Category Archives: 19th-Century Literature

“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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Dickens’ Final Chapter: The End of His Life and His Last (Unfinished) Work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Charles Dickens was only 58 years old when he passed away. He had long pushed himself too hard for the love of his work and his followers, and in the summer of 1870 (June 9th, to be exact) he succumbed to the exhaustion and after experiencing a fatal stroke, was laid to rest. His work, however, has gone on to be remembered since, and the author has never been out of print. His final work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, has long fascinated fans, as the murder mystery was unfinished at his death and Dickens never [formally] named the murderer. On this the 145th anniversary of the author’s death, we look at his last years and his final work – a novel that he persisted on writing, even while suspecting his end was near.

Dickens, toward the end of his life.

Dickens, toward the end of his life.

Dickens’ health began to decline when he was involved in the Staplehurst rail accident on June 9th 1865 (5 years to the day before his death, coincidentally). On his return from Paris with his young mistress Ellen Ternan and her mother, the train they were traveling on plunged off a cast iron bridge that was under repair. Luckily, the only 1st class carriage to remain on the track was that one in which Dickens was traveling. Until more aid arrived to tend to the victims, Dickens scrambled around the horrific scene offering brandy and a hat with water, looking after the dead, dying and wounded around him. The tragic incident cast a shadow on Dickens’ life – the horror and absolute panic he experienced led to sleepless nights and night terrors for the rest of his short life. Always the author, however, before leaving the scene of the accident he remembered his unfinished manuscript of Our Mutual Friend was on board and went back to retrieve it.

Though the Staplehurst accident could be viewed as the “beginning of the end” for Dickens, what truly sapped the author’s strength and health was his insistence on the readings that he provided for his fans all over England and United States. These readings were not Dickens merely climbing up to a stage and reading his work aloud to audiences. The author planned his every look and every nuance, practiced scenes until he had them perfect, and left an impression with his audiences that they had just seen the characters they knew and loved on the stage before them. Quite the actor, Dickens had auditioned for a stage career as a young man, but when a cold prevented him from making the tryout, he turned toward a journalism career. In any event, the public readings took much more out of him than his audience realized, and Charles Dickens slowly succumbed to the stress he placed on himself. His farewell readings, lasting from the 6th of October 1868 to the 22nd of April, 1869, took the last of his energy. He began to experience fits of giddiness and paralysis and even collapsed while on tour in Lancashire; Doctors ordered the rest of his “performances” to be cancelled. Dickens retreated to his house, Gad’s Hill Place, in Kent, and under instructions to rest and recover, he began work on what was to be his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Drood was set to be published in only twelve installments, a shorter publication decision than his usual 20 printed parts of a couple chapters each. Though Dickens supposedly mentioned that the murderer was $#&@%#^$ in the @&#^*#*$&@* with the $*#&@*#$& (wouldn’t want to “kill it” for the rest of you), that information is based on the statements of Dickens’ son and also of his close friend John Forster (not unimaginable divulges, but still not ever found to be public knowledge from the author himself). This open-ended story yielded an amazing treat to the public – the chance to finish a Dickens book themselves! Strangely, the first three attempts to complete Dickens’ original tale were written by Americans. The first of them, published in 1870, was more of a farce than a continuation, with the author not even trying to continue Dickens’ style or even storyline (he even magically transported the characters to finish their mystery in the United States ). The second attempt was slightly more serious, a New York journalist named Henry Morford liked the story so much that he traveled to Rochester and published his ending serially from 1871 to 1872, and allowed the character of Edwin Drood to survive the murder attempt. The third effort, which to me seems to prove the gullibility of humans, was written by a Vermont printer named Thomas James. James claimed to have been a “ghost-writer” of sorts (pun intended)… by channeling Charles Dickens’ departed spirit.

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                   A performance of “Drood.”

In 1914, London’s ‘Dickens Fellowship’ held a mock-trial for Drood’s uncle John Jasper (oh, whoops… did I ruin it for you?). A group of well-known writers made up the characters (G. K. Chesterton stood as the judge, George Bernard Shaw the foreman of the jury, etc.). The jury returned with a ruling of manslaughter, and in a great dramatic ending, Chesterton “ruled that the mystery of Edwin Drood was insoluble, and fined everyone, except himself, for contempt of court.” (Wikipedia). There have been four film adaptations of the book, a two-part television drama, a radio reading, and perhaps most interestingly, a musical comedy based on the book. As to this latter, Rupert Holmes wrote the script, music and lyrics to the musical with a twist – at the end of the play, the audience decides by vote which of the characters is the murderer. Not only that, but the audience also picks a romantic ending between two characters of their choice! Holmes wrote alternate endings for every possible voting outcome, even the most unlikely. The actors must memorize and rehearse each possible ending before performing in front of a live audience with an opinion! The production, now titled “Drood,” was first performed in 1985 and was quickly opened on Broadway for a total of 608 performances. It won five 1986 Tony awards, including the award for Best Musical.

A theatre production of "Drood" when the audience is helping choose the ending themselves!

A theatre production of “Drood” when the audience is helping choose the ending themselves!

Now I may not be one for assumptions, but in my personal and ridiculously humble opinion I believe that Dickens would be ecstatic about this new development in the reading of his novel. As I said earlier, the author was always a fan of the stage and wore himself ragged engaging his audiences in a way that no readings had ever done before. In a way, above the movies and the television spots and the proposed written endings for the novel, the musical arrangement of his last and mysterious work with the alternate endings and the audience’s participation seems to me like exactly what the author would have wanted. Engagement, imagination and creativity as a group – just what Dr. Dickens prescribed.

In any event, Dickens clearly left behind a great impression on many future generations of readers and writers. His last work has sparked more investigation and speculation than any of his other works, due to the fact that it remained unfinished – an invitation for his admirers to become involved in a story of (partly) their own making. A more important notion to take away from his final days, however, is that the author loved his work and his readers so much that he didn’t stop working until the very end. And just think, all for our enjoyment! Even now, 145 years to his dying day, enthusiasts and admirers continue to devote their academic and creative minds to understanding the man and his final, unfinished novel.

A page from Dickens' unfinished manuscript of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

A page from Dickens’ unfinished manuscript of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

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A Donation to Children’s Illustration: A Short Tribute to Randolph Caldecott

Randolph Caldecott was born in March of 1846 in a city called Chester, England. He left school at the tender age of fifteen and went to work in a bank branch. In 1861 he saw published his first drawing – and despite the fact that he was to be most remembered for his humorous depictions and lively countryside scenes, Caldecott’s first published work would be of a catastrophic fire at the Queens Railway Hotel in Chester which, along with his write-up of the event, appeared in the Illustrated London News. In his early twenties Caldecott was able to transfer to the Manchester & Salford Bank in the thriving Northern city and began to take night classes at the Manchester School of Art, all while continuing to have his sketches published locally. Upon making the acquaintance of Henry Blackburn and getting published in the London Society, Caldecott realized his talent could be enough to support him and at the young age of 26, he quit his banking job to move to London. In 1869 Caldecott exhibited an illustration in the Royal Manchester Institute, and 7 years later was displayed once more, this time at the Royal Academy. In 1872 he was elected to the Royal Institute of Watercolour Painting.

Randolph Caldecott.

One of the only surviving images of Randolph Caldecott. 

In 1877 Caldecott’s life would change forever, as he filled in for Walter Crane’s absence in the production of two small children’s Christmas Books – The House that Jack Built and The Diverting History of John Gilpin with color printer Edmund Evans. He would go on to create/illustrate two children’s stories for Evans at Christmastime until his death in 1886. These children’s stories became standards as Christmas annuals and were immensely popular, bringing Caldecott fame from around the world. As an enterprising young man, he also became quite wealthy from his work. As the website randolphcaldecott.org.uk states, “Randolph Caldecott is believed to be the first author/illustrator to have negotiated with his publisher to receive, instead of a fixed fee, a ‘Royalty’ per book sold: he received one old penny per book (there were 12 pence to the shilling). The first print run was a cautious 10,000 copies. They were so popular that by July 1886, 5 months after his death, over 800,000 copies had been sold.

Caldecott often visited warmer climates in the winter months, due to consistently bad health (after an illness at a young age the illustrator continuously suffered from a heart condition and gastritis). The last winter of his life, he and his wife Marian Brind traveled to New York and down to Florida. Unfortunately it was an abnormally cold winter, even in Florida, and Caldecott took ill and never returned to the United Kingdom. His last days were lived in St. Augustine, where he died on February 12th, 1886.

The Caldecott Medal with it's replication of The Diverting History of John Gilpin illustration.

The Caldecott Medal with its replication of The Diverting History of John Gilpin illustration.

Let us now turn to the story behind the annual award to a children’s book illustrator named in Caldecott’s honor. Rene Paul Chambellan, an American architectural sculptor who specialized in the Art Deco style, designed the medal in 1937. The medal itself depicts two of Caldecott’s most famous illustrations – a scene from his work The Diverting History of John Gilpin and one of his nursery rhyme “Song of Sixpence.” After the Newbery medal was created (also in 1937 – as an award for distinguished children’s literature), “many persons became concerned that the artists creating picture books for children were as deserving of honor and encouragement as were the authors of children’s books, Frederic G. Melcher suggested in 1937 the establishment of a second annual medal. This medal is to be given to the artist who had created the most distinguished picture book of the year” (ALA.org – American Library Association). The rules of the Caldecott award are quite simple, really. It must be a book with original work (whether also written by the illustrator or not) by an American citizen or resident (or in a U.S. Commonwealth) that distinguishes itself in the field of children’s illustration. The medal itself weighs just over 3 pounds, and is not worn but rather presented in a box for display.

"And the Dish ran away with the Spoon!" An Illustration by Caldecott, demonstrating his humorous, exciting and moving illustrations.

“And the Dish ran away with the Spoon!” An Illustration by Caldecott, demonstrating his humorous, exciting and moving illustrations.

Though the reason for a British illustrator being chosen as the figurehead/namesake of an American award continues to confuse some of the American public, the American Library Association website claims (rightly so) that Caldecott was one of three of the most influential children’s illustrators working in the 19th century. Along with Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway, Caldecott helped shape an entirely new generation of children’s illustration with his humorous visuals. As ALA states, “his illustrations for children were unique to their time in both their humor, and their ability to create a sense of movement, vitality, and action that complemented the stories they accompanied.” We cannot deny the fame that Caldecott experienced, even in his short period as an artist, but we also cannot deny the influence he exerted on illustrating for children and the importance of humor, color and excitement in his pieces. Thank you Randolph Caldecott!

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