|Monday, February 1st, 2016|
9:09 pm - Pemberley Shades: A Novel
I am happy to announce:|
Celebration Edition #412:
"Pemberley Shades: A Novel"
By D. A. (Dorothy Alice) Bonavia-Hunt, 1880-1970.
New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1949.
Concurrent publication in New York and London; Copyright not renewed.
Many of us return repeatedly to Jane Austen, are abashed by her brilliance, and wish that she had written more.
In recent years, there have been a wide range of mashups based on Austen's works, some better, some worse. One of the earliest was "Pemberley Shades" by Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt. Her title was taken from a quotation of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, chastising Elizabeth Bennett on her possible marriage to Darcy: “Heaven and earth — of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?” "Pemberley Shades" was published in 1949, in London, England by Allan Wingate, and in New York by E.P. Dutton.
Happily, in "Pemberley Shades", Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt generally gets it right. She does a credible job of a daunting task, that of building upon Austen's beloved "Pride and Prejudice". Many of Austen's memorable characters reappear, and their personalities generally are in accord with Austen's originals. Elizabeth's mother does not appear -- perhaps Bonavia-Hunt did not feel she could quite carry her off -- but her father steps in briefly, as do Jane and Bingley, and various others.
The two characters who are most different, understandably, are Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife Elizabeth -- they have, after all, been married for several years, and that has changed them both. If they are not, perhaps, just who they were when we last saw them, they are plausibly people whom those people might have become. Nor have they stopped growing; in Pemberley Shades, their relationship continues to develop. New characters bring their own challenges, for both the characters and the reader -- but I would rather let you read the book yourself than have you cry "Spoilers!"
The author, Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt was born in London in 1880 to Anglican clergyman Rev. Henry George Bonavia-Hunt and Madeline Bonavia-Hunt. Her father founded the Trinity College of Music in 1872 in London; her mother was a published author. She had three siblings, never married, and lived with her younger brother Noel Aubrey, also a minister and musician. She died in 1970. (Source: http://austenprose.com/2008/09/17/pemberley-shades-the-legend-of-the-lost-sequel/ )
I am confident you will
Read and Enjoy,
Mary Mark Ockerbloom
|Tuesday, January 5th, 2016|
10:03 pm - The Indian Alps and How We Crossed Them
Since January is a time for resolutions and plans, it seems fititng to release the account of a fantastic trip.|
I am happy to announce:
Celebration Edition #411:
"The Indian Alps and How We Crossed Them: Being a Narrative of Two Years' Residence in the Eastern Himalaya and Two Months' Tour into the Interior, By a Lady Pioneer"
By Nina Elizabeth Mazuchelli, 1832-1914.
New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1876.
Francis Mazuchelli and Elizabeth Sara "Nina" Harris were married in 1853. Francis was an Anglican parish priest, employed as a curate in Wymering near Portsmouth. In 1857, the year of the Indian Mutiny, he joined the British army as a chaplain. The Mazuchellis arrived in the district of Darjeeling, India the following year. Nina was determined to explore, and convinced her husband to agree. Though he put in a token objection, commenting on the irrationality of women, he also "sent in an application for three months' 'leave,' that he might travel with me whither my fancy led. The 'leave' was speedily granted, and everything now favoured my making the long-wished-for journey, across trackless wastes to the snows." Their first journey was a two-week excursion into Bhutan, traveling via Kalimpoong to Dumsong and home again.
Undeterred, they planned a more extensive trip with the support of a district officer of the British Imperial Government, identified in the account simply as "C--", "a mighty potentate in the eyes of the natives of the province". C-- made arrangements with agents of the Rajah of Sikkim for the delivery of food and supplies along their route. The expedition, when underway, included Nina, Francis, C--, and about 70 servants to attend to the needs of the three British travellers by carrying food, supplies and people; cooking, clearing their route; and establishing their camps. For parts of the trip, Nina was carried in a type of sedan chair, on the back of a bearer. There were no detailed maps of the area: they relied on local guides, and travelled about 600 miles in two months. They explored the Singaleeh (Singalila) mountain range along the border between Nepal and Sikkim, travelling towards Mount Kanchenjunga (Kinchinjunga). They reached Junnoo Mountain and the Chunjerma pass before being forced home by inhospitable conditions and shortages of food.
An ardent artist, Mazuchelli's book is lavishly illustrated with sketches of their journey and colorful chromolithographs of her watercolors, including a view of Mount Everest. Nina Mazuchelli was unquestionably a romantic. She rhapsodises that "Truly those who love Nature in her wild and savage aspects should come here; for a grander combination of these qualities cannot be conceived – the snowy peak, the ice-bound rock, the blasted pine, and the deadly precipice." Further, "God's own language is written in stars; but these mountains, no less types of solidity and endurance beyond all Time, impress me with a sense of majesty and divinity above all else. "
Her love of nature and flowing prose are balanced by her sense of humor, and she often combines romantic philosophy with an attendant sting, as in her description of jackals serenading: "whether it arise from idealism, gregariousness, or a real attribute of external nature, it matters little in the present case, for to our ears, not familiarised to these nightingales by habit or fond association, the sound resembled a dismal and unearthly wailing of women, with a strong dash of the hyæna, to which a whole kennel of hounds baying the moon would in comparison have been as loveliest music of the spheres."
Mazuchelli is both fearful and intrepid. She usually makes the trip sound like a happy outing in a particularly beautiful if somewhat exhausting park. But the travellers endured very real dangers: led astray by a guide, they faced not only cold but starvation. There is no question that the expedition came near to ending with the deaths of those involved.
"No food having overtaken us, we have been compelled to alter our route. Rice is diminishing ominously, and there is only a small quantity of bhoota left and four sheep. … getting into deeper snow with the mere hope of food reaching us, would be absolute madness. We have no right to risk the lives of our people, even were we disposed to hazard our own. Once at Yangpoong, should supplies meanwhile not overtake us, we shall not be far from a village, which we must sack in case of need."
Thankfully, though Nina regretted that they could not continue to their original goal, she survived to publish an account of her trip. The Mazuchellis returned to Great Britain in 1875, and Francis served in several parishes in Wales. They had no children. He died in 1901, and Nina in 1914.
|Sunday, December 6th, 2015|
8:08 am - "And Both Were Young", Madeleine L'Engle, 1949
With the holidays in view, I like to release a children's or young adult novel in December. This year, I'm happy to present something by a favorite author:|
"And Both Were Young"
By Madeleine L'Engle, 1918-2007.
New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Inc., 1949, Copyright not renewed.
This young adult novel of L'Engle's was not copyright renewed and is now in the public domain. Some of the details of the original manuscript were apparently considered too "adult" for publication in 1949, when the book first appeared. A modified version, recreating aspects of the original, was published in the 1980's, and is still under copyright.
The main character of the novel is Philippa, or "Flip" Hunter. Her mother is dead, and her father is an artist who cannot provide her with a full-time home. Flip is left at a boarding school in Switzerland while her father travels for his work. L'Engle takes a classic "school story" structure, but adds a level of seriousness by situating the story strongly in the aftermath of World War II. It is ironic that Philippa's father is travelling to create a book about "lost children" throughout history, for Philippa and many of the other children she gets to know can also be seen as "lost children", coming from broken or World-War-II-traumatized families.
"When Flip thought about all the lost children she felt a deep shame inside herself for her anger and resentment ... She was not a lost child. She would have a place to eat and sleep and keep warm all winter, and at Christmas time she would be with her father again." Flip's own statement reminds the reader that however essential places to eat, sleep, and keep warm may be, material concerns are not the only ones that are essential. The question of what truly constitutes a "lost child" is returned to throughout the book. Listening to one of her friends, "Flip felt that having your mother not love you would be the bitterest way of all to lose her."
Though Flip may consciously resist the idea, the stories of Flip's classmates suggest that Flip is in danger of becoming a lost child herself if she is further separated from her father. The most explicit romantic interest of the book does not involve Philippa, but rather her absent father. The implications of his choices for Philippa are one of the paramount concerns of the book. His intention to help lost children, expressed through his work, is a hopeful indicator that he and Philippa may not be lost to each other. "He told Flip that he hoped maybe the book would help people to realize that all these children had to be found and taken care of."
As the main character, Philippa herself is more concerned with family and friendships than with romantic involvement. As in many of L'Engle's books, Flip is approaching the threshold of adulthood, gawky and uncertain of her own skills and her place in the world around her. "Now she was older, much older, almost an adult, and she had to stand on her own feet and not be afraid." Attempts to form age-appropriate friendships are portrayed throughout the book: Flip finds it difficult to make friends at school and is subjected to hazing by some of her classmates. A time goes on, friendships with both sexes provide a potential for healing and growth for those involved. Flip's relationship with a French boy Paul, develops slowly, and their romance eventually grows out of friendship. In her relationship with Paul, Philippa is explicitly contrasted with girls in her class who are "boy crazy". In some cases, L'Engle suggests that girls are moving prematurely into an adult world of dances and strapless gowns. There are particularly creepy overtones to the relationships of a student who is given lace-and-silk pajamas by her mother's fiancé.
As the book develops, so does Philippa, and indeed some of the most significant changes begin within her. She becomes increasingly aware of other people and their concerns, and less focused on her own fears. As other people become more real to her, she opens herself up to them and builds supportive relationships. It is worth giving this book a closer reading, and paying attention not just to the superficial action, but to the themes underneath.
|Monday, November 2nd, 2015|
3:58 pm - Early history of Ambler, 1682-1888
Early history of Ambler, 1682-1888. |
By Mary Paul Hallowell Hough, 1858-1941.
Ambler, PA: H. H. Kelly, 1936. Copyright not renewed.
"The Early History of Ambler" was written by Mary Paul Hallowell Hough. Born in Horsham, Montgomery County, where her ancestors settled in 1724, she was the daughter of farmer William Y. Hallowell. A life-long Quaker, Mary Hough graduated from Swarthmore College in 1878, then studied to become a doctor at the Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, graduating in 1881. After interning at the Staten Island Hospital of New York, she married Dr. C. B. Hough of Bucks County in 1886. They moved to Ambler, where she practiced successfully until her retirement in 1931. Interested in the history of the town, she researched and wrote a series of newspaper articles for the Ambler News which were published in book form in 1936. The copyright was not renewed. The town republished an expanded commemorative edition in 1976. Reading her carefully researched account of the town makes me want to pick up my camera and head off to Ambler to see which of the buildings she described are still standing -- and to enjoy the autumn leaves.
|Saturday, October 3rd, 2015|
10:37 am - Negro Musicians and Their Music
I am happy to announce:|
Celebration Edition #408:
"Negro Musicians and Their Music"
By Maud Cuney-Hare, 1874-1936.
Washington, D.C.: The Associated Publishers, Inc., 1936, 1943. Copyright not renewed.
Maud Cuney Hare (1874-1936) was, by all accounts, a fascinating woman. Described by W. E. B. DuBois as "a tall, imperious brunette, with gold-bronze skin, brilliant eyes and coils of black hair", she was the daughter of Texas politician and civil rights leader Norris Wright Cuney and Adelina (Dowdy) Cuney. Cuney Hare studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She lived in Boston for much of her adult life, but she also travelled widely, in Mexico, Cuba, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, studying folklore and music.
In "Negro Musicians and Their Music", Maud Cuney Hare documents the development of African-American music, nationally and internationally, from its beginnings in Africa to the newly evolving forms of blues and jazz in the 1930s. She was the first music scholar to write about African American music.
Many of her discussions directly address racial issues. She defends both African Americans who choose not to perform ethnic material, and those who do:
"Just as we find musicians of other races without any particular concern regarding the folk material of their nation or race, so are there many Negro lovers of music who have no special interest in the folk songs. This sentiment prevails among laymen as well as among musicians. On the other hand, there has arisen a group of serious men and women, who have not only shown a willingness to accept plantation songs as a heritage, but in doing so, lose no time in brooding over the cruel past or the unjust present."
Her discussions of white appropriation of Negro spirituals and dance forms are biting. At one point she quotes a summary of the issue written by Eugene Kinckle Jones:
"It seems a little odd that until the Spirituals became accepted by music authorities abroad as the only original American music, Americans with few exceptions were not concerned with their origin, and still less their preservation. For two hundred years these songs had come up from the cotton fields and cabins . . . They were just "nigger songs" until the great world of music acclaimed them as the only music indigenous to America. Then it was that 'diligent scholars' started the painstaking and laborious task of finding their source, of collecting and amassing voluminous data by which ultimately they were enabled to announce that the Spirituals are not the creation of the enslaved black but rather the creation of the rural white."
Cuney Hare asserts that "The rich fund of folklore and folk-song has certainly been the vivifying source whence have sprung the modern art cultures of the world." She also acknowledges that "The syncopation of the African song is the fore-runner of American Ragtime and the more reprehensible Jazz and Blues." However, with her classical training, she disliked the new forms, associating Jazz with "monkeyish antics on the part of the performers, and the grotesque use of the instruments". It was her opinion that "Not until the past two or three years has Jazz arisen to the dignity of a subject for serious discussion by white and Negro students of music." She preferred the "vision and high ideals" of African Americans working within the traditions of symphony, opera and ballet.
The book is full of details about individuals, groups, and performances in the 1910s, 20s and early 30s. I strongly recommend that you read the footnotes -- some of them cover multiple pages, quoting hard-to-find sources and expanding on themes of the main text. Her footnoted discussions of the Negro Symphony Orchestra, for example, are fascinating both in describing the organization and instrumentation of the "orchestra" and public responses to it.
"Negro Musicians and Their Music" has been acclaimed as "a priceless legacy of accomplished documentation" and scholarship. Sadly, Cuney Hare never saw the book in published form. She died of cancer soon after she finished proof-reading the manuscript. The copyright of the work was not renewed. A second edition, with added photographs (many of Jazz musicians) was published in 1943. There were almost no changes to the text in the second edition, and both variants of the text and photographs are included in this online edition. I hope you will enjoy reading it.
|Sunday, June 28th, 2015|
7:52 pm - The Khaki Girls behind the lines. Or, Driving with the Ambulance Corps
I'm happy to announce Celebration Edition # 407;|
"The Khaki Girls behind the lines. Or, Driving with the Ambulance Corps"
By Edna Brooks
New York: Cupples & Leon Company, 1918
"The Khaki Girls behind the lines. Or, Driving with the Ambulance Corps" is the second in a series of four books dealing with the adventures of two young women who are automobile-mad and determined to "find their place in the Big War". That phrase is used as the subtitle of the first book in the series, and it hints at the divergence of feminist responses to the war effort in World War I.
An advertisement for the series reads:
"Joan Mason, an enthusiastic motor girl, and Valerie Warde, a society debutante, meet at an automobile show. Next day they go together to the Motor Corps headquarters and in due time are accepted and become members of the Corps, in the service of the United States… As a result of their splendid work in the Motor Corps, the Khaki Girls receive the honor of an opportunity to drive with the Ambulance Corps in France."
Joan and Valerie, then, are in many ways laudable feminist heroines. They are capable, brave, and take initiative, aggressively stepping forward and preparing themselves to become ambulance drivers behind the front lines, and overcoming substantial obstacles to reach their goals. They are happy under a car, fixing it, and determined and competent drivers, even when under fire. In creating a place where they can contribute to the war effort, they are overcoming gender restrictions about what women can and cannot do. They are also devoted friends, and affectionate and supportive of the other women with whom they work.
They are also -- not surprisingly for popular fiction of the time -- both adamantly patriotic and anti-German.Throughout the book, stereotypes abound. Germans are "Huns", "Boche", "beasts", a ruthless and ignoble foe. "Our boys" are "true blue", "gritty", gallantly singing on their way to the trenches. French peasants are steadfast, enduring and perhaps a little subservient.
Another woman ambulance driver, who has killed an enemy soldier, does express conflicted feelings. "I felt queer about having killed even a Hun. The boys made a lot of fuss over me, but I couldn't say a word hardly. I was glad I killed him, but sorry I had to do it. It doesn't seem just right for women to kill, even in self-defense. It is right, though."
Reading the Khaki girls today is somewhat disconcerting. Their competence and ability to challenge gender roles are appealing, but their blood-thirsty patriotism is not. The tension between feminism and pacifism that I experienced, reading this book, was in fact central to English feminist politics at the time the book was written. Feminist historians such as Jo Vellacot have argued that in Britain the war was not a major factor in gaining the enfranchisement of women, and in fact, split the feminist movement.
In Britain, two main organizations were campaigning for the enfranchisement of women when World War I broke out. One was the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) while the other, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, was the Women's Social and Political Union. Both groups limited agitation for the vote once the war began, but beyond that, they had very different approaches to war and the war effort. The NWUSS helped by sponsoring women's hospital units, but refused to collaborate in recruiting. In contrast, the WSPU actively collaborated in recruiting, in exchange for the government's release of women imprisoned for political activism. Over time, the NWUSS women became more supportive of pacifism while the WSPU allied with the government and its pro-war propaganda. The women's peace movement, culminating in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, reached across class lines that the pro-war groups did not challenge.
The Pankhurst family is an interesting example of the type of divisions that occurred. Though all had worked together in support of woman suffrage, the family split over the war. Emmeline and her daughter Christabel formed the 1917 Women's Party on patriotic lines, eventually becoming anti-trade union. Sylvia Pankhurst held to their original socialist beliefs and became an active pacifist. Emmeline and Christabel favored conscription, while Sylvia actively opposed it. Emmeline and Christabel supported a limited class-based women's franchise, while Sylvia supported universal suffrage .
The Khaki girls don't discuss the vote, but I like to think they would have supported woman suffrage. In the USA, the 19th Amendment, ratified by Congress in 1920, enfranchised American women in recognition of their readiness to aid the war effort. So the Khaki Girls, had they been real, would have returned from their wartime service with the right to vote alongside the boys they had transported in their ambulances.
|Saturday, June 6th, 2015|
11:21 pm - The Empire of the Invisibles
I am happy to announce Celebration edition #406:|
"The Empire of the Invisibles"
by H. E. (Harriet E.) Orcutt.
First published in Intelligence, Vol. VII., No. 1, December 1897. pp. 65-71; Vol. VII., No. 2, January, 1898, pp. 166-173; Vol. VII., No. 3, February, 1898, pp. 246-258; Vol. VII., No. 4, March, 1898, pp. 325-335; Vol. VIII., No. 1, April, 1898, pp. 52-58; Vol. VIII., No. 2, May, 1898, pp. 135-140; Vol. VIII., No. 3, June, 1898, pp. 190-200; Vol. VIII., No. 4, July, 1898, pp. 246-253; Vol. VIII., No. 5, August, 1898, pp. 331-337. Reprinted as The Empire of the Invisibles by H. E. Orcutt.
New York: The Metaphysical Pub. Co., 1899.
"The Empire of the Invisibles" is a land peopled by the ghosts of those who have committed suicide.
Many of the ghosts have killed themselves because of poverty, unable to raise the means to support themselves. What happens to those who die by other means, the ghosts do not know.
As ghosts, they are no longer subject to the physical needs of food and sleep. What sort of society will develop in this land of ghosts, non-material but still present in the world? Each individual responds according to his personality, inclinations and interests. Harriet Orcutt explores the possibilities of Utopia in an ethereal community, no longer subject to day-to-day physical needs.
Oddly enough, there appear to be no female ghosts. It is not clear whether this is an effect of perception, whether women did not commit suicide, or whether female ghosts go elsewhere after they die.
|Saturday, May 9th, 2015|
1:35 pm - The Learned Lady in England 1650-1760
I am happy to announce:|
Celebration Edition #405:
"The Learned Lady in England 1650-1760."
By Myra Reynolds.
Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1920.
One of the things that I've noticed is that feminism, and works written by women, seem to go through cycles of discovery and forgetting. As a graduate student I used to haunt the college bookstore, watching for new editions of early works through England's Pandora and Virago presses, and bemoaning the cost of the ever-so-tantalizing but more expensive scholarly editions of early works. But one of the most delightful acquisitions I found was not in the university bookstore, but in a second hand shop down the street. There I came across Myra Reynolds "The Learned Lady in England 1650-1760". Years before the current waves of feminist scholarly interest, Reynolds painstakingly collected the available details of every woman she could find from that time period. She invariably mentioned the women whose lives I found so fascinating, quoting from their works and placing them in their societal and educational context. Other scholars have discovered more information since, and some of her conclusions reflect the time in which she herself wrote, but her book is still enjoyable and full of wonderful information about women who might otherwise have been lost from history. I'm thrilled to be releasing her wonderful book from 1920.
Every time Myra Reynolds discussed a book that I had republished in the Celebration of Women Writers, I realized again how much she had inspired this site. You can thank her when you read Anne Killigrew's "Poems" (1686), or Dorothy Osborne's letters, or Margaret Cavendish's wonderful science fiction account, The Blazing World, or Margaret Fell's "Woman Speaking Justified" (1666), or any of the other works online.
FELL, Mrs. MARGARET. Women's Speaking Justified Proved and Allowed of by the Scriptures, London, 1666.
KILLIGREW, ANNE. Poems London, 1686.
OSBORNE, DOROTHY. Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple, 1652-1654. Edited by E. A. Parry. Dodd, Mead and Co., 1888.
NEWCASTLE, MARGARET, DUCHESS OF. The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World. London: Printed by A. Maxwell, 1668.
One of the exciting things about the web is that it has the potential to make works more accessible, to counteract the repetitive "erasure" of women from history. While proofreading I kept finding wonderful quotes. I encourage you to tweet your favorites as you read.
|Wednesday, April 1st, 2015|
7:07 pm - The Sorceress of the Strand
I am happy to announce a collection of clever tales of chemical mayhem:|
"The Sorceress of the Strand."
By L. T. Meade, 1854-1914 and Robert Eustace, 1854-1943.
First appeared in The Strand Magazine, Volume XXIV ["Madame Sara," "The Blood Red Cross," "The Face of the Abbot"] July-December, 1902;
Volume XXV ["The Talk of the Town", "The Bloodstone," and "The Teeth of the Wolf"] January-June, 1903.
It's terribly awkward to have an evil genius for a best friend. At least, that could be the take-away from "The Sorceress of the Strand", a collection of six short stories which appeared in The Strand Magazine in the early years of the 20th century. It seems as though every young woman that Madame Sarah befriends is the target or the means of extortion or murder -- sometimes both! For Madame Sara is an evil chemical genius. For good or ill, she has the secrets of the chemical world at her elegantly manicured fingertips. She has returned from the wilds of the Amazon and other remote areas of the world with all sorts of arcane chemical knowledge, which she uses to remain stunningly beautiful -- retaining the looks of a women in her 20s or 30s when she must be a generation or two older. Both her appearance and her knowledge enable her to charm London society. Gentlemen and ladies both succumb to her charm, and seek her help to remain young and beautiful themselves. Yet Madame Sara cannot seem to resist the lure of crime, particularly when unique, strange, and priceless treasures are involved. And it seems that she must have a positive delight in destroying fortunes, reputations, and lives, so often does she indulge in such pastimes.
One can't help having some feminist sympathy for her. Here is a women so brilliant that she can quickly deduce, from stolen glimpses at the draft of a technical paper, conclusions that the writer himself has completely failed to draw. An expert chemist who works for the police, who finally reaches similar conclusions after several sleepless nights, at least has the honesty to recognize her brilliance as he enlightens the inventor: "she read your notes, and at a glance saw what you have not grasped at all, and what I have taken days to discover." But however brilliant Madame Sara may be, and whatever secrets she has brought back from exotic places, she is clearly and bluntly put in her place by the male protagonists of the stories. Without credentials, without official diplomas, she cannot be credited as anything but a quack. However marvellous her scientific attainments (and they are acknowledged to be considerable), the very fact that she is a woman raises questions. As one of her opponents states, "The sort of knowledge you allude to, … that scientific knowledge which Madame possesses, and which is not a smattering, but a real thing, makes a woman at times – dangerous." Surely, a little reflection must suggest that knowledge can make either men or women dangerous? The authors, however, make it clear that the "official" detective "would be sure to suspect any very clever woman."
Honestly, what's a brilliant woman to do but become an evil genius?
Slightly less facetiously, it's always interesting to see how women are portrayed and not portrayed, and Madame Sara gives the attentive reader much to think about. From the viewpoint of the somewhat stuffed-shirt male protagonists, women are predominantly valued for their beauty and their integrity. Intellectual intelligence is not required; indeed most of the young women that the heroes attempt to protect are more than a bit gullible. Admittedly, they are usually pointed out to be quite young, and Madame Sara is both much older than she looks, and much cannier, giving her the advantage in any battle of wits. The male protagonists do seem to prefer their women young and stupid: it quite upsets them that Madame Sara combines the appearance of youth with keen intelligence. The authors, on the other hand, may well have different views. How tongue-in-cheek were L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace when they wrote sentences like: "No," I answered, boldly, "I cannot understand any circumstances in which a wife could rightly have a trouble apart from her husband." Now I ask you, does that sentence suggest that she should share her troubles with her husband? or that he is most likely to be the cause of them?
Whether you cheer on the heroes, Dixon Druce and his friend the mildly Holmesian Vandeleur, or confess to a sneaking sympathy for the evil Madame Sara, you cannot help but enjoy these clever tales of chemically-inspired mayhem. After all, how often does the denouement of a thriller occur at a Royal Society lecture?
|Sunday, March 1st, 2015|
5:04 pm - "A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia"
Happy Women's History Month! In celebration of which, for your reading pleasure, I release:|
"A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia: Wherein is handled The Loves of Amphialus and Helena Queen of Corinth, Prince Plangus and Erona. With the Historie of the Loves of Old Claius and Young Strephon to Urania."
By Anna Weamys, ca. 1630-.
London: Printed by William Bentley, and are to be sold by Thomas Heath, 1651.
Little is known about the life of English author Anna Weamys (fl. 1651). The original (and only extant) printing of 1651 of "A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia" identifies the author as "a Young Gentle-woman, Mistress A. W." An entry in Edward Arber's "The Term Catalogues" (1690) advertises a proposed second edition as being "Written by a Young Gentlewoman, Mrs. A[nna] W[eamys]."
Historian Patrick Colborn Cullen suggests that the source of this attribution may be a letter from poet and essayist James Howell, who wrote one of the dedicatory poems to the volume, as "JAM. HOWEL." Howell's "Epistolae Ho-elianae" (IV.xx) includes a letter which accompanied a commendatory poem for the continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's "Arcadia". The letter congratulates "Dr. Weames" for being "father to a daughter that Europe hath not many of her equals." Both in the letter and in the introductory poems in praise of her book, Mistress Weamys is mentioned repeatedly as being a very young woman, "so young a spirit", who should be cherished. It is also clear from the commendatory poems that she is unmarried.
Patrick Cullen situates Weamys as part of a network of royalist sympathizers, including aristocratic patron Henry Pierrepont and his daughters Anne and Grace, writer James Howell, printer William Bentley, bookseller Thomas Heath, and possibly poet Frances Vaughan (nee Altham), the wife of James Howell's friends, Richard Vaughan, second earl of Carberry. Her father, presumably, was a doctor of divinity in the Church of England, making her a member of an educated family. That she is identified as a "Gentlewoman" suggests that it was not not a titled one.
The book itself is predominantly a romance, a form followed generally by royalists. In writing "A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia" (1651), Anna Weamys is following an accepted form, that of continuing and responding to another writers' work. The source upon which Weamys builds is an unfinished fragment, the "New Arcadia" section of Sydney's 1593 edition, "Arcadia". By continuing and reworking Sydney's story, Weamys is "placing herself on the same stage" as the "learned Sydney". Her work, like his, is a mix of literary genres, the most dominant part of her conversation with him being romance, the second pastoral.
The ending of Sydney's "Arcadia" leaves open the fates of many of his characters, and indeed invites their continuation: "The strange stories of Artaxia and Plexirtus, Erona and Plangus, Helen and Amphialus, with the wonderful chances that befell them; … the poor hopes of the poor Philisides in the pursuit of his affections; the strange continuance of Claius' and Strephon's desire; … may awake some other spirit to exercise his pen in that wherewith mine is already dulled."
That Anna Weamys has taken up this challenge, to further the romance, is hailed by her auditors as a most suitable transformation of Sydney's work, indeed his "gallant generous spirit" is described as defying death "with a timely Metempsychosis" to breath "through female Organs". F. Vaughan goes even further, charging other women to "Lay by your Needles Ladies, take the Pen, The onely difference 'twixt you and Men." Weamys not only furthers the romances hinted at in Sydney's account, but takes them in new directions, reshaping them with wit, energy and humour.
Weamys herself was writing during a time of upheaval, during or soon after the English civil wars. Perhaps because of this, she avoids political complications in her account. However, a desire for not just personal, but also political, stability, is explicitly included in the happy ending she describes at the end of her book:
"Then after all Ceremonies accomplished, they retired severally to their flourishing Kingdoms of Thessalia and Macedon, and Armenia, with Corinth, where they increased in riches, and were fruitfull in their renowned Families. And when they had sufficiently participated of the pleasures of this world, they resigned their Crowns to their lawfull Successours, and ended their days in Peace and Quietness."
Whether Anna Weamys herself found a happy ending, with either political or personal stability, we do not know.
|Friday, February 13th, 2015|
10:08 pm - "The Convent of Pleasure", Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle
Happy Valentine's Day! I am delighted to announce:|
Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, 1624?-1674
"The Convent of Pleasure", as first published in "Plays, never before printed." London: Printed by A. Maxwell, 1668.
I admit that I cannot resist a February title that plays upon the questions of gender, sexual attraction, and what is natural and unnatural. We have Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, to thank for a rolicking play that I would love to see staged. "The Convent of Pleasure" never graced the boards during Cavendish's life -- or indeed, for several hundred years after her death. Its first known performance was by Gweno Williams and students at the University of Ripon and York in 1995. Depending on the director, widely varying interpretations could be presented of this clever, enjoyable, and witty script.
"Retiredness bars the life from nothing else but Men."
-- So saith Lady Happy, whose father has just died, leaving her young, beautiful, wealthy -- and independent. She gathers friends and followers and creates a world apart, one consisting solely of women. Of course, one must be fabulously wealthy and upper class to live, like Lady Happy, a life "incloister'd with all the delights and pleasures that are allowable and lawful."
While she and her friends enjoy a life of ease, lower class women do the work of all the servants and farmers needed to support the elaborate household. Yet Lady Happy considers poor women too to benefit from a separation of the sexes, which frees them from an oppressor: A set of plays-within-a-play graphically illustrates the dangers and abuses that women of all classes may experience in relationships with men.
"Men are the only troublers of Women; for they only cross and oppose their sweet delights, and peaceable life; they cause their pains, but not their pleasures. Wherefore those Women that are poor, ... are only fit for Men; for having not means to please themselves, they must serve only to please others; but those Women, where Fortune, Nature, and the gods are joined to make them happy, were mad to live with Men, who make the Female sex their slaves; but I will not be so inslaved, but will live retired from their Company."
Of course, the men are quite put out :-) so to speak, about their exclusion from feminine bliss, and in particular that feminine bliss that comes with possession of a WEALTHY wife. Various plots are proposed to regain access to the women, but only one man, the Prince, is willing (or able) to pass as female in order to enter the precincts of the women's cloister. Presenting himself as a Princess desirous of engaging in the women's cross-gendered exploration of sex roles, a man pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man, he seriously disturbs the Lady Happy's contentment, causing her to reflect that:
"My Name is Happy, and so was my Condition, before I saw this Princess;
but now I am like to be the most unhappy Maid alive:
But why may not I love a Woman with the same affection I could a Man?"
What is the nature of gender? Throughout the play Newcastle delights in teasing her characters, and her audience, with this question. She concludes, perhaps somewhat ambiguously still, that
"No, no, Nature is Nature, and still will be
The same she was from all Eternity."
I hope you will enjoy this valentine (of sorts), with all its clever wit, as much as I did.
Mary Mark Ockerbloom
|Thursday, January 1st, 2015|
7:38 pm - One thousand dollars a day: Studies in practical economics (1894)
It seems particularly suitable to release a utopia on New Year's Day.|
"One thousand dollars a day: Studies in practical economics."
By Adeline Knapp, 1860-1909.
Boston: The Arena Publishing Company, 1894.
Adeline Knapp's fundamental concern is the economics of modern society and labor. This collection of stories, however, is more imaginative than the title of the book might suggest, mixing utopian, scientific and evolutionary speculations with economic concerns to address the problems of individuals and societies. Although the title story is most often identified as a utopia, many of the other short stories explore similar ideas.
"One Thousand Dollars a Day" explores possible economics of Utopia, and their potential impact on society.
What would be the practical impact of economic reforms, and could they result in a positive transformation of society? "The Sick Man" and "The Earth Slept" are both biological analogies for societies and their functioning.
In "The Sick Man", a single individual represents the body of society. In "The Earth Slept", a parable of uplift, societies evolve along with species, ultimately aspiring to Utopian ideals.
It's interesting to see how scientific progress is related to a benevolent society. Many advances that we now take for granted were still new enough to spark wonder. "The Discontented Machine" includes a paeon to scientific endeavor:
"There is nothing more magnificent than a great machine or engine at work. The locomotive, pulling its long trains up grades and across levels, – the great ocean steamer, walking steadily across the expanse of seas, the mighty press, turning off a thousand complete newspapers a minute, – all these evidences of human power and ingenuity are enough to make one proud of the age in which he lives, and the race to which he belongs."
All is not easy in this mechanical paradise, however, for Knapp raises the question of what will happen if a sentient machine demands pay for its work.
"Really, upon my word," exclaimed Mr. Hyde, impatiently, indignation at the injustice of the charges preferred getting the better of his fear of the strange complainant. "It seems to me that you are a most unreasonable machine. Of course our fortunes depend upon you, to a great extent, though, as you know, the market is full of machines, all willing to do your work if you refuse. But do we not maintain you? What more would you have us do?"
"Getting Ahead" is the least imaginative of the stories, a bitter account of an emigrant's experience of life in the land of "plenty and freedom". Knapp leaves hanging the question of how women and children manage to survive in a society with rigid gender roles, when the breadwinner of a family is no longer available. Another sour note is the racism shown by the emigrant towards Asian workers, who are castigated as not living in San Francisco, and not helping to build up the country - a particularly ironic charge, given that the laws of the time prevented Asians from bringing their families to California, and created the conditions under which their labor, as well as others, was exploited.
Read and enjoy in 2015! Mary Mark Ockerbloom
|Saturday, December 6th, 2014|
7:07 pm - The Snow Baby: A True Story with True Pictures
I'm extra happy to announce Celebration Edition #400!|
"The Snow Baby: A True Story with True Pictures."
By Josephine Diebitsch Peary, 1863-1955.
New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1901.
It seems suitable to release a book about living in the Artic for December :-)
In 1888, Arctic explorer Robert Peary married Josephine Diebitsch, the daughter of a linguist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. As Peary's wife, Josephine accompanied her husband on three voyages to the Polar regions, as well as making two trips to Greenland to meet him on his return from additional expeditions. In June of 1891 Josephine accompanied her husband and the small crew of the Kite to northern Greenland. They wintered in McCormick Bay, approximately midway between the Arctic Circle and the North Pole. Josephine was a full partner in the expedition, tending strings of traps and hunting deer, ptarmigan, rabbit and walrus with the men, cooking for six men under primitive conditions, enduring the long, dark, frozen winters, and keeping morale high with grace and good humor. During her second expedition, September 1901, she gave birth to a daughter, Marie Ahnighito Peary. Marie's middle name honored the Eskimo woman who made the child's first fur suit. Known as the "Snow Baby", she was the most northerly born Caucasian child up to that time, born within 13-degrees of the Pole, high above the Arctic Circle and less than 800 miles from the Pole.
Josephine and baby Marie spent the winter in a two-room "house" on Bowdoin Bay. Josephine recorded the story of her daughter's birth in the high Arctic in photographs and anecdotes in "The Snow Baby: A True Story with True Pictures." The book is intended to be accessible to children, mostly likely to be read to them by a parent. For all the serious detail it contains, it is written in a fairy-tale tone that can seem patronizing. Underneath, one can occasionally glimpse the serious challenges that the writer experienced:
"Such a funny house it was where she was found. It was only one story high, the outside was covered with thick, black tarred paper, the walls were more than a foot thick, and there were lots of windows for such a small house, one wide one running right across the top of the house, just like a hot-house. This was to enable the inmates to enjoy the sunshine just as long as it lasted. All round the house was a close veranda, the walls of which were built of boxes of food, biscuits, sugar, coffee, and tea; for none of these things, in fact, nothing but meat could be bought in the country."
Nonetheless, the visual record of life in the north that is revealed in the photographs and text is interesting and informative. Read and enjoy the snow!
|Friday, October 31st, 2014|
4:56 pm - The Undying Monster ; A New Constitution for the United States of the World
Happy Halloween! I am happy to announce two new titles! For thrills and chills, see Celebration edition # 398:|
"The Undying Monster: A Tale of the Fifth Dimension."
By Jessie Douglas Kerruish, 1884-1949.
London: Heath Cranton Limited, 1922.
If Charles Stross had had a sweet, charming great-aunt, nearly 100 years ago, she might have written "The Undying Monster".
If Bob Howard, the main character of Stross's Laundry series, had had a sweet, charming great-aunt, she might well have been a protagonist of "The Undying Monster"! Jessie Douglas Kerruish's fictional world is simpler and kinder than Stross's tend to be,
but by the time I finished Kerruish's book, I couldn't help imaging how Stross might have rewritten it.
When horrific tragedy strikes, "supersensitive" Luna Bartendale is appealed to to investigate. Luna is determined to find the answer to the puzzle of the Hammand Horror, whether its cause is to be found in the material world, or some dimension beyond.
Luna, however, is rather surprising from the first. She applies the methodicalness of Sherlock Holmes to the evidence collected
using her psychic abilities, using both to discover aspects of a problem that has previously defeated Madame Blavatsky and Sir William Crookes.
She asserts, "I'm testing every tradition, searching every Dimension." The traditions tested clearly include those of popular mediumship and occultism, both of which are snappily criticized by Miss Bartendale, along with the popular press.
'Junior reporters put in a spare hour in the nearest Reference Library, and amassed enough information during it to publish authoritative articles on Black Masses, Magic, Elementals, Family Banes, and the like, and sign them: "By a Well Known Occultist," or "By a Distinguished Psychic Expert."'
Part of the fun is listening to Luna politely suppress the uncritical suggestions of her clients, as they try to anticipate what she will do to solve the case. For example,
"Reincarnation, as an explanation of mental phenomena, is as easy and unprovable as Spiritualism," she replied, with a laugh. "I don't deal in easy and unprovable theories."
Luna herself believes strongly in a world of both science and spirit: "We human beings are threefold. One part is hereditary, the result of what our ancestors did and thought, one the result of the circumstances in which our lives are spent, and the third the spark of Himself God puts in us all–the personality. The Personality through which, by God's grace and our own effort, we can either rule Heredity and Circumstance, or else rise superior to them."
Perceptive readers may quickly suspect the cause of the Hammand Horror, as does Luna Bartendale. More challenging is tracing occurrences of the horror over time, understanding its genesis, and, if Luna can manage it, finding a way to overcome it and avert future disaster. (Modern readers who scoff at Luna's "scientific" theories, should remember that the state of scientific knowledge has changed substantially in the past 100 years.)
If you're thinking about the upcoming U.S. elections, consider reading Celebration edition # 399: Deeply involved in the women's rights movement, Victoria Claflin Woodhull reinvisioned the workings of a constitution. See what she had to say, and be sure to vote on Nov 4!
"A New Constitution for the United States of the World,
Proposed for the Consideration of the Constructors of Our Future Government"
by Victoria C. (Victoria Claflin Woodhull, 1838-1927.
"Constitution of the United States of the World: An Address by Victoria C. Woodhull",
speech, New York: Washington's Lincoln Hall, 1870;
Printed as A New Constitution for the World by Victoria Woodhull,
vt. A New Constitution for the United States of the World,
Proposed for the Consideration of the Constructors of Our Future Government.
New York: Woodhull, Claflin & Co., 1872; Reprinted in
Alternative constitutions for the United States:
a documentary history, edited by Steven R. Boyd. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992.
Read and enjoy! Mary Mark Ockerbloom
|Thursday, October 9th, 2014|
1:25 pm - Some African Highways
I am happy to announce Celebration Edition #397:|
"Some African Highways: A Journey of Two American Women to Uganda and the Transvaal"
By Caroline Kirkland, 1865-1930.
Boston: Dana Estes & Company, 1908.
Threading through Caroline Kirkland's journey through Africa there is a faint tone of regret. Although they spent some very uncomfortable nights on shipboard, packed on deck like wet sardines, she and her mother were not eaten by lions, or attacked by savage natives. Their trip to visit a sister (in Entebbe) and brother (in Johannesburg) was wonderful and she had "the inestimable delight of visiting these regions before the extraordinary panorama has changed" but… it was not, perhaps, quite as exciting as she had hoped (until the very end!)
For travelling in Africa, Kirkland recommends "certain things you must have. First and foremost, good health – secondly, an open mind, free from prejudices – thirdly, a willingness to make light of trifles and to put up with small discomforts. "
Be warned, however, that Kirkland herself is not "free from prejudices", by modern standards, about Africans, Chinese, and Jews. Her responses to the native population reflect her race, class and time. Admiration for "human life in its most primitive, elemental forms" balances uneasily against the awareness that "willing, cheerful, obedient and not unskilful" servants still have "savage potentialities". Though Europeans may introduce "the hours and customs of the West End of London into the heart of Darkest Africa", "The sombre power of Africa to remain African in spite of European invasion is unmistakable. The white intruders … continue to be aliens." Kirkland herself is one of those aliens. Nonetheless, there are many interesting and enjoyable passages in her account of her travels.
She devotes an entire chapter to "Sleeping-Sickness", a devastating epidemic that was destroying entire districts of Africa, the Ebola of its time. "The natives of Uganda have paid its most shocking toll. Out of a population of about three hundred thousand in 1900, two hundred thousand died of sleeping-sickness between that date and 1906 in the Protectorate alone. " At the time she wrote, scientists had determined that the disease was communicated by a species of tsetse fly, the glossina palpalis, and had detected trypanosomes multiplying in patients' blood. But it would be years until a cure was found -- by Louise Pearce (1885-1959) and Wade Hampton Brown, pathologists from the Rockefeller Institute, who developed tryparsamide in 1919.
There are also moments of sheer delight, as in this description of playing bridge while travelling by railway : "Our table was a box built for a monkey, but which at that moment held only two giant sleeping tortoises, while the monkey sat on the professor's shoulder. The little lemur I mentioned as being on the boat was curled up inside the hat of madame, which she was wearing, while a gray parrot jabbered at us from a perch above. Outside the sun was declining in a golden haze when suddenly we saw five or six giraffes sidling off through some low trees."
On the final leg of their journey home, however, all Caroline's hopes for excitement were surpassed: Mount Etna began to erupt on April 4, 1906 during their stay at Naples. While wandering crowds of refugees staggered into the city, Kirkland joined the crowds of sight-seers heading toward the mountain. From Resina, she was afforded an uninterrupted view of the mountain "from its base to its terrible summit", while the ground shook under her. Most tourists soon left the city, but Kirkland stayed, daring showers of mud and ash to visit the active volcano. "Any personal emotion like fear was lost in a certain awful ecstasy inspired by the spectacle."
|Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014|
6:53 pm - The Emperor of the Moon
I am happy to announce:
Celebration Edition #396:The Emperor of the Moon:
A Farce. As it is Acted by Their Majesties Servants, At the Queens Theatre.
By Aphra Behn, 1640-1689.
London: Printed by R. Holt, for Joseph Knight, and Francis Saunders, at the Blew-Anchor in the lower Walk of the New Exchange, 1688. The second Edition.
I've been spending some time this summer in expanding my bibliography of early utopias and science fiction by women,
now more appropriately titled "Pre-1950 Utopias and Science Fiction by Women". The newest version can be seen at:
I've added considerably to the list of writings after 1923, with information about their first publications, when I could find it, and their probable copyright status in the United States. I'm using that information to identify editions which are in the public domain, for release on the Celebration website, so you can expect to see a number of utopias and science fiction works appearing here in the coming months.
The first such addition is:
"The Emperor of the Moon: A Farce. As it is Acted by Their Majesties Servants, At the Queens Theatre."
By Aphra Behn, 1640-1689.
London: Printed by R. Holt, for Joseph Knight, and Francis Saunders, at the Blew-Anchor in the lower Walk of the New Exchange, 1688. The second Edition.
The play "The Emperor of the Moon" is a delightful romp by Aphra Behn, who mocks the early scientists of her time. "Doctor Baliardo" is fixated on the moon, using an array of "his Microscope, his Horoscope, his Telescope, and all his Scopes" in an attempt to divine the secrets of a utopian moon world. He is totally blind to the earthly world, where his daughter and niece are being courted by two noblemen. Other than an occasional glimpse of each other at church, the lovers can only pass notes through the stratagems of their servants. The servants, in their turn, are farcical competitors for the women's governante (who is rich), repeatedly promising to act nobly and generously towards each other, and immediately breaking their promises and trying to gain unfair advantage. Much hilarity ensues as the men concoct an outrageous plan to trick the moon-mad scientist and gain access to the ladies. I would love to see this staged.
In addition to Behn's play, I've added a number of short stories to the Utopias and bibliographies list:
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851
"Roger Dodsworth: The Reanimated Englishman". Submitted in 1826 to the New Monthly Magazine, first published in Yesterday and to-day by Cyrus Redding. London, T. C. Newby, 1863, pp. 150-165.
Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart, 1844-1911
"A Dream within a Dream" in The Independent, Vol. 26, No. 1, February 19, 1874.
Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888
"Transcendental Wild Oats" first published in The Independent, Vol. 25, No. 1307, 18 December 1873, pp. 1569-71; reprinted in Silver Pitchers: and Independence, a Centennial Love Story by Lousa M. Alcott. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1876, pp. 79-101.
"The Automaton Ear" in The automaton ear, and other sketches. Chicago: Jansen, McClurg and Co., 1876, pp. 7-43.
Fuller, Alice W.
"A Wife Manufactured to Order" in The Arena [Boston], 13 (July 1895): pp. 305-312.
Nesbit, E. (Edith), 1858-1924
"The Five Senses" first published in London Magazine, December 1909.
Anyone with an interest in utopias must read Alcott's "Transcendental Wild Oats", a bitingly funny (and heartbreakingly personal) account of her family's experience of life in a Utopian colony. The gender politics of utopian life in her account are fascinating, if painfully infuriating: the men undertake to do whatever they are inspired to, according to their talent and inclination, while the women are expected to feed the family (on what?), do the laundry, look after the children... The clash of day-to-day necessity with high-flown idealism has rarely been better portrayed.
Have lots of fun reading! Mary Mark Ockerbloom
|Wednesday, August 6th, 2014|
7:13 am - Thomas Eakins, who painted
I'm happy to announce Celebration Edition #395:|
"Thomas Eakins, who painted."
By Margaret McHenry.
[Oreland, Pa]: Printed privately for the author, 1946.
Copyright not renewed. Illustrations of paintings by Thomas Eakins added using public domain images from Wikimedia Commons.
This week my son is taking classes at PAFA, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. One of the things he'll be doing is drawing from the academy's Cast Hall collection. The academy's collection was commissioned from Paris in July of 1805, before the Academy even had a building. Originally on public view, by 1880 the casts had been moved from the gallery spaces into the studio space, where they continue to be used for teaching today.
One of the famous (indeed, notorious) teachers at PAFA was Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). Eakins began teaching at the Academy in 1876 and by 1882 was Director of the Schools. He and the Academy later parted company. You can read about Eakins, and see images of many of his works, in "Thomas Eakins, who painted" by Margaret McHenry.
McHenry had the advantage of interviewing many of Eakins' contemporaries and students. Her account of his life draws heavily on this anecdotal material, as well as quoting from his early letters and papers. She also focuses on Eakins paintings, mentioning many of his significant works. I've taken advantage of the availability of public domain images of Eakins paintings, to illustrate the book with images from Wikimedia Commons. My thanks to all of the people who have contributed there!
Also included are a couple of paintings and drawings by Susan Hannah Macdowell, Eakins wife, who was also a gifted painter. Initially a student of Eakins, Susan Hannah largely gave up her own career in support of her husband's during his lifetime. Throughout their marriage, she kept minutely detailed diaries of the details of daily life, and after Eakins' death she carefully preserved his paintings, drawings, and papers.
Eakins was lucky to have the ongoing support of not only his wife, but also his father, with whom Eakins and his wife lived for much of his life. McHenry quotes a formal agreement, drawn up between Eakins and his father not long after Eakins returned from studying painting in France. For Twenty dollars per month to be paid to Benjamin Eakins, "Thomas Eakins receives his board, lodging, and the exclusive use of the 4th story studio. Thomas Eakins will have the right to bring to his studio his models, his pupils, his sitters, and whomsoever he will, and both Benjamin Eakins and Thomas Eakins recognizing the necessity and usage in a figure painter of professional secrecy, it is understood that the coming of persons to the studio is not to be the subject of comment or question by the family."
McHenry's account of Eakins' life and work is somewhat uneven, but it does give vivid images of the man and his contemporaries, warts and all. I was impressed by the extent of his interests, and intrigued by the glimpses McHenry gives us of life in Philadelphia in the 1800's.
Eakins was fascinated with musculature, and actively studied muscles and movement with the intent of more effectively portraying them. He attended the Jefferson Medical School to study anatomy, dissecting human and animal bodies to examine the muscles and tendons. McHenry describes some of his early experiments with horses: 'He constructed an entire leg from flat pieces of pine board half an inch thick cut in the exact outlines of the bones. These pieces he pivoted together and using catgut for tendons and for ligaments, rubber bands for muscles, he had "all attached to their places and properly restrained."'
Eakins even presented a report on his work to the Academy of Natural Sciences: "The Differential Action of Animal Locomotion of Certain Muscles passing more than one Joint." His address strikes an uncharacteristically humble note: "It is not without diffidence that I, a painter, venture to communicate with a scientific body upon a scientific subject; yet I am encouraged by thinking that Nature is so many sided that the humblest observer may, from his point of view, offer suggestions worthy of attention."
Eakins' fascination with the human body was integral to his approach to teaching. The course of study at PAFA during his tenure is described as follows: "The students' work is through casts, which are almost universally of the nude human figure; they then enter the life class and continue to work from the nude human figure, usually in simple poses, and then they work in the dissecting room, also from the human figure." A circular for classes notes: "The accurate knowledge of the anatomy obtained through lectures, and dissections, forms a strong basis for the intelligent rendering of these qualities. An accurate representation of the model in all its peculiarities is insisted upon."
Eakins seems more real to me as I imagine my son drawing the same casts that Eakins and his students saw and used at PAFA.
|Tuesday, July 1st, 2014|
7:03 pm - Sister Simon's Murder Case
If you're thinking of going to the shore this summer to relax, you may particularly enjoy this murder mystery, set in a small seaside town.|
"Sister Simon's Murder Case."
By Margaret Ann Hubbard, 1909-.
Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1959. Copyright not renewed.
Sister Simon is a nun, a supervisor in the pediatrics section of a convent hospital. Young, inexperienced and overworked, she struggles to manage the demands of double shifts, demanding parents, and student nurses only a little younger than herself. In frustration, she resolves "One thing after another kept cropping up to break down discipline.... A rule was a rule and every single one would be kept."
Her determination to enforce the rules closes the hospital's doors to a woman in danger. "It would be a good deal later that she would remember her irritation at Evvie's infringement of the rules – remember and wonder whether she herself had actually measured out for someone the difference between life and death."
The question of rules and obedience challenges both Sister Simon and student nurse Lizette Carter. Sister Simon is deeply committed to being a nun: her religious vocation is the certainty underlying her life. She believes that obeying the Rule -- perhaps all the rules -- is essential to living as she ought. But the world is not ordered according to the rule; actions have effects that can spiral out of control beyond anything thought of or intended. Each of us acts unaware of the variety of motives and emotions that drive others around us.
Emotions are harder to control than rules. Student nurse Lizette Carter is driven strongly by her emotions. Yet her impulsiveness, like Sister Simon's care in following the rules, can endanger them as they try to unravel a dangerous mystery. The question of right action -- of when to act and when not to act, of sins of omission as well as of commission -- returns throughout the novel.
What do you do when none of the rules apply?
Hubbard is a master at describing the varied reactions of her characters to events. People are not the same. Some are driven by guilt, by regret, by fear, others by curiosity, by protectiveness. But no one is left unchanged. Hubbard recognizes the deep impact of violence: "That was the worst of murder, it wasn't inflicted upon the victim alone but upon every mortal and thing around it."
Read and enjoy! Mary Mark Ockerbloom, Editor, A Celebration of Women Writers
|Sunday, June 8th, 2014|
3:01 pm - The Hurricane Mystery
"The Hurricane Mystery"|
By Sarah Lindsay Schmidt, fl. 1934.
New York: Random House, 1943. Copyright not renewed.
"Tungsten had been mined in neighboring hills. Who knew but traces of other strategics – antimony, beryllium, possibly mercury and chrome and feldspar and mica, and, far less likely, nickel – were there to be discovered … It was the alloys that gave flexibility, strength, hardness, endurance, and lightness to the steel used in machine tools, tanks, vehicles, instruments, machines and weapons of warfare."
Sarah Schmidt's book is set in America, during the second world war, and dedicated to her son's wartime bride Walmar Dean. It is packed with scientific detail about the discovery of strategic metals and their importance to the war effort. However, while the concerns of World War II provide a structure for the book, it is another war -- the gender war -- that permeates its every page. The book's heroine, Victoria Tyrrell, is the only woman in her graduating class at the Colorado College of Mines. Her entree into this area of scientific research is, as it was for many women, built upon her relationships to men. Her deceased father and her guardian, Professor Weldon, both studied and prospected for metals. Her chief rival is Hosmer Leeds, another protege of Professor Weldon.
Victoria has earned a dual degree in both geological and a metallurgical engineering, and is the honor student of her class. Yet, her guardian suggests that she become a secretary for a mining company rather than trying to find the "real job" that she craves as an engineer. Her boyfriend notes dismissively, when they discuss introducing her to his parents: "when they see what a darn good-looking bit of femininity you are, they'll understand how little your brains really matter." Victoria, from the very beginning of the book, constantly fights to prove her equality with men. It is no coincidence that the book begins with a life-threatening physical challenge: "All her effort was centered upon keeping up with the tireless [male] figure in front of her. "
Everyone around Victoria assumes that women are weaker than men. Vic's sister Imogen, who is in poor health, is in many ways the image of what Vic is expected to be: shy, sweet, gentle, her creative interests consistent with "domesticity". When mysterious events occur, Vic is asked to keep her eyes open, under cover of looking after her convalescent sister. She is determined to put her scientific training to use and discover mineral wealth for the war effort, as well as discovering the truth surrounding a woman's death. Even more, she is determined to prove to the irritatingly patronizing men she loves that she is capable of doing work of value.
"Nothing could have added more strength to her desire to prove she did have professional worth than the way those two men were treating her. But it must be conclusive proof. She would make no attempt to impress them unless and until she had such proof." As Victoria becomes able to assert her own worth, she also becomes able to assert the worth of her decisions, and her right to make them, whether or not the men in her life agree with them.
Schmidt's description of a young woman attempting to make a career in science vividly portrays the difficulties she faces from friends as well as foes. The mystery is interesting background to a deeper story, about the difficulty of a woman achieving recognition for her abilities and achievements.
|Sunday, May 11th, 2014|
9:45 am - Meditations from the pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart; Emma Sansom, an Alabama heroine
While preparing for the University of Delaware's recent "Colored Conventions" edit-a-thon, I came across quite a number of African Americans whose work I wasn't familiar with. One of them was Maria Stewart.|
"Meditations from the pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart."
By Maria W. Stewart, 1803-1879.
Washington: Enterprise Publishing Company, 1879.
Maria W. Stewart, nee Miss Miller, was a free black woman who gained an education, endured poverty and hardship, and taught schools for African Americans in the Baltimore and Washington areas in the early 1800s. Not long after her husband died, William Lloyd Garrison who published the first edition of her book of meditations. Years later, introducing this reprint, he wrote:
"Your whole adult life has been devoted to the noble task of educating and elevating your people, sympathizing with them in their affliction, and assisting them in their needs".
Stewart identified education, both intellectual and moral, as an essential step in the uplift of her race, and forcefully exhorted both men and women to improve themselves "and contend for the cause of God and the rights of man."
"It is of no use for us to sit with our hands folded, hanging our heads like bulrushes, lamenting our wretched condition; but let us make a mighty effort, and arise; and if no one will promote or respect us, let us promote and respect ourselves. "
"O ye sons of Africa, when will your voices be heard in our legislative halls, in defiance of your enemies, contending for equal rights and liberty?"
Many of her passages could be read now as poetry:
"Shall I, for fear of scoffs and frowns, refrain my tongue?
Ah, no! I speak as one that must give an account at the awful bar of God;
I speak as a dying mortal, to dying mortals.
O ye daughters of Africa, awake! awake! arise!
no longer sleep nor slumber, but distinguish yourselves.
Show forth to the world that ye are endowed with noble and exalted faculties."
A few weeks earlier, I was checking an article on Wikipedia about a very different woman from roughly the same time period.
'Emma Sansom, an Alabama heroine:
An address delivered before the sixth annual convention of the Alabama Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Demopolis, May 14, 1902.'
By Thomas McAdory Owen, 1866-1920.
Birmingham, Ala: [s.n.], 1904.
Emma Sansom, in contrast, is remembered for her physical bravery in helping the Confederate army. General Forrest came to her farm and asked for directions to find a ford, so that he and his Confederate troops could pursue the Union troops of Colonel Streight. Emma mounted behind on the general's horse, ignoring both her mother's disapproving gaze and the threat of Yankee sharpshooters, and showed him the way. As a result, Forrest was able to capture Streight and his men. In openly aiding the Confederate forces as she did, Emma risked dangerous retaliation from the Union Army for herself and her family. Emma was later awarded a section of land and a gold medal by the General Assembly of Alabama.
How appalled would Maria and Emma have been, had they met each other? Yet both claim their moment in history. I find it ironic, and somewhat hopeful, that Emma Sansom's name now graces the Emma Sansom middle school, whose policy is "to provide on a nondiscriminatory basis educational opportunities for children. No person shall be denied the benefits of any educational program or activity on the basis of race, color, disability, creed, national origin, age or sex." Assuming that they support what they say, Maria Stewart would have approved. I also find it exciting that events like the University of Delaware edit-a-thon help to redress cultural imbalance, reclaiming a history that has been largely invisible and could all too easily have been lost because it was not part of the dominant culture of its time.