Category Archives: 19th-Century Literature

“It is better to learn wisdom late, than to never learn it at all” The Life of the Great Creator of Sherlock Holmes

By Margueritte Peterson

On the 7th of July, 1930, Arthur Conan Doyle died at age 71 from a heart attack. On this the 86th anniversary of his death, we’d like to look at this famous author, spiritualist & physician and his lifetime contribution to so many different fields!

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 12.49.00 PMConan Doyle (as he is often called, though Conan Doyle is a combination of his middle and last names, as Conan is not a surname, as people often think!) was not born under auspicious circumstances. His father, Charles Altamont Doyle, was an alcoholic and when Arthur was only 5 years old he and his siblings were dispersed to live with family and friends across Edinburgh. A few years later the family moved back together and for numerous years lived in near-poverty. Luckily, Doyle had wealthy family to support him and to send him to Jesuit boarding school in England for seven years beginning when he was nine years old. Despite a difficult home life and upbringing, Doyle apparently struggled leaving home for school – as he was incredibly close with his mother (and would remain so throughout his life) and cherished the stories she would tell him during his childhood. It is even said that his favorite part of school was writing letters home to his mother, and telling stories to his schoolmates that she had once told him!

After leaving school as a young man, Doyle’s first act as an adult was to co-sign the committal papers for his father, who by that time was a long-sufferer of mental illness related to his drinking problem. After such, Doyle devoted his further studies, surprisingly, to a medical career (I say surprisingly as his family was one of artists) after being influenced by a boarder his mother took in for some extra cash. While at medical school, Doyle met two fellow students who would prove to become life-long friends, as well as literary stars – James Barrie (author of Peter Pan) and Robert Louis Stevenson. Another influential persona on the young Doyle was one of his Professors – a Dr. Joseph Bell. Dr. Bell, with his particular observations, attention and significant powers of logic and deduction would end up being Doyle’s inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes!

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 12.35.00 PMIt was during his medical studies that Doyle first began to write short stories – the first few of which were published in both a smaller journal in Edinburgh and the London Society. It is said that with his publication in the larger UK magazine Doyle first realized that he could, possibly, make a living with his pen. He took off of his studies during his third year of medical school to act as a doctor on board an Arctic whaling boat – an experience that he loved (and kept detailed journals of) and sparked his wish for adventure. After returning to his studies and graduating, Doyle’s first job was to take another surgeon position on board a ship bound for Africa. He was less impressed by this position, however, and upon returning to England eventually opened up his own small practice in Portsmouth. During his time practicing, Doyle wrote short stories on the side and married a sister of one of his patients. He lived a relatively calm and normal life until March of 1886 when he began working on the novel that would propel him into fame and success as an author.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 12.34.14 PMA Study in Scarlet was published in 1888 and immediately became a great success (though, surprisingly, Doyle was received more widely in America at first, than in the UK). Though this first work is well-remembered (as it introduced the world to the immortal characters of Dr. Watson & Sherlock Holmes), and Doyle continued writing other stories and novels. Sherlock became a household name and his stories began to be published in The Strand Magazine on a regular basis. In fact, after only five years of Sherlock titles, Doyle planned the death of this fictional hero and after The Final Problem was published in 1893 (where Sherlock and Moriarty plunged to their deaths at The Reichenbach Falls), over twenty thousand readers cancelled their subscriptions to the magazine!

Doyle’s next few years were troubled times for the author, as he struggled to maintain a readership with other stories and characters, took care of his wife recently diagnosed with tuberculosis, and dealt with the death of his (at this point) severely demented father. In the early 1900s, Doyle decided (more for the happiness of his bank account than his own literary merits) to bring back the character of Sherlock – first in The Hound of the Baskervilles (written as just a previously untold adventure of the famous Detective), and then with The Return of Sherlock Holmes in 1903 – once again serialized in The Strand Magazine. Sherlock Holmes was back, and as popular as ever.

Sherlock Holmes was kept alive despite many obstacles in Doyle’s life. He took care of his wife throughout her illness, raised their two children, wrote, tried (twice, in fact) to throw himself into politics, and began seeing a young woman he felt a deep connection with on the side (though it is thought he remained true to Louisa until her death in 1906). Doyle was also a very active person, participating in many sports and body building throughout his life. Doyle did not only write Sherlock Holmes periodicals, but also in this time wrote several plays and novels – though some popular (some not quite so popular) in contemporary circles are not what he is well-remembered for today.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 12.49.23 PMEver an active participant in politics and wartime (he served as a surgeon in the Boer War some years earlier), Conan Doyle never ceased to look for ways to be of service to his country and his people. Fun Fact: After an attack on the British Navy at the outbreak of WWI where the military lost over a thousand lives in one day, Doyle wrote to the war office and recommended that they invent inflatable belts and inflatable “life boats” in order to save more lives of those at sea. Though many in the offices thought Doyle a nuisance (always interfering), at one point Winston Churchill himself wrote him to thank him for his ideas! As far as I’m concerned, being the one to come up with the idea for inflatable life jackets and life rafts absolutely earns you respect.

One part of Doyle’s history that many like to focus on is his interest in the paranormal and the occult sciences. Having always been interested in certain types of phenomena (even his second published work was a strange occult work of fiction about the afterlife of three Buddhist monks), he became even more so after witnessing the death of his son in the war. His interest in spiritualism (which his wife eventually also shared), led him to believe in anything paranormal – such as the Cottingley fairies (the two girls who posed with fairy cutouts and accidentally started a nationwide interest in the belief of fairies). Though when the need for money rose once again Doyle was able to pen out more Sherlock Holmes tales, most of his writing in his later life focused on spiritualism and psychic pursuits.

Our first appearance of this classic science fiction novel by Doyle "The First Men in the Moon" illustrated by Claude Shepperson, many plates of which are only available in this periodical issue. See more here>

A Collection of Strand Magazine from 1900 to 1901 with Arhur Conan Doyle articles “A Glimpse of the Army” and “Strange Studies from Life” as well as an interview with Doyle – “A British Commando.” See more here>

Doyle passed away from angina and heart-related difficulties in July of 1930. His last words were whispered to his second wife, “You are wonderful.” This great man created one of the most well-known literary characters to this day and lived a full-life, constantly chasing his passions, whether they be literary, political, or spiritual.

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Look no further… than the Latest Items at Tavistock Books!

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Does the name Victoria Lucas ring a bell to you? She’s a super famous poet! We recently wrote a blog about her, even. Not ringing with understanding yet? Hmm… she also struggled with depression her whole life and wrote some of her most famous poems at the peaks of her despair. Here’s a hint if you’re STILL confused… Victoria Lucas is her pseudonym. That’s right, ladies and gents – it’s Mrs. Sylvia Plath. And here we offer a 1st edition of her novel “The Bell Jar”! See more here>

 

 

 

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We can’t get enough of Plath around here… have you ever read her Journals? Get on that as soon as possible! But first, perhaps you’d like to spend some time with a 1st edition of her, arguably, most famous book of poetry – published, unfortunately, in 1965, two years after her death. Interested? See it here>

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 8.16.35 AMFun fact about poet Wallace Stevens – winner of the Pulitzer Prize for one of his books of poetry! He loved to visit Key West (which is evident in much of his poetry) and while there, he encountered writers and poets Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway… both of which he argued with each time! Did I say argued? Ernest Hemingway beat him to the curb outside, is what I meant. Nevertheless, Wallace was an important figure on the poetry scene, even if only for a while! His poem “The Man with the Blue Guitar” we offer here>

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A collector of cookery items and menus knows that it is difficult enough to find a menu in good shape from the beginning of the 20th century. How about a menu in VG condition… from the trenches of WWI? We wouldn’t lie to you! This menu even has a graphic illustration of soldiers confronting each other in the war. Check it out here>

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“We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cowpuncher” is one of the best books depicting cowboy life that we have in our inventory today! Though born in England, “Teddy Blue” Abbott was a cowboy from a young age – once his parents moved him to Lincoln, Nebraska and his father let him try his hand a herding cattle! But oh, we shouldn’t tell you the entire story, should we? Read his memoirs here>

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We love our cookbooks here at Tavistock Books… Ever wish you could make Pea Fritters or Rice Coquettes? This book is the cookbook for you! Our “Cookery in the Golden State” is a 1st edition published in Sacramento in 1890… by our good old Unitarian Ladies! Somewhat scarce in the trade, this book will meet all your cookery collection needs! Try the recipes here>

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It is always a wonderful thing when you meet someone who truly and desperately loves where they are and what they are doing. Too often we are too apt to complain about where we’ve decided to settle! Not for Mabel Dodge Luhan and her beloved Taos, New Mexico. Her “Winter in Taos” describes her simple life from season to season, in an almost stream-of-conciousness style. She connects with the earth and finds great “pleasure in being very still and sensing things”. Find out about Luhan’s deep connection with the “deep living earth” here>

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This is not your average manuscript book… this is a book of a pharmacy’s ledger of prescriptions… from 1874! Essentially an apothecary recipe book containing innumerable medicinal formulas with ingredients and dosage instructions from an unnamed apothecary in the Boston Area at the end of the 19th century. Truthfully, we would note this as an invaluable primary source for medicinal recipes used by the US medical community in the 1870s. Forget WebMD… check it out here>

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“And then I spent two years wandering the Sahara Desert before being rescued by a wandering trio of exiled German princes who brought me along as their entertainment… a court jester, if you will…”

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By Margueritte Peterson

Personal confession: normally I am a proponent of all types of blogging. Though I believe the (not-so-old) adage “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet” – I also find the internet to be a most useful place for information. Some of it genuine… some of it not quite so genuine… some of it kind, some of it negative. In any case, the internet is a fount of information. And I do use it – boy, do I use it! 

However, that being said, there is one thing that I cannot make up my mind on how I feel about it. The internet is partially responsible (in my own humble opinion) for making one particular genre of published book not quite as popular anymore.

Travel Writing.

Nowadays, just about anyone can and does post just about anything they want online. They went on a hike with their girlfriend and found a killer “secret” camping spot? Let’s tell the entire online world! (Not so “secret” anymore – so much for skinny dipping!) Did you travel to Versailles with your parents and take pictures of every single item of gold you saw? Post them to Facebook! Gone are the old days where someone went on adventures that others might never experience and went home to write colorful and descriptive tales about their travels. Travel writing had to be good enough, exciting enough and gripping enough to spend money to publish it – it had to appeal to the masses. Now don’t get me wrong – I love to travel and always want to write about my “adventures” – but I would rather write them down for a book than blog about them online! Perhaps it is old fashioned of me, but I think that this is a genre that we ought to bring back.

Try this 1879 1st edition on for size! See it here>

Try this 1879 1st edition on for size! See it here>

Travel Writing began as early as the 2nd century, when Pausanias wrote his Description of Greece and when Gerald of Wales wrote Journey Through Wales and Description of Wales (does it count as travel writing if you are reporting on your own hometown? Apparently so if it was written in 1191 and 1194). Travel writing was also a fairly common genre in medieval Arabic literature, with the travel journals of Ibn Jubayr (d. 1214) and Ibn Batutta (d. 1377) being the most well-known examples of this genre. In medieval China (the end of the Song Dynasty, in particular, 970 – 1279) travel literature was also widespread, and belonged to a genre the Chinese named “youji wenxue” or “travel record literature.”  Authors in medieval China wrote narratives, essays and prose that extensively focused on geographical and topographical information – authors like Fan Chengda and Xu Xiake are two of the most celebrated writers of this period’s genre – and their descriptions are valuable and amaze academics to this day! Even other nationalities were interested in describing Ancient and Medieval China… Venetian traveler Marco Polo, for example, wrote extensively about his travels and adventures when he reached China in 1271. His writings sparked other adventurers for centuries after his death in 1324 (be they authors or not, such as explorer Christopher Columbus).

Going further down the chronological ladder of history, in 1589 an English writer known for promoting the settlement of North America by the British, Richard Hakluyt (d. 1616) published his text The Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation - a book (which ended up as 3 volumes) that detailed lands around the world and was based on as many eyewitness accounts as Hakluyt could find. His texts are widely accepted as the foundations of the “modern” travel literature genre.To this day, the London-based Hakluyt Society publishes scholarly editions of travels, adventures and voyages.

The 1700s is where things become, if I may interject my own personal feelings about it (which I never fail to do)… fun. In 18th century Britain, most of the most famous authors worked in the travel literature genre and once published would travel widely (imagine that) and give lectures about their books and their anecdotes. Captain James Cook’s diaries published in 1784, for example, were unbelievably well-known and were some of the most exciting publications to ever be made available to a literate public. Entering into the 1800s, Charles Darwin detailed the HMS Beagle’s journey and findings – a combination of travel writing, scientific study and natural history/geography. Not all authors of the period combined science with their studies – some interspersed humor with their anecdotes… authors like Mark Twain and (even our main man) Charles Dickens are good examples of other travel writers in the 1800s.

Our Richard Halliburton Archive, complete with letters about his daring voyage (which would be his last) aboard a Chinese Junk Ship attempting to cross the Pacific ocean.

Our Richard Halliburton Archive, complete with letters about his daring voyage (which would be his last) aboard a Chinese Junk Ship attempting to cross the Pacific ocean. See it here>

Travel writing remained popular through the 20th century, with a higher emphasis on adventure tales, as travel was becoming more and more possible with the advent of different types of transportation – the car and the plane, in particular. Adventurers and authors like Richard Halliburton made their name by performing acts of bravery (and/or stupidity) and experiencing highly unlikely scenarios.

Humans have not lost the yen to travel and experience… so why has this type of narrative fallen a bit away from its original intent? Because times change! Though this is not a bad thing and who knows… perhaps one day I will end up writing my own travel blog… I still yearn for the days where one could read the “Royal Road to Romance” and see the adventure and the distant lands in our minds alone – without seeing a 3D movie about the same things! Who’s with me?

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Who cares that Gold was found near Sacramento? Check out these Gems we Mined at the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair…

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Circa 1869, this pamphlet titled “God is Love. A Sermon” was authored by George Storrs – one of the leaders of the Second Advent movement, affiliated with William Miller and Joshua V. Himes. After a fair amount of study, Storrs preached to some Adventists on the condition and prospects… for the dead. OCLC records no copies of this pamphlet, nor is it found in the NUC! See more on it here>

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 6.38.53 PMThis set of 5 Nursing Student journals were written between 1923 and 1926 by one Mildred Godwin, a class of ’26 nursing student at Crozer Hospital, Chester, Pennsylvania. Within these journals the young lady records diverse class notes beginning in September of 1923 from lectures by her professors – Dr. Crowther, Miss Burkhard, Dr. Gray, etc. The subject of her entries range widely across the medical spectrum, from items such as Social Service to “Why Cases are Referred.” A very interesting archive of post WWI nursing education! Check it out here>

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.05.56 AMThis is no ordinary promotional photograph album or scrapbook… at least, not in terms of subject! The Alaska Blue Fox Company seem to have produced this interesting documentary album, providing an invaluable historical look at a very successful fox farming venture (yes, you read that correctly. No, there’s nothing I can do about it) on Bushy Island, in the Southeast Alaska Islands. After WWI there was a rise in fur prices, giving some eccentric entrepreneurs an opportunity to lease the island in the Tongass National Forest off the coast of Alaska and stock it with some 20 breeding pairs of foxes – all for your wearing pleasure. Be unnerved here>

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.06.36 AMThis 1929 Promotional Project Photograph Album details the Western Maryland Railway – a (primarily) coal & freight hauling operation – with images of the diverse aspects & views of the port facilities & docks, of the ‘up-to-date’ buildings & even some freight moving mechanisms (spiral chutes & cranes, etc). An outstanding, possibly unique album documenting local pre-depression Baltimore history, as well as the capital improvement efforts of one of Maryland’s major transportation firms! Love automotive and locomotive history? This is the album for you…

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Be on the Lookout! Come to the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair for…

The Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair is coming up and as usual we will have some hot new items with us for your perusal! Check out our list below for the latest acquisitions that may be of interest. Also, please feel free to ask us to bring anything you may want to take a look at – we’d be happy to do so! Happy Book hunting to all!

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Check out this 1803 First Edition work of juvenile fiction, “The Preservation of Charles and Isabella”, (set in Lisbon during the great earthquake) by an author better known for his satirical works. This isn’t just any first edition, however – this title is very scarce, OCLC locating only four holdings in libraries worldwide! (Oxford, Princeton, Indiana & NY Public… in case you were interested!) This from the library of either 1st or 2nd Baronet (both have the same name) Sir David Salomons, Bart. from Tunbridge Wells! See it here>

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 10.05.30 AMGot a Special Collection that needs some spicing up? Look no further! Up for sale is a Lot of 35 Shape Books and Die-Cut advertising cards, circa 1895 to the 1940s! A diverse collection – whose sizes, paginations and subject matter vary as widely as possible! All but two are American in origin. Most are also scarce in the trade, with limited or no presence in OCLC’s holdings! Interested? We are (and would keep them for ourselves but that defeats the idea of having a business). Check them out here> 

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 10.05.45 AMThis broadside advertisement from the 1930s features a speeding train and a bottle of fresh milk (yes… an interesting combination). The Marin-Dell brand was the trademark of the Marin Dairymen’s Milk Company, Ltd. which operated out of San Francisco and sold only milk processed from Marin County dairies! Not only that, but they also only ever sold the milk to independent grocers in the Bay Area… talk about local history! See this advert here> 

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 10.05.58 AMThe Blaw-Knox Construction Company is, to-this-day, one of the leading manufacturers of road paving equipment in the world, was originally a maker of steel and concrete forms. This 1920s Manufacturer Photograph Trade Catalogue is interesting indeed – being an uncommon primary source visually documenting this company’s work product of almost a century ago now! Interested in how normal things began to be made? This is one place to start! See more here>

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 10.06.11 AMThis political satire “Advertisements Extraordinary” is a 1st printing broadside, circa the mid to late 1830s. This Very Good condition, double-column printing lists 19 “Items” ridiculing government and politics in the United Kingdom! And if that isn’t enough to spark your interest… perhaps the idea that there are no holdings located on OCLC will be! Find out more information here>

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 10.06.21 AMAre you more of an absolutely-no-doubt-about-it-one-of-a-kind kind of person? Well have we got something for you! This 1912 MSS, self-published hand-made booklet is a one-of-one type of item by Minerva Mickle, inscribed to Ruth Spelman is unpaginated, though 12 pages. It is illustrated throughout with newspaper cut-outs and drawings, with a color pictorial onlay to the front wrapper. If you are a travel enthusiast, this is the item for you! See our “An Imaginary Journey” here>

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 10.06.33 AMArt aficionado? We’ve got you covered, too! This “Masterpieces of the Japanese Wood-Block Print” by Sadao Kikuchi is a 1st (Deluxe) edition in English, published in 1970. This 350-page work explores many different art-forms, heavily illustrated with a folding three-panel frontis, tipped-in color plates and 235 illustrations (of which 105 are color plates and the rest a mix of mounted b/w plates). Still housed in a Near Fine Publisher’s Box. Become a fan of the Wood-Block here> 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 10.06.53 AMDid you know that we have many items in the “automobile promotional material” category? (Vic has a “thing” for Porsches.. for those that were not aware.) We have a few nice automobile sample catalogues of a colorful nature from the last half of the 20th century, but here is something new! This letter and silver gelatin photographs show a few models from the 1930s, all clear and sharp in Near Fine condition (a rarity for items such as these)!  See it here>

 

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And last but certainly not least, an amazing Californiana item by Charles Quincy Turner! Published in 1902, this booklet has 70 pages and a fold-out map in the rear showing wagon roads and trails throughout Yosemite. 24 Sepia print photographs are mounted on heavy board, all with captions describing the scenes pictures. The pictures are fresh and show little to no fading, though the box is worn (we liked to call it “well-loved”). Very Good! Check it out here>

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Adah Isaacs Menken’s Relationship with Charles Dickens: A Blog in Honor of his Upcoming 204th Birthday

By Margueritte Peterson

 “[Menken] is a sensitive poet who, unfortunately, cannot write.” -Charles Dickens

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.16.57 AMAdah Isaacs Menken died in Paris on August 10, 1868, only eight days before her collection of poems, Infelicia would be published. Dedicated to Charles Dickens, Infelicia highlights Menken’s complicated relationship with her literary contemporaries—and, perhaps, her unfailing talent for generating publicity. Details about Menken’s early life are difficult to corroborate because Menken herself told so many different versions of her story. Most experts agree that she was born on June 15, 1835 in Memphis, and that her given name was Adah Bertha Theodore. She moved to Lousiana as a young child, grew up there, and launched her acting career there. From Louisiana, Menken traveled throughout the South and West. Meanwhile, she launched her writing career with “Fugitive Pencillings,” which appeared in Texas’ Liberty Gazette and the Cincinatti Israelite.

The year 1856 brought the first of Menken’s multiple marriages, to Alexander Isaacs Menken. The two were (supposedly) divorced already when Menken entered her next marriage with prizefighter John Heenan in 1859. But Heenan and Menken separated shortly thereafter; Heenan was scandalized to find that his new wife was still legally married to her first husband. By this time, Menken had already begun traveling in bohemian and literary circles. A regular at Pfaff’s, Menken met Walt Whitman, who greatly influenced her work.

Menken in Mazeppa - where she caused quite a stir.

Menken in Mazeppa – where she caused quite a stir.

Soon Menken was “not known for her talent, but rather for her frenetic energy, her charismatic presence, and her willingness to expose herself.” Indeed, Menken’s primary claim to fame was her performance in Mazeppa. Menken played the role of a man, and in one scene she was lashed to the back of a running horse…wearing nothing but a flesh-colored body stocking.

The play debuted in Albany in June, 1861. Menken’s manager, Edwin James was a sports reporter for the New York Clipper (and a former lawyer who’d inspired the character of Striver in Tale of Two Cities.) James managed to get reporters from all six of New York’s daily papers to attend, along with reporters from three weeklies and two monthlies. Although the Civil War had already broken out, Menken’s performance grabbed headlines. Mark Twain saw Mazeppa at Tom Maguire’s Opera House in San Francisco. Though he had formerly dismissed Menken as a “shape actress,” her performance changed his mind. On September 13, 1863, he wrote a column called “The Menken—Written Especially for Gentlemen.” His assessment of Menken was less than sterling:

“Here every tongue sings the praises of her matchless grace, her supple gestures, her charming attitudes. Well, possibly, these tongues are right. In the first act, she rushes on the stage, and goes cavorting around after ‘Olinska’; she bends herself back like a bow; she pitches headforemost at the atmosphere like a battering ram; she works her arms, and her legs, and her whole body like a dancing-jack: her every movement is as quick as thought; in a word, without any apparent reason for it, she carries on like a lunatic from the beginning of the act to the end of it. At other times she ‘whallops’ herself down on the stage, and rolls over as does the sportive pack-mule after his burden is removed. If this be grace then the Menken is eminently graceful.”

At any rate, Menken continued to bring crowds to theatre after theatre. Always the shrewd self-promotor, she would arrive in a new city and immediately ensure that her photograph was hanging in every shop window. By now Menken had also gotten into the habit of inventing stories about herself. She also frequently exaggerated the extent of her relationship with famous figures, particularly those in the literary world.

Mazeppa opened in London on October 3, 1864. Charles Dickens attempted to attend an early performance, only to find that the show was already sold out. The ticket manager recognized Dickens and offered him a private box, but Dickens declined. It’s long been rumored that Menken used the incident as an excuse to meet Dickens, but it’s likely that Menken started that rumor herself. The two traveled in the same social circles, and Dickens may even have attended some of Menken’s “literary salons” at her rooms in the Westminster Hotel. But there’s little evidence to suggest a deeper relationship, and even the rumor of an association with Dickens would have bolstered Menken’s reputation.

Meanwhile, Menken’s connection to Dickens’ contemporary Algernon Charles Swinburne was anything but a rumor. Fearing that Swinburne had lost his interest in the opposite sex, his associates set him up with the sexy Menken. After Menken’s death, Swinburne would say of her, “She was most loveable as a friend, as was as as a mistress.”

A shot of the inserted facsimile letter in our holding of Felicia.

A shot of the inserted facsimile letter in our holding of Felicia.

By 1868, Menken had published more than enough poems to publish a collection, which she titled Infelicia. Menken made another probably-calculated move: she dedicated the book to Charles Dickens, who by now enjoyed the Victorian equivalent of rockstar status in both England and America. The first edition included an engraved portrait of Menken on the frontispiece, along with a poem that Swinburne had written for her. It also included a facsimile of a letter that Dickens had supposedly written to Menken, thanking her for the dedication.

While Dickens did indeed thank Menken for the dedication, the facsimile was actually comprised of two different letters Dickens had sent to Menken. Thus this first edition was quickly suppressed, and subsequent editions don’t include the facsimile. This only added to the sensation that already surrounded the book. The dedication to Dickens left many speculating about the true nature of their relationship, and Menken’s untimely death had catapulted her back into the headlines.

Meanwhile, her relationship with Swinburne and the fact that the frontispiece bore a Swinburne poem led some to suggest that Swinburne or his assistant, John Thomson, had actually authored Infelicia. Critics soon pointed out, however, that the poems were riddled with flaws and simply weren’t that good. They eventually accepted the work as Menken’s, arguing that Swinburne was too talented to write it.

Infelicia went through a number of editions in England and America, mostly pirated. The book made its last appearance in 1902. It’s now quite rare to find a copy of Infelicia that bears that facsimile letter from Charles Dickens.

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A Wonderland of Books, Indeed! Happy 184th Birthday, Mr. Dodgson!

By Margueritte Peterson

One of my most favorite Children’s writers of all time was born on the 27th of January, 1832. Scratch that – one of my most favorite writers, period, was born on the 27th of January, 1832. Many critics of great literature have commented on the fact that one of the most lasting kinds of literature is the kind that speaks to both children AND adults – writers whose works you can read when you are both 5 and 75 and learn something equally important at both of these starkly different ages. It is my super humble (though really awesome) opinion that the writer we honor today, on what would be his 184th birthday, is one of those writers. It is perhaps also appropriate that we honor his memory this week, as in less than a month there will be an ABAA Fair in Pasadena named after some of his most well-known work. The name of the fair? A Wonderland of Books. Can you guess who it is yet? 

lewisCharles Lutwidge Dodgson (pen name Lewis Carroll – for those readers that are having one of those really slow days) was the fourth child of what would be a family of 12 (just children, that is). He and quite a few of his siblings would suffer from an unfortunate stammer for their lives, a condition often thought to be brought on when a naturally left-handed child is forced to become right-handed early in childhood (though there is no specific evidence that shows this to blame for Dodgson in particular). This stammer would cause the author no end of misery as he felt inferior throughout life and led to his later relationships with children (sparking great work and no end of controversy to this very day). A (somewhat vague) problematic time in Dodgson’s upbringing would arrive when the 13-year-old Dodgson was sent to Rugby School – an independent boarding school in Warwickshire. Years after leaving the school, Dodgson would write, “I cannot say … that any earthly considerations would induce me to go through my three years again … I can honestly say that if I could have been … secure from annoyance at night, the hardships of the daily life would have been comparative trifles to bear.” Though never expanded on, one can assume that Dodgson was either teased mercilessly or suffered even worse hardships at the hands of his fellow students. 

In 1850 Dodgson entered Christ Church College in Oxford, where he excelled academically, despite not always being the most faithful of students. He received first-class honors in Mathematics at the College, and continued teaching and studying the subject until 1855, when he won the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship, a post he then held for the next 26 years. It was during this period that he began to be published nationally (having been writing poetry and satires, often humorous in nature, since young adulthood), in magazines like The Comic Times and The Train. It was during this period (1856, to be exact) that Dodgson first published a poem under the pseudonym “Lewis Carroll” – a work entitled “Solitude” published in the magazine mentioned above – The Train.

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The Liddell sisters – Alice, Lorina & Edith.

In the same year as the publication of “Solitude”, a new Dean arrived at Christ Church – Dean Henry Liddell. The Liddell family would feature heavily in Dodgson’s life for years to come, as he became an important influence and friend to the Liddell daughters – Lorina, Edith, and Alice. He would often take the Liddell children on short day-trips around Oxford – rowing or going for walks – and it was on one of these trips that he first began the story that would eventually turn into one of the most beloved children’s books of all time – Alice in Wonderland. His story of a precocious and questioning young girl was a story told to Alice Liddell, who in turn begged Dodgson to put it to paper for her. His personally illustrated manuscript entitled “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground” was completed in 1863. After Dodgson’s longtime friend (and fellow author) George MacDonald got ahold of the story, it was his persistence that led to its publication in 1865, with new illustrations by Sir John Tenniel. The book was an instant commercial success – with “Lewis Carroll” receiving attention from around the world. 

One of the most well-known Tenniel illustrations to the first Alice publication!

One of the most well-known Tenniel illustrations to the first Alice publication!

In 1871 Dodgson published a sequel to Alice, titled “Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There”. Though it was popular as well, it’s somewhat darker mood and gloomier settings did not garner the same amount of success as the first novel. In 1876, “Carroll” published his next great work – a humorous and fantastical poem – “The Hunting of the Snark.” Another work came even later, in a two-volume set of a fairy story titled “Sylvie and Bruno” – though not as well known it has remained in print ever since.

A great love of Dodgson’s throughout his life was photography. The first photographs that are attributed to the author date back to 1856 – around the time that he began his association with the Liddell family. Often, even today, Dodgson comes under scrutiny when fans find out that over half of his photographic subjects include little girls – sometimes scantily clad in what one might consider strange positions or situations. Though no evidence has ever come into question of an inappropriate relationship between Dodgson and any of the girls he came into contact with (as most of his “friends” were children – Dodgson was notoriously shy around adults), many continue to wonder whether he ever considered a more intense relationship with the girls in the photographs. Nevertheless, they are interesting pieces of early photographic work – all done with full knowledge of the subject’s parents and often commissioned by the families themselves! 

Dodgson is well-remembered for Alice and for the children’s stories he came up with, but it should be noted that this Mathematician also produced works that are still remembered if not used today in Mathematical sciences. He published almost a dozen books under his real name (not the pseudonym) on the science, and himself developed new ideas in the subject of linear algebra. He taught Mathematics in his post at Christ Church until 1881, and then remained in residence there for the rest of his life. On January 14th, 1898, two weeks away from his 66th birthday, Dodgson passed away from pneumonia following a bout of influenza, and is buried in Guildford. One thing is for sure and certain, whether you wish to remember him as Charles Dodgson or Lewis Carroll – this author remains, to this day, one of the most well-known names in Children’s Literature (if not the most well-known), and deserves to be celebrated on this his 184th birthday!

One of Dodgson's original illustrations in the manuscript "Alice's Adventures Under Ground".

One of Dodgson’s original illustrations in the manuscript “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”.

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