Coventry Patmore Collection

Undated framed photograph of Coventry Patmore, Box 2, Folder 4, Coventry Patmore Papers, MS.2006.062, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Undated framed photograph of Coventry Patmore, Box 2, Folder 4, Coventry Patmore Papers, MS.2006.062, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The Burns Library owns a significant collection of Coventry Patmore Papers. Patmore (July 23, 1823 – November 26, 1896), a prominent literary figure, was for a short period one of the most widely read poets in England, though as the nineteenth century progressed his poetry was less and less appreciated. Raised in a literary home, his father a well-known man of letters, Patmore from early on was interested in art. His copy of one of Landseer’s pictures was awarded the silver palette of the Royal Society of Arts in 1838. He was only fourteen. He also developed a strong interest in science as a youth, his father even building him his own laboratory. Strongly influenced by Tennyson’s 1842 collected poems, Patmore in 1844 published his first book of poetry, Poems. Though well received by some, including Leigh Hunt, Robert Browning, and Bulwer Lytton, it was savagely reviewed by Blackwood’s Magazine: “This is the life into which the slime of the Keateses and Shelleys of former times has fecundated.” It is clear that Patmore himself later considered that these early poems were somewhat weak as he did not include any in his four volume collected poems published in 1879.

In 1846 Monckton Milnes helped Patmore secure a post as a supernumerary assistant in the Department of the Printed Books in the British Museum, a post he held until 1865. The Angel in the House was Patmore’s first major poetical work. This was composed of four volumes: The Betrothal (1854), The Espousals (1856), Faithful for Ever (1860), and The Victories of Love (1863). This poetry, a paean to his first wife Emily Augusta Andrews, had as its primary subject the pleasures of an ideal marriage. Though received very well by the Victorians as the ideal of married love-over a quarter million copies had been sold by Patmore’s death-it has been often criticized, for example by Virginia Woolf, as being sexist and contributing to the subordination of women. However, John Maynard observes that this subsequent vilification of Patmore is somewhat unfair, as his views were quite common in his day. Still, though Angel in the House has distinct poetic virtuosity, its frequent mawkishness renders its appeal to be limited for today’s readers.

Title page of a manuscript version of "The Unknown Eros", Box 2, Folder 4, Coventry Patmore Papers, MS.2006.062, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title page of a manuscript version of “The Unknown Eros”, Box 2, Folder 4, Coventry Patmore Papers, MS.2006.062, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Soon after Emily died in 1862 leaving Patmore with six young children, he traveled to Rome where he converted to Catholicism. In 1864 he remarried. His new wife, Marianne Caroline Byles, another Catholic convert, brought financial security to Patmore that allowed him to retire from his British Museum position and devote the remainder of his life to literary pursuits. In 1877 Patmore published the elegiac The Unknown Eros, and Other Odes whose themes center on the nature of both human love and the higher love of God. In the same year he visited Lourdes and made a number of retreats. In 1878 he published another series of narrative love poems, Amelia, reputably his favorite set of poems. At about this time Patmore became deep friends with the poet Alice Meynell who was a fervent champion of his poetry. However, after Patmore began to wish that the friendship become more than platonic, Meynell withdrew. (Burns Library has an important collection of Meynell’s papers including a scrapbook of articles, reviews, and poems, poetry and prose manuscripts, and correspondence. Burns also has a selection of Derek Patmore’s papers which contain the very interesting hand-written account by Derek Patmore, Coventry’s great grandson, “Coventry Patmore’s Unhappy Love for Alice Meynell”). A year and a half after Marianne died in 1880 Patmore married his third wife Harriet Georgina Robson who bore him his seventh child. Patmore died on 26 November, 1896.

Title page of a manuscript version of "The Unknown Eros", Box 2, Folder 4, Coventry Patmore Papers, MS.2006.062, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title page of a manuscript version of “The Unknown Eros”, Box 2, Folder 4, Coventry Patmore Papers, MS.2006.062, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Among the Patmore manuscripts in Burns is a beautiful, privately printed, green colored copy of Amelia that is inscribed to Edmund Gosse. Its multi-colored title page adorned with roses is particularly fine. There are signed manuscripts of “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Let Be,” and “Wind and Wave”, the third, fourth and ninth sections respectively of The Unknown Eros. There is also a signed manuscript of Patmore’s prose essay “Dieu et Ma Dame,” the last chapter of his Religio Poetae. In addition, the Burns material includes signed manuscripts of the essays “On Obscure Books” and “Peace in Life and Art.” The papers also include an unsigned manuscript of Patmore’s major poetical work The Unknown Eros. Patmore is, of course, best known today as a poet and man of letters. However, his interest in science was serious. Among the Burns material is a fascinating hand-written notebook detailing his scientific thoughts for the years 1839 to 1843. The first page heading reads: “Original Notes on Chemistry and General Science by C. K. D. Patmore”. Also among the papers is a very interesting undated hand-written “Notes of Conversation” which are Patmore’s own autobiographical notes. The opening sentence catches the eye: “Until I was about eleven years old, I was what is now called an “agnostic”, that is, I neither knew nor cared whether there was a God or no.”

Also among the Burns Patmore papers is a variorum edition in scrapbook form of Angel in the House collated with the manuscript by Shane Leslie. This includes several handwritten pages of commentary by Leslie. This is essentially an encomium of Patmore together with mordant criticism from some of Patmore’s contemporaries. Of Angel in the House, Leslie writes:

Of that marvelous Epic, the supreme matrimonial classic, the several delight of Emerson, Carlyle, Newman and Ruskin, little remains to be said. Tennyson solemnly declared that it was ‘an immortal poem’ adding to the world’s slight store of great poetry. It was a poem needing a lover’s as well as a husband’s appreciation. It was more than Ruskin’s ‘sweet analysis of quiet domestic feeling,’ for Ruskin was scarcely a lover or a husband. Still less Carlyle, who only found what was ‘quaintly comfortable’ therein. It needed a woman to see the passages were ‘so poignant that their pain and pleasure are more than the reader expects from poetry, more than many a reader expects from life.’ Yet no poet was more ridiculed among the Victorians.

Leslie goes on to lampoon Swinburne who was deeply critical of Angel in the House:

Swinburne, who hymned lascivious leanings and was incapable of love either sacred or profane, wrote a comic version of the Angel in the same taste that might produce a comic Prayer Book. The poet’s reply to parody was sublime. He wrote the Odes which defy parody. The Unknown Eros left Swinburne panting in his gilded brothel…

Undated framed photograph of Marianne Caroline Patmore, Box 4, Folder 12, Coventry Patmore Papers, MS.2006.062, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Undated framed photograph of Marianne Caroline Patmore, Box 4, Folder 12, Coventry Patmore Papers, MS.2006.062, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The numerous letters both to and from Coventry Patmore are among the most interesting items in the Burns papers. These include correspondence to Patmore from Robert Bridges, Aubrey Thomas De Vere, Alexander Kinglake, Henry Kingsley, John Henry Newman, Francis Turner Palgrave, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Spedding and correspondence from Patmore to William Allingham, Havelock Ellis, Edmund Gosse, Alice Meynell, John Ruskin, and Francis Thompson. The content of the letters is naturally very varied. Nathaniel Hawthorne thanks Patmore in 1858 for the gift of an edition of his poems. Ruskin writes saying how much he delights in one of Patmore’s poems. Tennyson, mentioning that he has a fowl and a bottle of sherry ready, asks Patmore to dine with him that evening. In September 1851 John Everett Millais who was painting a portrait of Patmore’s first wife Emily wrote to him:

I shall be in town the end of this week and will finish what is wanting to Mrs. Patmore’s portrait. I shall return again to this place, where we hope to entertain you some day in this coming month. You will I am sure be delighted with the house and country about it. If I should not happen to meet you, you shall have a clear written direction how to find us out. I have finished the background for Ophelia, and hope to commence another scene next week. I have been reading In Memoriam and it appears to me to be the most Godlike work since the Bible.

Rossetti in an undated letter to Patmore writes:

I have not been very well-at least, have been suffering continual pain from quite a week from neuralgia. I should before this have written to you and returned the proofs. I hope that I’m getting better now-though not quite yet…
I have still to thank you for all the pleasure the Espousals have given me. This volume I think has some decided advantages in form over the first, and there is more incident and variety of character. As poetry, the whole is simply admirable of its kind, and aught not to be talked of from the technical point of view, being too complete as art to need entering upon in that way.

On 6 February, 1875 Matthew Arnold wrote to Patmore about a mix-up regarding the latter’s address:

I got your note on my return home late last night. I should be very glad to see you again, and very glad to meet Mr Worsley, whom I missed, I am sorry to say, when he called upon me; and last night I fully intended to look in for an hour this evening, though not before nine o’clock, as I am engaged to dinner at 7. But now comes my difficulty: this morning your note can nowhere be found, and after a long search I am obliged to come to the conclusion that the housemaid has burnt it. I remember your street, and therefore I hope this will reach you, but I cannot remember your number, and your name is not in the new Court Guide. So, if this reaches you by 1 or 2 o’clock pray let me have one line to say to what number I am to come; if I do not hear from you, and do not arrive, you will know the reason. In that case give my very kind regards to Mr Worsley.

On 15 Oct, 1892 Patmore wrote to Edmund Gosse about consideration for the Poet Laureateship:

Letter from Coventry Patmore to Edmund Gosse, Box 2, Folder 40, Coventry Patmore Papers, MS.2006.020, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Letter from Coventry Patmore to Edmund Gosse, Box 2, Folder 40, Coventry Patmore Papers, MS.2006.020, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Thank you for your very friendly mention of me in your article on the Laureateship. I have always considered it to be so out of the question that it should be offered to me that I have never even considered what I should do if it were. I am glad that you advocate the claims of Austin Dobson. His appointment would satisfy every body. Certainly it would me.

I missed meeting you at Tennyson’s funeral by the accident of the invitation reaching me too late. I was staying in London, and the ticket was sent to Hastings and thence to Lymington, and thence to Town, where it found me just an hour too late.

The Burns Patmore Collection also contains numerous other letters neither to nor from Patmore. These include letters from Matthew Arnold, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Thomas DeQuincey, James Anthony Froude, James Leigh Hunt, William Savage Landor, Frederick Marryat, Walter Horatio Pater, Arthur Quiller-Couch, Alfred Tennyson, among many others.

Coventry Patmore is one of the least known Victorian poets and writers today. Some critics argue that this is unfair as his work, despite certain subject matter that was probably more congenial to earlier Victorian readers, deserves wider attention. It is also high time that a new biography be written of this complex literary figure. For anyone wishing to be become better acquainted with Patmore and his work, his papers in Burns Library are an excellent place to start.  To learn more, read the finding aid for the Coventry Patmore Collection or contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

  • Brendan Rapple, Collection Development Librarian, O’Neill Library

 

 

Posted in Archives & Manuscripts, Archives Diary, Featured Collections & Books, Rare books, Staff Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Edition? The Complicated Bibliographic Record of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol

The cover of Dickens's <i> A Christmas Carol </i>.

The cover of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, PR4572. C68 1843 General

As a student assistant in the Burns Library Reading Room and a graduate student in the English department at Boston College, I occasionally have the privilege of combining my scholarly interest in Victorian literature with my practical responsibilities at the Burns Library. While deciding on a topic for this blog post, I searched the Burns library’s holdings of the works of Charles Dickens, an author who is a frequent subject of my research. One of the first items to come up in the catalog was a copy of Christmas Carol from 1843, the year Dickens’s first Christmas story was published. The catalog record in Holmes claims that this book is a first edition, but also directs patrons to another work, Charles Dickens in the Original Cloth: A Bibliographical Catalogue of His Writings in Book Form in England with Facsimiles of the Bindings and Title Pages by Walter E. Smith, stating that “various theories concerning states and issues of this, the first edition” exist. Intrigued by the idea of controversy over what I had always assumed was a simple matter of publication and chronology, I headed down the rabbit hole of bibliographical inquiry. Several books, articles, and bibliographers later, the small book sitting in a cradle in front of me had gained not only the still-disputed distinction of being a first edition, but had introduced me to the intricacies of bibliography and the detail attendant upon it.

The much disputed green endpapers; note how the color has worn off due to an ineffective hand-coloring method.

The much disputed green endpapers; note how the color has worn off due to an ineffective hand-coloring method.

Let’s begin with the book itself. This particular copy of A Christmas Carol does not give any clues as to its previous ownership: it is free of marks, labels, marginalia, stamps or any other identifiers that might provide a glimpse into its past homes and owners. The book, surprisingly for a nineteenth-century volume, is still cased in the original vertically-ribbed brown publisher’s cloth. Bindings from the nineteenth century are notoriously fragile as increased mechanization and cheap materials such as fabric and paper began replacing more expensive bindings such as leather. Readers often had their books rebound, especially those that were purchased with the publisher’s cloth bindings which tended to crumble with frequent use and, at least in Dickens’s case, were fairly plain. This book’s cover is blind-stamped with a border of holly and ivy and both the spine and the front cover bear the title and author’s name in gold, surrounded by gold wreaths of holly. The title page is printed in red and blue with a branch of holly and a decorative frame with the date (1843) in Roman numerals at the very bottom of the page. The page edges are gilded and the volume contains eight illustrations: four hand-colored steel engravings and four black and white woodcuts. The colored illustrations were a first (and a last) for Dickens, who wanted A Christmas Carol to be visually appealing; the colored plates, however, were expensive and production costs severely ate into his profits. The book shows some signs of shelf wear and chipping along the spine, but overall the Burns copy of A Christmas Carol is in good condition: the pages are clean and unmarked, the binding is tight, and the colored plates are not foxed or discolored. The endpapers of the book are light green, and very chalky—a large portion of the color has been rubbed off over the years. And it is with these green endpapers that much of the controversy over editions begins. Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in about a month and a half, from mid-October, 1843 to the end of November, 1843 (Calhoun 276-277). The Christmas story was undertaken while Martin Chuzzlewit was still being written in monthly numbers and failing to bring in the audiences Dickens and his publishers, Chapman and Hall, had hoped for. A Christmas Carol was partially a commercial venture as Dickens hoped it bring would bring in larger profits, relieving some of the pressure of his financial and literary obligations, but it was also a social venture as the story explored not only Scrooge’s redemptive journey,  but the lives of the poor surrounding him. In order to get the story published, Dickens agreed to an unprecedented publishing arrangement: he would assume all of the costs of the publication but in doing so, would also gain all of the profits. Though A Christmas Carol was incredibly popular it was not incredibly profitable; in the year after it was published Dickens only made £726, well below his hoped-for profit of £1000 (Calhoun 278).

Title page of the first edition of <i>A Christmas Carol. </i>

Title page of the first edition of A Christmas Carol.

The publication history of A Christmas Carol is complicated and varied. The facts about the book seem to stand thus: the initial plan for the book was to have a green and red title page with green endpapers. The colors for the initial title page, however, did not appeal to Dickens and he changed the title page to red and blue. The first choice for endpapers was green (which are seen in the Burns’ copy of the book) but the green dye that was used on the paper turned chalky and tended to brush off (Smith 21-22). A Christmas Carol was released for the public on December 19th, right at the height of the Christmas season, but Dickens was given and distributed presentation copies on December 17th. The known presentation copies all contain a red and blue title page with yellow endpapers. These changes in publication form are not only limited to endpapers and title pages, however. Each chapter in the text is called “Stave I,” “Stave II”, and so on. In the table of contents the Staves are numbered with Roman numerals; in the original, uncorrected text, Stave I is written with a roman numeral, while Staves II-V have their numbers written out. This inconsistency was rectified in later editions, but the presence of a chapter headed Stave I rather than Stave One provides a point, or “any peculiarity on a book whose presence in or absence from a particular copy serves to distinguish it from other copies not so marked” (Carter 170), by which a first edition can be identified. Dickens also requested that the date of the book—originally 1844—be changed to reflect the Christmas it was written for, being 1843. Thus, copies exist with various combinations of title pages, endpapers, Stave I/Stave

The first page of the text with the uncorrected "Stave  I" chapter heading.

The first page of the text with the uncorrected “Stave I” chapter heading.

One, and publication dates. Bibliographers have long argued how these differences or variants fit into the publication history of A Christmas Carol and how a first edition can be identified. While bibliographers have been cataloging Dickens’s work since his death, I researched the twentieth century bibliographers most often mentioned in connection with this controversy and their various theories regarding the first edition of A Christmas Carol. Following in the footsteps of W. E. Smith, here is a brief synopsis of the various arguments pertaining to the first edition of A Christmas Carol. John C. Eckel, in his 1913 bibliography, The First Editions of the Writings of Charles Dickens, Their Points and Values: A Bibliography claims that copies of A Christmas Carol with a blue and red title page, dated 1843, with green endpapers, bearing the chapter heading Stave I not Stave One are a genuine first edition, first issue text. In 1945 Philo Calhoun published a paper, co-authored with Howell J. Heaney, in The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America entitled “Dickens’ Christmas Carol After a Hundred Years: A Study in Bibliographical Evidence.” This paper effectively argues that the first edition of the book has several issues, states, and variants. On page 299, they explain the presence of the green endpapers in the following manner:

Probably in the middle of binding, as demand grew faster than the current end-paper stock, it was hurriedly decided to use up the green paper, and thereafter it was used indiscriminately with yellow, but discarded again when the initial supply of green became exhausted. 

This explanation is practical, but does not appear to be based on overt evidence beyond the knowledge that green endpapers had been prepared. According to Calhoun and Heaney the Burns copy of A Christmas Carol is a first edition, first issue, second state based on the uncorrected text, the presence of the Stave I chapter heading, and the combination of the red and blue title page and green endpapers. In 1961, William B. Todd threw out all of the numbering systems that Eckel, Calhoun, and Heaney had constructed and turned the reader’s attention not to the color of the endpapers or the text itself, but to the cover of the book. Todd claims that the wreath of holly and the author’s name provide compelling points by which to identify each edition. Using the distance between the edge of the blind-stamped border and the holly wreath and the fact that the ‘D’ in ‘Dickens’ is perfect, Todd claims that all first editions will have the same distance (14-15mm) between border and wreath, and an unblemished author’s name (the ‘D’ shifted over time eventually resulting in a broken seraph on the top of the letter) (Gimbel 26). W. E. Smith emphasizes “the rarity of Dickens in original cloth” and carefully catalogs the various theories of bibliographers providing curious readers with a concise, if still inconclusive, catalog of arguments.

A hand-colored engraving from <i>A Christmas Carol</i> entitled "Mr. Fezziwig's Ball."

A hand-colored engraving from A Christmas Carol entitled “Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball.”

While all five bibliographers offer differ interpretations of the various forms in which A Christmas Carol exists, it certainly appears from their research that the Burns Library’s copy of Dickens’s famous Christmas story is indeed a first edition though which particular issue, state, or variant depends on a particular bibliographical lens. Rather than adding yet another theory to the already large body of bibliography, I prefer to focus on the object itself and how a slim, fabric-covered, 166 page volume can not only reveal the potential vagaries of printers, or the material role Dickens played in the publication of this particular text down to the color of the endpapers, but the attachment of scholars not only to the story but to the object itself, creating a life for the book beyond the text as a created object, a physical, tangible materiality that was handled by printers, hand-colored by artists, and hopefully read by some previous owner. This creation of a life for an object through bibliographic scholarship may not be possible for books without the tangled web of title pages and chapter headings, but for this particular book, with its familiar story, bibliography is able to defamiliarize the book and reveal its complicated publishing history. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is available for use at the Burns Library Reading Room.  If you have further questions, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

  • Rachel Ernst, Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant & Ph.D. student in the Department of English.

Works Consulted:

Calhoun, Philo, and Howell J. Heaney. “Dickens’ Christmas Carol After a Hundred Years: A Study in Bibliographical Evidence.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America. 39.4 (1945): 271-317.

Carter, John, and Nicolas Barker. ABC for Book Collectors. 8th ed. New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 2004.

Dane, Joseph A. What is a Book? The Study of the Early Printed Book. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2012.

Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas. London: Chapman & Hall,1843.

Smith, W. E. Charles Dickens in the Original Cloth; A Bibliographical Catalogue of the First Appearance of His Writings in Book Form in England. Los Angeles: Heritage BookShop, 1982.

Posted in Featured Collections & Books, Student Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

George V. Higgins: An Ear for Dialogue

Higgins as an undergraduate student at Boston College. The <em>Heights</em>, Volume 41, Number 24, May 13, 1960.

Higgins as an undergraduate student at Boston College. The Heights, Volume 41, Number 24, May 13, 1960.

George V. Higgins is one of Boston College’s most notable literary alumni.  Author of over thirty novels and non-fiction works, Higgins began his illustrious writing career as a BC undergraduate student.  Editor of the Stylus literary magazine, writer for The Heights, and recipient of The Atlantic Monthly short story award, Higgins seemed a natural for a literary life.  He did pursue his love for writing with a Master’s degree in English from Stanford University in 1965, but he returned to Boston College to attend BC Law, and received his J.D. in 1967.

Higgins worked for a short time as a news reporter before beginning his career as an attorney, and he ultimately reached the position of Assistant United States Attorney of Massachusetts.  Higgins used his work in an anti-organized crime position as inspiration for the work that made him famous: his realistic crime novels revolving around the seedy criminal underworld of Boston.  He scrapped fourteen manuscripts before publishing his first and most successful book, The Friends of Eddie Coyle.  Higgins published nearly a novel a year for the remainder of his life, and even made a foray in the non-fiction genre with The Friends of Richard Nixon, The Progress of the Seasons (concerning one of his greatest passions in life, the Boston Red Sox), and On Writing, his humorous and rather blunt guide for aspiring authors.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Higgins’ first and most successful novel.  Knopf, 1972.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Higgins’ first and most successful novel. Knopf, 1972.

Higgins was most praised – and most criticized – for the writing style that made his crime novels so realistic.  The majority of narration was left to the characters themselves, and he focused on their dialogue to bring his stories to life.  Although he was initially lauded for this style, critics accused Higgins of relying too heavily on this practice in his later novels.  Higgins addressed this critique in On Writing:

Many of my critics seem to feel that they have to say, or strongly imply, that my gift for dialogue is all I have; or that writing dialogue is not the most important attribute a novelist can have . . .  A man or woman who does not write good dialogue is not a first-rate writer. I do not believe that a writer who neglects or has not learned to write good dialogue can be depended on for accuracy in his understanding of character and in his creation of characters. Therefore to dismiss good dialogue so lightly is evidence of a critic’s incomplete understanding of what constitutes a good novel.

Recently, the Burns Library was fortunate to receive a small collection of Higgins’ correspondence with one of his lifelong friends, fellow Boston College alumnus Martin J. Kelly. Higgins and Kelly met during their years at BC and maintained a close friendship until Higgins’ death in 1999.  Evident in Higgins’ letters is his stylistic flair, dry humor, and devotion to his friend.  This collection is now available for research.  To learn more, take a look at the finding aid or contact the Burns Library at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

  •  Sarah Nitenson, Burns Library Archival Student Assistant and Master’s student in the Department of History.

Works Consulted:

Galligan, Edward L. “Getting It Right: The Novels of George V. Higgins.” The Sewanee Review 100, no. 2 (1992): 290-298. http://www.jstor.org.proxy.bc.edu/stable/27546527?seq=2&amp;.

Higgins, George V. On Writing: Advice for Those Who Write to Publish (or Would Like to). New York: H. Holt, 1990.

Pace, Eric. “George V. Higgins, 59, Author of Crime Novels.” Time Magazine  154, no. 19 (1999). http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/08/arts/george-v-higgins-59-author-of-crime-novels.html.

Skow, Thomas. “The Man with the Golden Ear.” Time Magazine 136, no. 23 (1990): 87. Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost.

Posted in Archives & Manuscripts, Archives Diary, B. C. History, Student Posts, University Archives | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joseph G. Doherty and the Dig at Ksâr ‘Akil

Map showing the location of Ksâr ‘Akil, dated 1937.  Louis J. Gallagher, SJ, President's Office Records, BC.2004.020, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Map showing the location of Ksâr ‘Akil, dated 1937, Louis J. Gallagher, SJ, President’s Office Records, BC.2004.020, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Imagine yourself deep in the heart of the Middle East.  The sun is sweltering, and you are moving from section to section at an archaeological site, watching other workers as they trowel and sift their way through sand and dirt.  You hope that you will find the prize, that item that will make all of your time and hard work worthwhile and will fill the display cases of the university museum.  In the meantime, you are trying to keep the artifacts you’ve discovered out of the clutches of your enemy.  Sounds like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, doesn’t it?

Photographs of the Ksâr ‘Akil site. Louis J. Gallagher, SJ, President's Office Records, BC.2004.020, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Photographs of the Ksâr ‘Akil site, Louis J. Gallagher, SJ, President’s Office Records, BC.2004.020, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Actually, this is the true story of Joseph G. Doherty, SJ, a doctoral student at Cambridge University, England, who secured funding from Boston College and Fordham University to excavate at the prehistoric site of Ksâr ’Akil in Lebanon near Beyrouth (Beirut).  In exchange for the funding, he promised to send most of the excavated material back to Boston College and Fordham and to circumvent the local museums, which wanted all of the archaeological evidence.  Although Boston College was hesitant at first, Doherty was undeterred.  In 1936, he excavated Ksâr ‘Akil along with two Jesuit scholars from Boston College, George Mahan and Joseph Murphy, who both postponed taking orders to participate in the excavation.  During the first season, the team set up the site by building several temporary shelters that would hopefully last longer than one season (July to September).  The three found themselves constantly busy training and overseeing the workers, who dug and sifted through the various layers of earth.  They also cleaned and cataloged the finds, which were mainly flint and fauna (animal bones).  This was all while still carrying out their religious duties and entertaining the various visitors who wanted to view the site. On April 25, 1938, Doherty sent a long letter to Father William McGarry, SJ, the new President of Boston College, describing a visitor who happened to be a Nazi museum official from Hamburg interested in Ksâr ‘Akil.  A number of individuals were interested in the site and wanted the artifacts for themselves, including the Nazi official.  However, Doherty, Mahan, and Murphy were intent on sticking to the task at hand with only the aid of Boston College.

A photograph postcard with some of the expedition team, dated1937. William James McGarry, SJ, President’s Office Records, BC.2004.007, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

A photograph postcard with some of the expedition team, dated 1937, William James McGarry, SJ, President’s Office Records, BC.2004.007, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

During that first season, Doherty, Mahan, and Murphy were unable to finish excavating because more work was required than they had anticipated. They were going to have to dig at the site for at least one more season.  Despite initial hesitation and pressure from the board, Father McGarry, then president of Boston College, chose to follow Father Gallagher, the former president of Boston College, and fund the dig.  Thus, Doherty returned for a second season in 1937 accompanied by a fellow doctoral student from a different university, J. Franklin Ewing.  Mahan and Murphy were unable to return, but they remained connected to the archaeological dig by keeping in constant correspondence and serving as advocates for the dig in the United States.

Telegram from Father Doherty to Father McGarry, dated August 27, 1938. William James McGarry, SJ, President’s Office Records, BC.2004.007, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Telegram from Father Doherty to Father McGarry, dated August 27, 1938, William James McGarry, SJ, President’s Office Records, BC.2004.007, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Ksâr ‘Akil was further excavated in the hopes of producing more material than flint and fauna.  At first, this was all that they found, but one day, Father Ewing in The Treasures of Ksâr ‘Akil comments, “We had come upon the grave of an individual whom at first thought and somewhat irreverently we named ‘Egbert.’”  Excited, Doherty immediately sent a telegram to Father McGarry on August 27, 1938.  Click on the image to the right to read the full telegram.

The archaeologists were enthusiastic to find the prehistoric skeleton (who was later determined to have died at age 7 and had been buried for 30,000-70,000 years).  Soon, they found a problem with removing Egbert from being in situ.  The problem with the skeleton was that Egbert was deeply imbedded in breccia, which is a conglomerate of fragmented minerals and rocks.  The breccia acted like extremely hard cement.  If the archaeologists were not too careful, they would more likely end up breaking Egbert’s bones than the breccia.  This situation added to already numerous, unforeseen problems that the archaeologists had encountered in the second season.

"Jesuits Return from  Syria", <i>The Heights</i>, v. 15, no. 1, October 1, 1937.

“Jesuits Return from Syria”, The Heights, v. 15, no. 1, October 1, 1937.

 Excavation at the site could once again not be completed as hoped.  Due to the unanticipated problems, the budding archaeologists had once more gone over budget, and they were forced to leave the site and many of the artifacts, including Egbert who was still stuck in the breccia, at the site.  Doherty and Ewing pleaded for more funds for another season, but Father McGarry and the Board of Trustees refused to give any more aid to the archaeological expedition.  As Father McGarry explained in a letter to Father Robert Gannon, “I continued to aid him financially, though Archaeology is caviar here, and we need steak and potatoes. […] I believe that they have something quite wonderful, and I am sorry that I am not millionaire enough to see it through.”  Doherty and Ewing then resorted to petitioning various members of the Jesuit community at Boston College and throughout New England and New York for aid.  Before they could succeed, a larger event occurred that brought any hope of excavation in 1939 to a standstill, World War II.

Doherty and Ewing returned to Ksâr ‘Akil after the war hoping to find the site intact.  They excavated during the entire 1947 season with the aid of Murphy (who had already taken orders), and Professor Herbert E. Wright, Jr. of the University of Minnesota.  The archaeological expedition was sponsored by Boston College and Fordham University, but a large portion of the cost was paid by Viking Fund, Inc. of New York, according to Ewing.  They removed Egbert (who was not damaged) and discovered that long ago Ksâr ‘Akil had experienced a pluvial period, or a period of time of intense rainfall.  They also found more human skeletons and faunal remains.  In a letter to Father Rector, Doherty mentions that the Peabody Museum at Harvard University had decided to give funds and make room for some of these artifacts from Ksâr ‘Akil. The other artifacts from the dig were given to the National Museum in Beirut both as a diplomatic measure, but also in the event that the other materials were destroyed during transport.  Although Ewing in a letter to Father Keleher from February 28, 1949 admits no major finds were discovered, he did concede that the season was not a waste, as slow study is the key to scientific work.  Overall, their hard work paid off.  They returned to the United States, arriving in New York on June 5th, 1948, ready to begin work on their finds at the Peabody Museum and the long process of cleaning, preserving, analyzing, and cataloguing the human and animal bones.

The expedition had finally reached its end after years of hard work after years of scientific and financial problems, but throughout it all, as Father Ewing stated in his Second Interim Report,

We have not slackened in our evaluation of the importance of this project to its own field, that of the study of Ancient Man — a study which furnishes a background for the appraisal of the present history … Ksâr ‘Akil is located in a critical area for the pursuit of pre-historic studies, being in an area for the pursuit of pre-historic studies, being in an area which has always been a traffic center for Europe, Asia and Africa.

Ksâr ‘Akil remains an important site even today, largely due to the perseverance of those involved in this expedition.

"Excavators in the Far East", <i>The Heights</i>, v. 15, no. 2, October 8, 1937.

“Excavators in the Far East”, The Heights, v. 15, no. 2, October 8, 1937.

After a number of years, the anthropology museum at Boston College closed its doors, and its materials were dispersed.  Doherty and Ewing then decided that the artifacts from Ksâr ‘Akil that would have gone to Boston College should be sent to the Peabody Museum at Harvard, where they currently reside today.  Doherty never did finish his doctorate at Cambridge (due to unknown reasons).  However, he returned to the United States to teach at various institutions, including Weston College, Loyola University in New Orleans, Boston College, and then Boston College High School.  Both Mahan and Murphy did eventually take orders, and each went on to teach at the university level.  Eventually, J. Franklin Ewing obtained his doctorate and then returned to the United States where he taught at Fordham for about twenty years.  As for Egbert, he is currently living at the National Museum of Beirut and is glad to reside there peacefully as scientists have finished their scientific examination decades after he was unearthed.

For more information about Ksâr ‘Akil and Boston College, please explore the records of Boston College Presidents Louis J. Gallagher, SJ; William James McGarry, SJ; William L. Keleher, S.J. and Michael P. Walsh, SJ in the Burns Library Reading Room.  The Heights is also a good source of information regarding the expedition and has been digitized. The Heights, along with many other sources about the history of Boston College, is available in the Digital Library section of the University Archives Research Guide.  For more information about the importance of Ksâr ‘Akil, read Dr. Chris Bergman’s fascinating article in Saudi-Aramco World.  For  actual artifacts from the original collection, please visit the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and the archives at the Pusey Library.  Special thanks to Patrice Kane, Head of Archives and Special Collections at Fordham University, for information regarding Father Ewing and to Louise Clarke, Deputy Superintendent, Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University, England for information regarding Father Doherty.

  • Danica Ramsey-Brimberg, Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant and BC Class of 2014

 

Posted in Archives & Manuscripts, Archives Diary, B. C. History, Student Posts, University Archives | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Will Take a Lifetime: A New Look at Francis W. Sweeney, S.J.

Father Sweeney in his office, Folder 13, Box 64, Humanities Series Director's Records,  MS.2002.037, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Father Sweeney in his office, Box 64, Folder 13, Humanities Series Director’s Records, MS.2002.037, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

I became more aware of the work of Reverend Francis W. Sweeney, S.J. when I was preparing the exhibition, “It seems I am working for the Jesuits these days:” The Thomas Merton Collection at Boston College. Father Sweeney corresponded for more than 20 years with Thomas Merton, OCSO (1915-1968), the famed Trappist monk and author of the best-selling autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain.

Sweeney was born in 1916 in Milford, Massachusetts. He earned an AB at the College of the Holy Cross and an AM at Boston College. Sweeney taught at Cranwell Preparatory School in Lenox, Massachusetts from 1944 to 1945. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1939 and was ordained in 1948. Father Sweeney began teaching at Boston College in 1951, acted as faculty advisor for the student literary magazine, the Stylus, and in 1958 founded the Boston College Humanities Series (now known as the Lowell Humanities Series). As the director of the Humanities Series, he corresponded with many notable authors including Jack Kerouac, Katherine Anne Porter, and Robert Penn Warren.  A poet who authored a number of books, he also wrote essays. Father Sweeney died in 2002.  The Humanities Series-Director’s Records, accessible in the Burns Library Reading Room, contain the  correspondence, manuscripts, financial records, scrapbooks, ephemera, newspaper clippings, and photographs documenting Father Sweeney’s work during the first forty years of the Humanities Series.

This information, while giving facts about the life of Father Sweeney, did not give me a sense of his personality. I asked Reverend Philip Kiley, S.J., Special Projects Archivist at the Burns Library, if he could tell me more about him. Father Kiley, ever the Jesuit educator, indicated that he thought I would best learn about Sweeney through his own words, and gave me a copy of It Will Take a Lifetime, a book of essays by Sweeney.

The covers of this book, designed by Barbara Adams Hebard to appear as scrapbook pages, reflect Father Sweeney’s early years (Nantasket Beach, The College of the Holy Cross, and Shadowbrook) on the front and his Boston College career on the back.

The covers of this book, designed by Barbara Adams Hebard to appear as scrapbook pages, reflect Father Sweeney’s early years (Nantasket Beach, The College of the Holy Cross, and Shadowbrook) on the front and his Boston College career on the back.

Shortly after I read Sweeney’s essay book, The New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers announced that it would be hosting an exhibition themed Geographies: New England Book Works, and would consider showing bookbindings that related to the New England states. I felt that It Will Take a Lifetime fit the New England geography theme of this exhibition because the subjects of Sweeney’s essays include growing up in Massachusetts, his education at The College of the Holy Cross and at Boston College, and his life as a Jesuit, beginning at Shadowbrook Jesuit Seminary in Stockbridge, MA, and continuing with his teaching career at Boston College. Sweeney’s essays also cover summer outings at Nantasket beach and Cape Cod. In addition to the essays about his life, Father Sweeney included some of his work about other New Englanders, such as Robert Frost, in this volume.

Photograph of celebrated American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) with Gerard Woods and Edward Thomas at reception, Box 61, Folder 22, Francis W. Sweeney, SJ, Humanities Series Director's Records, MS2002-37, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Photograph of celebrated American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) with Gerard Woods and Edward Thomas at reception, Box 61, Folder 22, Francis W. Sweeney, SJ, Humanities Series Director’s Records, MS.2002.37, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The original cover of the book, black cloth with titling on the spine in silver ink, in my opinion did not reflect the tapestry of tales within. I designed a new cover to appear as scrapbook pages, reflecting Father Sweeney’s early years (Nantasket Beach, The College of the Holy Cross, and Shadowbrook) on the front and his Boston College career (Gasson Hall, Sweeney as teacher and founder of the Humanities Lecture Series) on the back. The John J. Burns Library University Archives is the source for many of the images. I hoped that the images on the cover would invite others to learn more about Father Sweeney and was pleased to get an immediate inquiry about him. Another bookbinder, whose work also is appearing in the Geographies exhibition, asked for more information on Sweeney. I sent her the link to the virtual exhibit about Father Sweeney on the Burns Library’s Flickr site.

The New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers exhibition will travel to a number of institutions between March  2014  and  October 2015, including: the Rhode Island School of Design, University of Southern Maine, University of Vermont, Williams College, and Dartmouth College. I hope during its travels It Will Take a Lifetime, with its newly crafted cover, will continue to encourage more viewers to come to know Father Francis Sweeney and his work at Boston College.  For more information about Father Sweeney and the Humanities Series, you may browse the Heights online, view this Flickr album devoted to the Humanities Series, read past blog posts about Father Sweeney or visit the O’Neill Reading Room exhibit, Honoring the Humanities.  Contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu if you have further questions.

Barbara Adams Hebard, Conservator, John J. Burns LibraryBarbara Adams Hebard
Conservator, John J. Burns Library
Posted in B. C. History, Conservation, Exhibits & Events, Featured Collections & Books, Staff Posts, University Archives | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bloomsday: The First Edition of Ulysses

Joyce talking with publishers Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier at Shakespeare & Co., Paris, 1920, image from the Beinecke Rare Book &amp; Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Joyce talking with publishers Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier at Shakespeare & Co., Paris, 1920, image from the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.

On July 11, 1920 Irish author James Joyce met Sylvia Beach, an American transplant to Paris who had opened a bookshop called Shakespeare and Company a little under a year before. Shakespeare and Company served as the central social, literary, and financial hub for writers in Paris during the 1920s. Acting as a bookshop, lending library, bank, and post office, Sylvia Beach’s shop was peopled by such writers as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, Djuna Barnes, William Carlos Williams, and John Dos Passos. Two years after they first met, the combination of Joyce’s genius and Beach’s adept handling of printers, money, advertising, and Joyce himself, resulted in the publication of Ulysses. The novel was first serialized in the Little ReviewThe then current editors of the journal were indicted in 1921 on obscenity charges for publishing the Nausicca section of the text, and all hope of publication into novel form seemed to recede until Beach offered to publish it (Dictionary of Literary Biography). On February 2, 1922 the first edition of Ulysses was published in Paris, followed closely by the English first edition on October 12, 1922 by the Egoist Press.

<i> Ulysses </i> by James Joyce, published by Shakespeare & Co., 1922, PR 6019 .O9 U4 1922b, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Ulysses by James Joyce, published by Shakespeare & Co., 1922, PR 6019 .O9 U4 1922b Irish.

The Burns owns both a first edition as well as a copy of the second printing of the first edition, which belonged to James Joyce himself. The first print run was fairly small and the books are all numbered. This particular book reads in part: “…750 copies on handmade paper numbered from 251-1000. No 773”. The paper is thick, with deckle edges and pale blue wrappers. Plain, with no decoration, the wrappers include the title in large white letters on the front and little else. The book is in good condition, free of markings, with a tight binding and an intact paper cover.

<i>Ulysses</i> by James Joyce, published by Egoist Press, 1922, PR 6019 .O9 U4 1922, John J. Burns Library, Boston  College.

Ulysses by James Joyce, published by Egoist Press, 1922, PR 6019 .O9 U4 1922 Irish.

The Burns Library copy of the first English edition, otherwise known as the second printing of the first edition, is in quite different condition. The Egoist Press bought the text plates from the Dijon printer, Maurice Darantiere, so the body of the text looks the same. With another small print run, the book reads, “This Edition is limited to 2000 copies of handmade paper numbered from 1 to 2000. No 1658”. Five hundred of those 2,000 copies were confiscated by New York Postal authorities on the grounds of obscenity. The handmade paper in this edition is a little thinner, though the deckle edges are still present. The paper cover is the same blue with a simple white title, but it shows signs of extended use. The front cover is falling off, having been largely severed from the spine, as has the back cover. The front cover is ripped and folded under and both back and front covers were repaired with Scotch tape at some point in their ownership history. With no notes about previous ownership in the catalog record, it is only known for sure that two people owned this book before Boston College: James Joyce and a C. U. Clark. When Clark purchased the book he wrote the following on the epitaph: “C. U. Clark bought from J. A. Joyce British Museum London”. Whether it was Joyce reading his own work that managed to wear out the cover of the book is unknown, but the cover indicates prolonged use, and hopefully enjoyment, by a reader at some point in time. The pages are unmarked and the binding, though looser than the Paris edition, is still fairly tight.  If you are interested in these books or other holdings in the Irish collection, please contact the Burns Library at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.  For more information on the complicated publication history of Ulysses, take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Ulysses or visit Genetic Joyce Studies.

  • Rachel A. Ernst, Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant and Ph.D. student in the Department of English.

Works Consulted:

Fitch, Noel Riley. “Sylvia Beach.” Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 4: American Writers in Paris, 1920-1939.The Gale Group, 1980: 28-37.

Joyce, James. Ulysses. Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922.

Ulysses. London: Egoist Press, 1922.

Posted in Featured Collections & Books, Irish Studies, Rare books, Staff Posts, Student Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charles Knight: Publisher & Author

A <i>carte de visite</i> photograph of Charlies Knight in old age, circa 1865.

A carte de visite photograph of Charlies Knight in old age, circa 1865.

The Burns Library owns a handful of books published by Charles Knight (1791-1873), a 19th century publisher, author, and educator whose crusade to bring cheap educational literature to the working class played an influential role in changing the face of the English literary market. Rather ignored by biographers, there has yet to be comprehensive work on Knight, a fact that historian Valerie Gray laments in her book Charles Knight: Educator, Publisher, Writer. Gray characterizes Charles Knight as “a prime force in a great movement. He was in the forefront of the movement to provide cheap, quality literature for all readers, but particularly for the newly literate working classes….Knight was instrumental in the creation of a mass market in literature designed to satisfy the needs of the steadily rising literate population”. So often, when looking at a book, it is the author or the object itself that calls for attention. In the case of Charles Knight, it is the man behind the books and authors, who deserves some time in the spotlight.

Plate from <i>The Penny Magazine</i>, 1844.

Plate from The Penny Magazine, 1844, AP4. K7 O’Brien Library.

Knight is perhaps best known for his involvement with the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Designed to provide cheap but well-produced publications for the working class, the Society’s goal was education rather than entertainment. Knight served as a publisher and editor for the Society while continuing to publish other authors’ works, including his own. Often derided for his engagement with a Society whose aims often appear at best grandiose and at worst belittling, Knight worked within the SDUK from 1827 until it dissolved in 1845. The Burns Library holds two volumes published during Knight’s tenure with the Society: The Library of Entertaining Knowledge: Insect Transformations and the 1844 volume of The Penny Magazine. This magazine, published from 1832-1845, “was aimed primarily at a working-class readership and served up a wholesome diet of informative articles on art, literature, natural history, science, history, and biography…intended to encourage thrift, self-discipline, self-education, and other social and moral desiderate…It was the first lavishly illustrated publication to be offered to the working classes at an affordable price” (Mitchell). Illustrations were essential to Knight’s high standard of publication and in order to make well-illustrated publications available to the general public he mechanized his printing process, developing the use of stereotype castings and steam printing which allowed for larger and cheaper print runs of illustrated work. The Burns’ copy of The Penny Magazine is part of the Irish writer Flann O’Brien’s personal library though it was the property of at least one previous owner, a Mr. Whelm, who inscribed his name on the flyleaf of the book. The volume shows signs of use including bookmarks made out of old newspapers and gaps in the pages where specific articles or illustrations have been carefully cut out.

Illustration of a walking-leaf insect from

Illustration of a walking-leaf insect from The Library of Entertaining Knowledge: Insect Transformations, 05-3159 Kingsland.

The Library of Entertaining Knowledge:  Insect Transformations is part of the King’s Land collection, the personal library of the Hilaire Belloc Family, originally house at King’s Land, the family estate in Sussex, England. Like most of the books in the King’s Land collection, this book is well loved, with its covers worn at the edges and a fraying spine. Though the pages are not marked and there are no visible signs of use other than wear and tear on the covers, this book and its presence in the library of a popular Edwardian writer emphasizes the longevity and continued value of Knight’s work.  But Charles Knight was not only a publisher and a public educator; he was also an author in his own right. With his interest and innovation in the world of printing and publishing, it seems only appropriate that Knight wrote and published William Caxton, The First English Printer: A Biography. Included in the text is a postscript on the history of printing in England in which Knight emphasizes the importance of the publishing industry’s role in diffusing knowledge:

Portrait of William Caxton from the flyleaf of <i>William Caxton, the First English Printer</i> by Charles Knight.

Portrait of William Caxton from the flyleaf of William Caxton, the First English Printer by Charles Knight, Z232.C38 K55 1844 General.

The literary returns of the United Kingdom, in 1743, were unquestionably little more than 100,00l. per annum. What has multiplied them twenty-fold? Is it the contraction or widening of the market—the exclusion or the diffusion of knowledge? The whole course of our literature has been that of a gradual and certain spread from the few to the many—from a luxury to a necessary, as much so as the cotton or silk trade. Henry VIII paid 12s. a yard for a silk gown for Anne Boleyn—a sum equal to five guineas a yard of our day. Upon whom do the silk-mercers now rely—upon the few Anne Boleyns, or the thousands who can buy a silk gown at half-a-crown a yard? The PRINTING-MACHINE has done for the commerce of literature what the mule and the Jacquard loom have done for the commerce of silk. It has made literature accessible to all. In the spirit of making literature accessible to all, Knight’s authorial endeavors encompasses literary as well as educational texts.  Between 1838 and 1841, he published a seven volume pictorial edition of Shakespeare, accompanied by a one volume biography.

Title page of <i>William Shakspere: A Biography</i> by Charles Knight.

Title page of William Shakspere: A Biography by Charles Knight, 04-33230  Manley Hopkins.

The Burns Library owns a copy of The Pictorial Edition of the Works of Shakspere, and not just any copy, but the copy that belonged to the Manley Hopkins family. Manley Hopkins (1819-1897) and Catherine “Kate” Hopkins neé Smith (1821-1920) were the parents of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1884-1889), the Jesuit priest now most well-known for his religious poetry. Manley and Kate Hopkins had a total of nine children together; the family was remarkably artistic and literary, and many of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s siblings went on to become writers, artists, and scholars. In such a literary home it is not surprising that Shakespeare would be on the family bookshelves. This particular copy of Knight’s edition is in excellent condition: bound in black leather with a blind-stamped floral border and gold edging on the front and back covers, the eight volume set shows signs of gentle wear. The endpapers and edges are marbled and the edition itself is heavily illustrated with lavishly detailed engravings. Each volume is personalized with a hand-drawn bookplate bearing Kate Hopkins’ name or initials. The bookplates range from illuminated manuscript letters, to heraldic crests, to finely drawn sketches all executed in black, colored, or gold inks. The volumes themselves show few marks of overt usage, but there are marks of readership from the Hopkins family. Every appearance of the character of Alonso in The Tempest has a small pencil mark beside it. There is no evidence to provide a reason for this small penciled tick mark, but it is easy to imagine someone studying the role either for educational reasons or personal pleasure. Other small marks of use include a calling card from Edward Steinkopff, owner of the St. John’s Gazette, interleaved between the pages of Histories, Volume II, and a small slip of brown paper in Tragedies, Volume I, marking the title page of King Lear. There is also evidence on several pages in multiple volumes that someone used the book as a desk, drawing or writing hard enough to leave an impression on several pages. Though there are no marginalia or lost manuscripts squirreled away in the pages, these books highlight use by readers over time in small, everyday ways. As the 125th anniversary of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ death draws near, the Burns Library is celebrating the Victorian poet with an exhibit entitled The Jesuit Victorian Poet:  Gerard Manley Hopkins in the Ford Tower of the Burns Library.  How better to complement this exhibit than by examining another influential Victorian man of letters?

Title page for <i>Much Ado about Nothing</i>, from volume two of Charles Knight's <i>The Pictorial Edition of the Works of Shakspere</i>.

Title page for Much Ado about Nothing, from volume two of Charles Knight’s The Pictorial Edition of the Works of Shakspere, 04-33230 Manley Hopkins.

Charles Knight was an innovative publisher and author, whose dedication to literacy and affordable reading material helped change the face of 19th century publishing. The subjects of his books, whether published or authored by him,  are as varied as his career, but invariably his work ended up in the libraries of writers and thinkers. While the Hopkins family, Hilaire Belloc, and Flann O’Brien may not have been Knight’s target audience, the presence of his work in the libraries of these authors is a testament to the usefulness and longevity of the texts he wrote and published. If you are interested in perusing any of these texts, The Penny Magazine, The Library of Entertaining Knowledge: Insect Transformations, William Caxton, The First English Printer: A Biography, and The Pictorial Edition of the Works of Shakspere are all available at the Burns Library Reading Room. For more information, contact the Burns Library at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

  • Rachel Ernst, Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant & Ph.D. Student in the Department of English

Works Consulted:

Gray, Valerie. Charles Knight: Educator, Publisher, Writer. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006.

Knight, Charles. William Caxton, the First English Printer: A Biography. London: Charles Knight & Co., 1844.

William Shakspere: A Biography. London: Charles Knight & Co., 1843.

Mitchell, Rosemary. “Knight, Charles (1791-1873).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition Jan 2008. Accessed May 19, 2014.

The Library of Entertaining Knowledge: Insect Transformations. London: Charles Knight, 1830.

The Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. London: Charles Knight & Co., 1844.

Wormald, Mark. “Hopkins, Hamlet, and the Victorians: Carrion Comfort?” Victorian Poetry, 40.4 (2002): 409-431.

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