhaps the two volumes that were of most interest to my research – in terms of their insight into Arnold’s stoic-pessimism – were his copies of J. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire’s Le Bouddha et sa religion (1860) and of George Long’s translation of Epictetus: The Discourses of Epictetus; with the Encheiridion and fragments (1877). What particularly struck me about Arnold’s underscoring in Saint-Hilaire’s Le Bouddha was his evident interest both in Siddartha’s emphasis on the abandoning of desire: “la pauvreté et la restrictions des sens” (as Saint-Hilare puts it – 21), and in Siddartha’s insistence on the imperative of sharing the knowledge of “truth” that he has gained with men and women (26). The first element – the abandonment of desire – is reminiscent of Epictetus’s stoic tenant that one should be resigned to whatever happens that is beyond our control. Arnold’s interest in this doctrine of salvation – whether espoused in ancient Eastern thought or in ancient Western thought – is something that he shared with Leopardi. The Romantic Italian poet believed that “pleasure” was an impossible, elusive goal for humans, and that it was better for all of us to confront this bitter truth and to ally ourselves against a cruel and indifferent Nature.

Epictetus

Annotations by Matthew Arnold in his copy of The Discourses of Epictetus, translated by George Long, London, 1877 (ABL Matthew Arnold Lib X 188 E64d 1877 )

Similar themes in Epictetus appear to be of much interest to Arnold. In the back of Long’s translation, Arnold has noted an index of those elements which, presumably, interested him most, including, enigmatically, the “fallacy.” On following the page references that Arnold includes alongside this term in his text, you realise that he actually has reservations about the stoic doctrine that I outlined (in very broad terms) above. Thus, when Epictetus writes of “learn[ing] to wish that every thing may happen as it does” (1.12.42), Arnold comments in the margin: “fallacy.” Similarly, when Epictetus poses the rhetorical question: “And will you be vexed and discontented with the things established by Zeus, which he with the Moirae (fates) who were present and spinning the thread of your generation, defined and put in order?” (1.12.44), Arnold writes “fallacy.” However, Arnold seems sympathise more with Epictetus when the philosopher suggests that human beings can overcome the desire to control those “things” in their life that are actually beyond their control: “Do you not rather thank the gods that they allowed you to be above these things which they have not placed in your power, and have made you accountable only for those which are in your power?” (1.12.45). Here, Arnold writes: “between the truth and the fallacy,” and one can only wish that he had elaborated a little on what he meant here!

Despite the enigmatic nature of some of Arnold’s comments, tracing his interests through the markings and marginalia that he left behind in these books is a fascinating enterprise, and one that I hope to pursue at a later date.

They Asked For A Paper–Chinese Manuscripts at the ABL, Part 2

Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,”  highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

Two months ago I published a blog about some Chinese manuscripts I had come across while preparing manuscripts at the Armstrong Browning Library for a digital collection. I had determined that the manuscripts were given to the Armstrong Browning Library by Dryden Phelps, nephew of William Lyon Phelps, American author, critic, professor, and Browning scholar. Recently I uncovered a folder containing over 200 letters between Dryden Phelps and the directors of the ABL, Dr. A. J. Armstrong and Dr. Jack Herring. The letters reveal a little more of the story.

After taking degrees from Yale College, Yale School of Religion, and studying at Queens College Oxford, Dryden Phelps became a missionary of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, teaching for thirty years at the West China Union University in Chengu Szechuan. The mission of the school was “the advancement of the Kingdom of God by means of higher education in West China under Christian auspices.” Dryden taught English literature at WCUU, taught psychology, homiletics, and New Testament at Union Theological College, WCUU, and organized and built the University Cathedral Church on the campus of WCUU.

The Baptist College West China Union University Chengtu, West China 1935

Although his uncle, William Lyon Phelps, actually knew Robert Barrett Browning and Dr. Armstrong, Dryden’s connection with Dr. Armstrong began, as the letter below illustrates, when he answered an ad in the Baylor Bulletin, 28 April 1928: “Wanted: Browning in Chinese.”

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong, 3 May 1928. Page 1.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong, 3 May 1928. Page 2.

Dryden, who had been teaching for two years at WCUU, was charged with teaching a class on Tennyson and Browning. He records that members of his class translated a number of the shorter poems into Chinese. Although at that time he was on furlough in California, Dryden promised to send the translations to Dr. Armstrong upon his return to China. These are the poems displayed in the earlier blog. And the correspondence began. Dr. Armstrong sent bits of Browning literature to China, and Dryden sent bits of Chinese culture back to Dr. Armstrong.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 2 October 1928. Page 1.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 2 October 1928. Page 2.

In the  letter above Dryden reports that “several years ago Browning was voted the most popular English poet by the Chinese students in America. The reason? Because he is terse, succinct, witty, epigramatic, unique in a brilliant use of words, profound, a lover of nature, and of human nature, a lover of life. Last year, perhaps I wrote you, I spent several hours a week with one of the most accomplished scholars in West China (in the city of Chengtu, the old home of Chinese poets and statesmen). Half of the time I studied Chinese lyric poetry with Mr Song; half of the time we read Browning together. When we finished, he exclaimed, ‘This is an amazement to me; I never realized that you in the West had any poets who could think, and write, as Browning does. Why, he is like one of our own poets!’ One of the highest services we can render China at this moment is to open her eyes to such men as Browning.”

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 10 December 1928. Page 2.

Again in a letter of 10 December 1928, Dryden affirms that “there is not the slightest question in my mind but what Browning will become the favorite foreign poet of the Chinese instantly he becomes known for there is a striking similarity between his thought imagery and style and that of the old T’ang and Song poets.” In a letter of 31 July 1934, he asserts “that Browning’s penetrating understanding of life and his absolute devotion to God and understanding of his love will be like a great stream of clear water running through the new life in the Far East.”

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 7 January 1934.

In the letter above, Dryden sends the “Yenching Hymnal containing a translation of Browning’s poem, probably by the editor  & poet Prof. T. C. Chao of Yenching.”

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 29 March 1935. Page 1.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 29 March 1935. Page 2.

With this letter Dryden sends the copy of Browning’s poem made into a hymn, displayed in the earlier blog and recounts a Chinese poet’s rendition of “The Grammarian’s Funeral.”

Dryden continued to correspond with Dr. Armstrong, who furnished the WCUU library with Browning materials. Shortly before the Armstrong Browning Library opened, Dryden and his wife Margaret visited Dr. Armstrong in Waco.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong, [1952]. Page 1.

Letter from Dryden Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. [1952]. Page 2.

Dryden thanks Dr. Armstrong for his hospitality.

Margaret and I leave Waco with your loving hospitality warm within our hearts. To see and come to know you, to see the glorious library, the work of your hearts and minds, is an American experience that will be remembered and remembered. You two precious people belong to the givers of the world.

You [have impressed] Margaret & we feel that we may join that inside circle of those who love you. And that library set in the midst of these generations of young people, placing steadily before their faces the primacy of truth and beauty & love —

We can never forget this day.

Dryden never had the chance to visit the Armstrong Browning Library, but he reciprocated Armstrong’s generosity by passing on some items that he inherited from his uncle’s estate to the Armstrong Browning Library, probably most notably the copy of The Guardian Angel painting which hangs in the John Leddy-Jones Research Hall.

They Asked For A Paper–An Incendiary Jacket

Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,”  highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

I have been transcribing a set of letters collected by Mr. and Mrs. Higford Burr. Daniel Higford Davall Burr (1811-1885) was a Member of Parliament, Justice of the Peace, and High Sheriff of Berkshire. He and Anna-Margaretta, like the Brownings, were married at St. Marylebone Parish Church. Anna-Margaretta Higford Burr (1817-1892) was an English water-colorist. She traveled extensively and entertained often at the family’s estate, Aldermaston. When her husband died, she moved to Venice where she died in 1892. Many of the letters from this album are correspondence with artists and musicians from the nineteenth century. Although the Burrs had much in common with the Brownings (art, acquaintances, Venice), only two letters of their correspondence are noted, both from the summer of 1864, and both unlocated. Robert does record going to Mrs. Higford Burr’s house to meet the Layards in a letter to  Pen on 23 March 1889, the year of his death. He reports another engagement with Mrs. Burr and the Layards on 4 July 1889.

Although she does not appear in the Brownings’ correspondence, Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon (1821-1869) seems like someone they might have liked to have known.

Lucie Austin, by a school friend, aged 15.

Having become fluent in German while on a trip to Germany with her parents, John and Sarah Austin, she became a proficient translator.

Lucie Duff-Gordon, sketch by Frederick Watts, ca. 1848.

She married Lord Duff-Gordon in 1840 and their home attracted a remarkable circle of friends and acquaintances. Lady Lucie was known for her progressive and tolerant views. In 1861 she contracted tuberculosis, and moved to South Africa and later Egypt in search of a better climate.

Lucie Duff-Gordon, by Henry W. Phillips, ca. 1851.

She is most well known for  her Letters from Egypt, 1863–1865 (1865) and Last Letters from Egypt (1875), written to her family while she was living in Egypt. She returned to England for visits in 1863 and 1865.

This undated letter  from Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon to Mr. Burr, written from The Gordon House, Esher, in Surrey, thanks him for his gift of an “incendiary jacket.” She says that she had just received the gift that morning and had already made use of the jacket and “put a bit into my pipe and smoked it.” Oddly, she was reported to have smoked cigars when she went riding, because “they suppressed the racking coughs caused by consumption,” not a treatment that would have been recommended today.

Letter from Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon to Mr. Higford Burr. Undated. Page 1.

Letter from Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon to Mr. Higford Burr. Undated. Pages 2 and 3.

They Asked For a Paper–Chinese Manuscripts at the ABL

Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,”  highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

In preparing the Victorian Letters and Manuscripts of the Armstrong Browning Library for digitization, I came across these five Chinese manuscripts, which according to the note on the items, were donated by Dryden Linsley Phelps, nephew of William Lyon Phelps. William Lyon Phelps was Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Harvard University and a distinguished Browning scholar. The Fano Club was begun by Phelps. The club is a group of people who have traveled to Fano, Italy, viewed the guardian angel painting, L’Angelo Custode, (1640) by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, in the Civic Museum, and sent back to the Armstrong Browning Library a postcard from Fano. The club meets for dinner on Robert Browning’s birthday, May 7, and for a reading of Browning’s poem, “The Guardian Angel,” performed by the youngest member of the club. Phelps commissioned and donated a copy of the painting of “The Guardian Angel” to the ABL. Robert Browning’s desk chair, a gift to Phelps from his students, has also been on loan to the ABL since 1989.

William Lyon Phelps’s nephew, Dryden Linsley Phelps, was a Baptist missionary to China at the West China University, Chen-tse, Szechuan, China, a translator, and a mountain climber. Dryden Linsley Phelps’s son was also named William Lyons Phelps II, in honor of his distinguished uncle.

Letter from Dryden Linsley Phelps to Dr. A. J. Armstrong. 1 August 1946.

In this letter to Dr. A. J. Armstrong, Dryden Phelps thanks Armstrong for a Browning Christmas card and shares that he intends to pass the card along to the Chinese bishop who had “done considerable study of Browning.”

Thank you most heartily for the Browning Christmas Cards. I am tremendously happy to have these. I am taking them to China, and shall use them out there. One of them next Christmas will surely go to Bishop Dong Ch’eng-chih, in my first Chinese Browning Class, who has done considerable study of  Browning.

These Chinese manuscripts were a gift to the ABL from Dryden Phelps, the Baptist missionary to China.

Chinese Hymn based on Isaiah 43: 5-7

This hymn is based on the text from Isaiah 43: 5-7.

Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;

I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;

 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.  (KJV)

Chinese Hymn, “Then Welcome Each Rebuff.”

Translation of Chinese Hymn, “Then Welcome Each Rebuff.”

This handwritten hymn is based on Robert Browning’s poem, “Rabbi Ben Ezra.”

Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth’s smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three-parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe! (31-36)

The next three manuscripts are translations of Alfred Tennyson’s poem, “Flower in a Crannied Wall.”

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Alfred Tennyson, “Flower in a Crannied Wall.” Translated into Chinese.

Alfred Tennyson, “Flower in a Crannied Wall.” Translated into Chinese. Verso.

Alfred Tennyson, “Flower in a Crannied Wall.” Translated into Chinese.

Alfred Tennyson, “Flower in a Crannied Wall.” Translated into Chinese.

The Armstrong Browning Library would be grateful for translations of any of these manuscripts? Does anyone recognize the signatures on the two translations of “Flower in a Crannied Wall?” Are there other Chinese Hymns that are based on texts of Robert Browning’s poems? Does anyone know when these manuscripts came to be gifted to the Armstrong Browning Library? Could anyone suggest a date for any of these manuscripts?

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: John Ruskin and Joseph Milsand

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

browning-and-milsand

Robert Browning (on left) and Joseph Milsand (on right).

Joseph Milsand (1817-1886) was a French critic, philosopher, theologian, and close friend of Robert Browning. The Joseph Milsand Archive, now owned by the Armstrong Browning Library, contains over 4,000 autograph letters as well as numerous rare books, pamphlets, journals, photographs, drawings, newspapers, and albums. It includes original manuscripts of nearly all of Milsand’s known writings, together with a large number of annotated proofs and most of his printed works, documenting his career from the age of twenty until his death. Over 62,000 manuscript pages of Milsand’s articles, essays, study notes, and personal journals (mostly handwritten in French) record his thoughts and observations relating to the Brownings, the Milsand family, and the Anglo-French literary scene from the 1860s to 80s.

Milsand, who often wrote for the French journal, Revue des Deux Mondes,  published two articles about Ruskin in that periodical,  “Nouvelle theories de l’art, en Angleterre” 1 July 1860, and “De l’influence de la littérature,” 15 August 1861. The two articles, along with a preface, were published as a book, L’Esthétique anglaise, étude sur John Ruskin, in June 1864.

Shown below is Milsand’s copy of his first publication on John Ruskin, “Nouvelle theories de l’art en Angleterre.”

revue-des-deux-mondes-1

Revue des Deux Mondes. 1860.

revue-des-deux-mondes-2013

“Nouvelles theories de l’art en Angleterre” in Revue des Deux Mondes. 1 July 1860.

Several pages of Milsand’s notes on John Ruskin can be found in this journal kept from 1850-65.

t010003t010001t010002The Armstrong Browning Library also owns twenty-four pages of heavily revised galley proofs of the article, “Nouvelles theories de l’art en Angleterre,”  which was published in Revue des Deux Mondes, 1 July 1860.

s085Milsand collected this  article about Ruskin, “Nouvelles theories de l’art en Angleterre,” and another article also published in Revue des Deux Mondes, 15 August 1861, “De l’influence de la littérature,” written the next year, and added a preface to complete a book on John Ruskin, L’Esthétique anglaise, étude sur John Ruskin (1864). The following is a contract Milsand signed with Germer Baillière for the publication of L’Esthétique anglaise, étude sur John Ruskin (1864), dated 6 June 1864.

v019009v019010The Armstrong Browning Library also owns two letters written from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand related to Milsand’s critique of Ruskin’s Modern Painters in his book,  L’Esthétique anglaise, étude sur John Ruskin.

On 12 February 1865, John Ruskin wrote to Joseph Milsand, offering him thanks for the “deep and careful” praise given in Milsand’s review of Modern Painters. Ruskin tells Milsand that he accepts “his strictures as heartily and frankly as I do your praise,”  affirming that “nothing has given me so much encouragement—or so much of the rare happiness which comes of a discovered sympathy, as your review of me.”

ruskin-to-milsand-feb-12-1865-2003

Letter from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865. Page 1.

Letter from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865. Page 2 and 3.

Letter from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865. Page 2 and 3.

ruskin-to-milsand-feb-12-1865-005

Envelope from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865.

Envelope from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865. Verso.

Envelope from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 12 February 1865. Verso.

In the following letter, 28 February [1865], Ruskin thanks Milsand for his letter of response. He says that Browning had written to him saying that he thought Milsand would think Ruskin would have been angry about his criticism. However, Ruskin says this about praise and censure:

“…how could you think that? Unless indeed you have found as I have found so often that however much praise or sympathy you give people if you give them even the least bit of blame if it’s only enough to hold the praise on, like a cherry stone—they suck all the praise off—and spit the stone back in your face—or, if its big enough—throw it at you like the Merchant under the date tree in Arabian nights…. I’m very thankful for yours—blame & praise alike & much the better for it.”

ruskin-to-milsand-28-feb-1865-1

Letter from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 28 February [1865]. Page 1.

ruskin-to-milsand-feb-28-1865-2002

Letter from John Ruskin to Joseph Milsand, 28 February [1865]. Page 2.

 

 

 

 

 

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Seeing Many Beautiful Things: John Ruskin and the Brownings

By Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

The Armstrong Browning Library holds twelve letters recounting the correspondence between John Ruskin and the Brownings.

The earliest, [16 October 1855], is a letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Ruskin apologizing to him for not being able to see him before they leave for Paris.

In his letter to Ruskin of [1 February 1856], Robert Browning discusses Modern Painters.

In Ruskin’s letter to Robert Browning of 29 August 1856, he apologizes for “mangling” Browning’s  “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church” in Modern Painters and describes his tired, “vegetative” state.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes to John Ruskin’s mother on 18 October 1856, thanking her for her gifts of a netted scarf, flowers, and a box of preserves. Elizabeth also thanks her for her attention to her son Pen and for reading his poems that Elizabeth had sent to Mrs. Ruskin.

John Ruskin replies to Elizabeth on 18 October 1856, saying that he intends to send a gift to Pen. He also talks about his admiration for the poetry of both Brownings.

In a letter of 3 June 1859, Elizabeth recommends an artist, Mr. Page, to Ruskin. She also thanks Ruskin for speaking kindly about Italy, whose political situation is not looked on favorably by many people in England.

Robert informs Ruskin in a letter of [Mid-May 1862] that he will be at the National Gallery under the Portico of the Entrance to the Old Masters on Friday at five and hopes to have tea with him.

John Ruskin to Mrs. Johnson. [31 January 1865].

John Ruskin to Mrs. Johnson. [31 January 1865].

Ruskin mentions to Mrs. Johnson in a letter of [31 January 1865] that he has not written to Browning for a long time. He writes, rather cryptically: “Leave granted at once by Browning. I had not written to him for a long time and had to tell him why, and couldn’t at the time your letter came.”

The Armstrong Browning Library holds an envelope from Ruskin to Browning, 6 February 1865. The letter, which invites Browning to dinner at five on Wednesday, is located at The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.

In this letter, [26 March 1866], Browning regrets he cannot accept Ruskin’s invitation.

Browning invites Ruskin to view Pen’s paintings in this letter of 28 March 1880.

In this letter of 12 August 1884 Browning forwards a letter from Mrs. Bloomfield Moore, author and art collector, to Ruskin.

In addition to these letters The Browning Letters project provides access to twenty Ruskin letters held by the Ransom Center at the University of Texas and three letters from Special Collection at the Margaret Clapp Library at Wellesley College. There are thirty-four references to John Ruskin in The Browning Letters.

Among the items in the John Ruskin Collection at the ABL are Ruskin’s copies of the Brownings’ works. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s The Greek Christian Poets and the English Poets bears Ruskin’s bookplate: “Ex Libris/John Ruskin/Brantwood.” Robert Browning’s translation of The Agamemnon of Aeschylus bears the same bookplate.

ruskins-bookplate

John Ruskin’s bookplate in Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The Greek Christian Poets and the English Poets. London: Chapman & Hall, 1863.

ruskins-copy-of-ebb2

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

ruskins-copy-of-ebb1Ruskin’s copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Greek Christian Poets contains an annotation regarding the provenance of the book, indicating that Dr. and Mrs. Armstrong secured the book from Ruskin’s Coniston House.

John Ruskin’s bookplate in Aeschylus. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus, Transcribed by Robert Browning. London: Smith Elder & Co., 1877.

John Ruskin’s bookplate in Aeschylus. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus, Transcribed by Robert Browning. London: Smith Elder & Co., 1877.

ruskins-copy-of-rb2

Aeschylus. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus, Transcribed by Robert Browning. London: Smith Elder & Co., 1877.

In a letter to Miss Carrie, 15 June 1914, Mrs. Lilian Whiting, an American journalist and biographer of the Brownings, relates this story recalled by Pen Browning about his father and John Ruskin.

Some six years before Mr. Barrett Brofning’s [sic] death (in July of 1912) he bought one of the old Medici villas that are scattered about Tuscany, , one called “La Torre All’ Antella”, about five miles out of Florence, and began “restoring” it. (That was his favorite amusement, and contributed largely to his dying a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in debt.) But to the last he had only two rooms that were habitable, and in those he camped out, so to speak, the rest of the house being in the hands of workmen. It was left in a totally unfinished state. In an outhouse he had packed all the furniture. He took me into the storehouse to see it, – the sofa, as high as a catafalque, on which he remembered seeing his father and Ruskin sitting side by side, with their feet dangling.

Robert Browning's snuff box

Robert Browning’s snuff box.

Robert Browning’s snuff box of Georgian silver is a crescent-shaped, engine turned box made in Birmingham in 1797 with R. B. monogrammed on the lid. It was reputedly given by Browning’s daughter-in-law, Fannie Coddington Browning, to John Ruskin and was still in his possession at his death in 1900.

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In the Footsteps of the Brownings in Italy

By Jennifer Borderud, Associate Director and Access and Outreach Librarian

Josh and Jennifer Borderud in front of the Pantheon, Rome

Josh and Jennifer Borderud in front of the Pantheon, Rome

On this day—June 29—in 1861, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in Florence, Italy, and was buried two days later in the English Cemetery there. In March of this year—2016—my husband Josh and I had the opportunity to travel to Italy, the place Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning called home during their 15 years of marriage, with faculty, students, and friends of Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. The nine-day trip, which included stops in Rome, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Florence, was part of a course on early Roman Christianity taught by our good friend Dr. Joel Weaver.

The itinerary was full with guided tours of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and the Catacombs of St. Sebastian in Rome; St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City; the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum at the foot of Mount Vesuvius; and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Piazza della Signoria, and the Accademia Gallery in Florence. Despite the ambitious agenda, my husband and I (and at times an interested seminarian or two) used the free time we were given in Rome and Florence to seek out sites related to the Brownings and their circle.

Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Richard Horne on display at the Keats-Shelley House

Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Richard Horne on display at the Keats-Shelley House

In Rome, we visited the Keats-Shelley House, a museum dedicated to the English Romantic poets who were enamored with and influenced by Rome. John Keats died in this house in 1821 in a room on the second floor overlooking the Spanish Steps. On display throughout the house were books, manuscripts, and other items relating to the lives and works of Byron, Shelley, and Keats. There were items relating to the Brownings as well.

After our visit to the museum, a short walk took us to the doorstep of Bocca di Leone 43, where the Brownings lived during extended winter stays in Rome. A plaque at the corner of the street commemorates the Brownings’ residency.

Via Bocca di Leone, Rome

Via Bocca di Leone, Rome

Angel of Grief by William Wetmore Story, Non-Catholic Cemetery, Rome

Angel of Grief by William Wetmore Story, Non-Catholic Cemetery, Rome

Heading quickly back toward the Spanish Steps, we had just enough time to take a taxi to Rome’s Non-Catholic Cemetery (Il Cimitero Acattolico di Roma). Located adjacent to the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, the Non-Catholic Cemetery is the burial place of both John Keats and Percy Shelley. American sculptor and Browning friend William Wetmore Story and his wife Emelyn are also buried there. I had seen photographs of the grave stone Story designed for his wife, called the Angel of Grief, and was particularly interested in seeing it in person. It was stunningly beautiful. Not long after we returned to Waco from Italy, I learned that a replica of Story’s Angel of Grief could be found in Waco’s Oakwood Cemetery, practically in my own backyard.

We only spent a day and a half in Florence, but we had just enough free time to make two important stops. After walking across the Ponte Vecchio, we found our way to Casa Guidi, the Brownings’ primary home in Italy, which has been restored to look as it did when the Brownings lived there. We stood in the salon where Elizabeth spent time writing Casa Guidi Windows and Aurora Leigh, and we walked along the balcony where Robert and Elizabeth would take walks and where Elizabeth watched processions celebrating political victories.

Casa Guidi, Piazza San Felice 8, Florence

Entrance to Casa Guidi at Piazza San Felice 8, Florence

Jennifer Borderud with Julia Bolton Holloway (left) and a Roma woman who takes care of the cemetery (center)

Jennifer Borderud with Julia Bolton Holloway (left) and a Roma woman who takes care of the cemetery (center)

We did not have time to visit the nearby Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, which were frequented by the Brownings. However, we did visit the Protestant Cemetery (Cimitero degli Inglesi), where we met Julia Bolton Holloway, the custodian of the cemetery, who works with the Roma people to maintain the cemetery and grounds. We also laid flowers on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s grave to honor her life and work.

Laying flowers on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Grave

Laying flowers on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Grave

We had a wonderful week, and while there are more Browning sites to see, we understand why they loved Italy. We also made sure to rub the bronze boar’s snout in the Mercato Nuovo to ensure our return to Florence and another opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the Brownings.

Thank you to Dr. Joel Weaver and Dr. Steve Reid and to the students and friends of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary for letting us explore Italy with you.

Faculty, students, and friends of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Vatican City, 8 March 2016

Faculty, students, and friends of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Vatican City, 8 March 2016

 

 

Reflections from a Visiting Scholar

By Duc Dau, Research Fellow in English and Cultural Studies, The University of Western Australia

Duc Dau

Dr. Duc Dau, Research Fellow in English and Cultural Studies, The University of Western Australia

In this blog post I hope to provide readers with an insight into some of my recent experiences as a visiting scholar at the Armstrong Browning Library (ABL) and the extraordinary privilege of being able to access unpublished or incredibly rare and precious manuscripts.

I am a research fellow in English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia (yes, it’s very far away from Waco!). I specialise, among other things, in Victorian literature and theology, and am working on a book about the reception of the Song of Songs in Victorian literature and culture. I was awarded a visiting library fellowship at the ABL which I took up in February-March 2016. It was my first trip to both the ABL and Baylor University, and I hope it won’t be my last.

Last year Dr Joshua King, the Margarett Root Brown Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies at the ABL, informed me that the library had strong holdings not simply on Robert Browning (RB) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB), but also on Michael Field. Michael Field is the pen name of an aunt-niece couple, Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper, who wrote poetry and drama and kept a multi-volume journal. The ABL has a good number of first editions of their works as well as microfilm copies of their 30 volumes of journal material and 8 bound volumes of correspondence, held in the British Library. Most of the diary material and the letters remain unpublished. Given that I had started writing about the religion and love in EBB’s poetry and about death and conversion in Michael Field’s journals and poems, I decided to apply for a library fellowship and am grateful to have been successful.

One of the best things about being a researcher is having the opportunity to visit the most extraordinary libraries and to gain access to rare and priceless collections. The ABL is one such library. The ABL’s Belew Scholars’ Room is a beautiful and well-resourced location for scholarly research and contemplation. Within minutes of requesting material, the helpful staff are at one’s desk with the items. At the end of the day, the material is placed in one’s own cabinet. One rarely receives this kind of service elsewhere. Staff at the ABL have the wonderful opportunity of locating and purchasing nineteenth-century materials from around the world, and I have been regaled with stories of some of these purchases. Indeed, I have noticed that staff have a strong interest and investment in the library’s holdings and in the Brownings. This passion for the subject matter translates into their work and in their desire to help one make the most of one’s visit to the ABL.

Sonnet 43

“Sonnet 43,” in EBB’s hand, from Sonnets from the Portuguese (D0876)

Researchers are afforded the privilege of accessing and touching (and, for some of us, secretly smelling) handwritten manuscripts and letters written by long-dead authors. These items are usually locked away and not normally available to the general public. For the tactile among us, there’s a certain thrill at the experience of touching these manuscripts and bits of paper. It’s a thrill that few, apart from literary scholars or die-hard fans, would understand, let alone know existed. I was able to view and touch one of the ABL’s most precious items, one of only three extant copies of EBB’s Sonnets from the Portuguese, written in her hand. The sonnets are now part of popular culture and are known and treasured by readers worldwide. In fact, I had emailed a friend and colleague at my university, telling her about the quiet pleasures of being able to access something such as EBB’s handwritten Sonnets from the Portuguese. A few days later she emailed to inform me that when she mentioned my trip to a friend of hers, her friend immediately gushed that she had been reading EBB, admired her work, and thought how wonderful it would be to read the original letters between EBB and RB.

Alas, EBB’s handwriting can sometimes be difficult to decipher and therefore the pleasure of seeing and feeling the pages is blunted by a degree of frustration, at least for me, at the inability to read the words. Such was the case when I first encountered her writing: her notes on two of her Bibles housed at a library elsewhere. I was therefore pleased to discover at the ABL that all her poems have all now been published, so I could divert my attention elsewhere, such as the wealth of secondary materials and historical reviews relating to EBB’s poetry.

Line Upon Line

A page from Line upon Line in which EBB has altered the text to meet her approval (ABLibrary Brownings’ Lib X BL 220.95 H362l v.1-2)

The ABL has acquired items from EBB and RB’s library over the years, and one of the most fascinating books that ABL librarian Cynthia Burgess found for me was a two-volume religious instruction guide for their son Pen. Line upon Line; or, a Second Series of the Earliest Religious Instruction the Infant Mind is Capable of Receiving interprets the Bible through a Christian lens, acting as a didactic tool for children. What I found most fascinating was the fact that EBB had altered select passages to her liking. Every so often a word, several words, or even an entire sentence, would be altered, whited out, to meet her approval. Sometimes these sections are left blank, but usually EBB has written (legibly) over them. Ever the poet, she would occasionally seek to improve on the didactic rhymes dotted throughout the two volumes. Thus, being able to access such items owned and altered by EBB offers scholars an insight into her religious thinking and indeed her personality. At the ABL I was able to delve deeper into my work on the kinds of romantic, religious, and communal love based on Song of Songs imagery in EBB’s works.

I had worked with the original Michael Field material at the British Library, but left much of it untouched as a result of time restraints. At the ABL I had free access to the collection on microfilm, which saved me a great deal of time. My work on Michael Field focuses on how passages from the Song of Songs appear when the authors write about death, particularly at the deaths of Edith’s mother, their mentor and literary hero RB, and their beloved dog Whym Chow. At the ABL I focused on their letters to Browning and on their journal entries written around the time of their conversion to Roman Catholicism and Edith’s final months before her death from cancer. While Edith and Katharine wrote their journal for posterity and publication, they could not have known the identities of their future readers and that I would be one of them, scrolling through their journals in the small microfilm room at the ABL.

Edith and Katharine’s grief at the loss of loved ones is profound in their journals and letters. Their writing about grief furnishes scholars with compelling insights into Victorian mourning, their love of animal companions, and the complex feelings associated with the conversion experience. The poets’ grief at the death of Whym Chow runs over many, many pages, much of it unpublished. They expressed their wish to be reunited with him after death. They wrote a book of poems about him titled Whym Chow: Flame of Love. He was the “flame of love,” whose death, they believed, was the tragedy that brought them into the arms of the church.

For scholars, researching about death and writings concerned with death is never a happy task. It was poignant to see Edith Cooper’s writing deteriorating noticeably in the months leading up to her death from cancer. She had refused painkillers and was in extreme pain. Unlike a novel, a journal does not have a typical beginning or ending; as she wrote she could not have known when her last breath would be. At one point, Edith talks about receiving Viaticum, the Eucharist given to a person in danger of death. At the time she must have thought she was living her final hours. But she was to live and suffer for a few more months.

In the final months she wrote often about flowers, whether they be from the garden, or gifts, or offerings on the altar. She often spoke about lilies and roses. On the day she wrote about “my Solemn Vow of Chastity” Edith says, “So the crucifix is ‘inter lilia’, as the Beloved is among the spouses in Paradise; & ‘inter lilia’ in His real earthly Presence, as the Holy Host, He will rest when he comes to our Home.” The Latin phrase “inter lilia” means “among the lilies,” and derives from the Song of Songs. In this entry, the poet uses the biblical reference to describe lilies on a shrine and then progresses to its rich, theological significance about spiritual purity, union with the divine, and the incarnation. Elsewhere in the journal, Edith reflects on prematurely blossoming roses, “[t]heir rich, marvellous blossoming [that] fades as a very dream.” One feels that she might also have been reflecting on her own premature demise; she would die relatively young, at the age of 51.

Field inscription to RB

RB’s copy of The Father’s Tragedy, Etc., by Michael Field, inscribed: “R. Browning Esq./with sincere regards./Michael Field./June 8th 1885.” (ABLibrary Brownings Lib X BL 821.89 F445f)

I’d like to conclude by saying that, while much of the intellectual work at the ABL occurs among books and manuscripts (among the lilies of the library, as it were), I also found many moments of intellectual stimulation from the lively conversations about poetry, religion, politics, relationships, and Texas with staff and graduate students in the reading rooms, corridors, and kitchen. I was also able to meet or catch up with some of the leading scholars in my field at the library’s fantastic “The Uses of ‘Religion’ in 19th Century Studies” Conference, held in the final week of my visit. All these factors contributed to making my trip to the ABL so pleasurable and memorable.

Dr Duc Dau is a research fellow in English and Cultural Studies at The University of Western Australia, whose position is funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award. Author of Touching God: Hopkins and Love (2012) and co-editor of Queer Victorian Families: Curious Relations in Literature (2015), her articles have appeared in such journals as Literature and Theology, Religion and Literature, The Hopkins Quarterly, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Victorian Poetry.

To learn more about the Armstrong Browning Library’s Visiting Scholars Program, visit our website.

Text Mining the Brownings’ Love Letters

With love in the air as Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, Digital Scholarship Liaison Librarian Megan Martinsen decided to text mine the love letters of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning to see what discoveries she might make about the Brownings’ romance using digital tools. What she found she described in a recent blog post as “interesting, staggering, and heartwarming.” Read Megan’s full post here, and find the Brownings’ love letters with full transcriptions on the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections website.