Tag Archive for Browning Letters Project

(Digital Collections) Jax and EBB Sitting ‘Neath A Tree / R-H-Y-M-I-N-G: On Sesame Street’s “Sons of Poetry” and the Brownings

What do fictional Northern California biker gangs, a beloved television institution and two Victorian poets have in common? According to this video from Sesame Street’s amazing line of pop culture parody skits, they share a love of rhyming couplets, of course.

In typical Sesame Street fashion, they’ve taken something decidedly adult – the hit FX show Sons of Anarchy, which features violence, drugs, adult themes and language aplenty – and reformatted it to teach pre-K kids about the importance of rhyming. Your tax dollars at work, America!

The setup is that Robert and Elizabeth, who are sitting under a tree (natch), are enjoying a beautiful day in nature, but Robert is having a hard time finding a rhyme to finish this little ditty:

Roses are red / violets are blue
Sugar is sweet / and I love …

Fortunately for our puzzled poet, the Sons of Poetry ride into town and do what they do best: glower, collaborate and come up with solutions. (If you ever watched the source program, which several of us did through all seven seasons, you’ll know that the SAMCRO gang spends lots of time doing the first two, and the third one usually involves someone getting killed in a creative but extra-legal way.)

Because there’s magic in threes – and because Sesame Street has a whole hour of airtime to fill every weekday morning – we get the Sons working through three options to finish Robert’s rhyme: shoe, moo and stew. Immediately, I wondered if any or all of them showed up in the full text of our Browning Letters Project, and it turns out two of them do! (It would have been quite a surprise if “moo” had turned up, of course.) And now, presented without context (because it’s more absurdist fun that way), are some times Robert or Elizabeth used the words “shoe” or “stew” in their personal correspondence!

I was thinking last night that when you come & drop the silver penny into my shoe, our dear Mr Kenyon might just as well be here to take his chance for a penny too! What do you think?

Page 3, letter from Elizabeth to Mary Russell Mitford, September 25, 1841

I am grateful to all my guardian “little spirits with shoe buckles,” who ‘preserve my life’ from grandeeism, & “company” in the general forms of it.

Page 8, letter from Elizabeth to Mitford, July  22, 1845

I thought, thought, thought of you,-& the books I took up one by one .. (I tried a romance too .. “Les femmes” by a writer called Desnoyers .. quite new, & weak & foolish enough as a story, but full of clever things about shoe tyes .. philosophy in small:) the books were all so many lorgnons through which I looked at you again & again.

Page 1, letter from Elizabeth to Robert, August 9, 1845

(See more examples of the poets’ use of word “shoe” here!)

I did not stand in reach just now of the temptations of mesmerism. I might have said that I shrank nearly as much from these ‘temptations’, as from Lord Bacon’s stew of infant children for the purposes of witchcraft– Well—then I am getting deeper & deeper into correspondence with Robert Browning, poet & mystic,—& we are growing to be the truest of friends–

Page 10, letter from Elizabeth to Julia Martin, ca. January 28, 1845

A German professor selects a woman who can merely stew prunes-not because stewing prunes & reading Proclus make a delightful harmony, but because he wants his prunes stewed for him & chooses to read Proclus by himself.

Page 1, letter from Elizabeth to Robert, August 12, 1846


Postscript

Because Robert can’t get his act together, he ends up losing the girl to the leader of the biker gang, which has probably happened a lot more times throughout history than we’d care to think about, even if it is in opposition to the real life ending of the courtship between Robert and Elizabeth. But then again, we weren’t able to find any references to Robert having to fend of a band of gun-running narco-bikers to keep fair Elizabeth’s hand, so maybe he merely lived in simpler times than our Muppet friends.

Lastly, in case you’re not familiar with Sons of Anarchy, we thought you’d like to see how well the geniuses at Sesame Street were able to replicate a crew of hardened criminals using only felt, yarn and elbow grease. Enjoy!

tig clay Bobby JAX



You can read more letters by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in our Browning Letters Project. The entire 7-season run of
Sons of Anarchy is available on Netflix or Amazon Prime, and you can watch Sesame Street at pbskids.org. And if you want to see portraits and other artifacts related to the Brownings, be sure to visit the Armstrong Browning Library on the campus of Baylor University!

 

(Digital Collections) Browning Day 2014

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The members of the Browning Letters Project gather for a tour of the RDC (from left): Roberta Rodriquez (BU), Anna Sander (Balliol, Ofxord), Ian Graham (Wellesley), Fiona Godber (Balliol), Darryl Stuhr (BU), Eric Ames (BU) and Allyson Riley (BU)

Several members of the DPG team were privileged to present at the Armstrong Browning Library’s annual Browning Day celebration this week. The event, held on Robert Browning’s birthday every year, celebrates the life, legacy and impact of the poet’s work and features receptions, guest speakers and more.

Assistant Director Darryl Stuhr and Curator of Digital Collections Eric Ames joined Ian Graham of Wellesley College and Anna Sander and Fiona Godber from Balliol College at Oxford (UK) to present an update on the Browning Letters Project. Longtime blog readers will remember that Baylor and Wellesley teamed up more than three years ago to bring a substantial collection of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s correspondence online via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections. Recently, we’ve been excited to welcome Balliol to the project. Their collection of letters will be digitized on-site in England and the digital files transmitted to Texas for inclusion in the project. This phase will take place over the next several months and represents the first international additions to the growing corpus of letters.

The team was also able to announced that the University of Texas at Austin will be added letters from their holdings to the project in the coming months as well, bringing the total number of project partners to five, with a combined collection totaling more than 5,000 letters between them.

Check out the photos of the event below and if you haven’t done so already, check out the Browning Letters Project today!

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Darryl Stuhr (click to enlarge)

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Darryl Stuhr

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Ian Graham

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Ian Graham

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Anna Sander and Fiona Godber

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Anna Sander and Fiona Godber

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Eric Ames

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Eric Ames

(Digital Collections) This Just In! A Quick Look at the DPG in the News So Far This Year

Just a quick post this week to update you all on a couple of the places the DPG and the Digital Collections have been popping up in the media over the past couple of months. We’re always grateful for our work to be featured in any potential arena – digital, broadcast or print – and we thought we’d take this opportunity to share with our blog readers.

Baylor University Institute for Oral History Introduces Online Audio Files

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Baylor professor Robert Darden restoring vanishing black gospel music

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Vast New Additions to the Digital Archive of Browning Letters

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