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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Didn't Realize He Had an Insane Wife, Honest!!

The newest Jane Eyre film comes to Philly's Ritz Five today, with Mia Wasikowska of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland playing Jane. I'm hoping to see it next weekend, but if anyone gets there sooner, drop a comment to let us know your thoughts--my friend expressed approval that they made Jane look sufficiently plain in the trailer, but how well the film plays out remains to be seen. However, WBUR did an interesting interview with the director and the Inquirer had a good one with Mia.

Among the Jane Eyre materials at the Rosenbach is the manuscript of the preface to the second edition.
Charlotte Bronte, preface to Jane Eyre: autograph manuscript. [27 December 1847] EL3 .B869 MS1

As Bronte explains, "A preface to the first edition of ‘Jane Eyre’ being unnecessary, I gave none: this second edition demands a few words both of acknowledgement and miscellaneous remark." She goes on to thank her Public, Press, and Publishers, and then concludes in the final 2+ pages of the 7 page manuscript by effusively dedicating the second edition to William Makepeace Thackeray. This is where Bronte ran into trouble.

Charlotte Bronte, preface to Jane Eyre: autograph manuscript. [27 December 1847] EL3 .B869 MS1

Bronte had never met Thackeray, but she admired Vanity Fair, which was published the same year as Jane Eyre. She also appreciated Thackeray's enthusiastic review of the first edition of Eyre--he had claimed to have been moved to tears when reading it. Her dedication was adulatory; among other things she claimed "I see in him an intellect profounder and more unique than his contemporaries have yet recognised; because I regard him as the first social regenerator of the day"

Unfortunately, apparently unbeknownst to Bronte, the story of Jane Eyre mirrored Thackeray's actual life a little too closely. Like Mr. Rochester, Thackeray had a wife who had gone insane after four years of marriage. After the birth of their third child, IsabellaThackeray lost her grip on reality. She tried to drown their three year old and attempted suicide. Thackeray described one of Isabella's attempts to kill herself while on a boat to Ireland: "the poor thing flung herself into the water (from the water-closet) & was twenty minutes floating in the sea, before the ship's boat even saw her. " While Mr. Rochester kept his mad wife Bertha in the attic, Thackeray sought treatment for Isabella at a series of private asylums, but ultimately lodged her in a house in London, where she was cared for by a Mrs. Bakewell.

The similarities to Thackeray's situation, along with Jane Eyre's subtitle of An Autobiography, led to speculation that the novel was more fact than fiction and that the author had been the governess to Thackeray's children. As you might expect, Bronte was shocked and embarrassed. She apologized to Thackeray and as she wrote to a friend " it may be said that fact is stranger than fiction.! The coincidence struck me as equally unfortunate and extraordinary." Eventually Bronte would, in fact, meet Thackeray, but not until 1849, two years after the publication of both of their novels.

Had the phrasing been around in her day, perhaps she should have chosen this chestnut as her preface to the third edition: "All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day! What better day to check out our new Joyce exhibit--Exile Among Expats! Also, a hat tip to the Biblioklept blog for reminding me of the great humorous recounting of Irish heroes in the Cyclops episode of Ulysses (the blog also has a scan of Joyce's appearance in the 1901 Irish census):

"He wore a long unsleeved garment of recently flayed oxhide reaching to the knees in a loose kilt and this was bound about his middle by a girdle of plaited straw and rushes. Beneath this he wore trews of deerskin, roughly stitched with gut. His nether extremities were encased in high Balbriggan buskins dyed in lichen purple, the feet being shod with brogues of salted cowhide laced with the windpipe of the same beast. From his girdle hung a row of seastones which jangled at every movement of his portentous frame and on these were graven with rude yet striking art the tribal images of many Irish heroes and heroines of antiquity, Cuchulin, Conn of hundred battles, Niall of nine hostages, Brian of Kincora, the ardri Malachi, Art MacMurragh, Shane O'Neill, Father John Murphy, Owen Roe, Patrick Sarsfield, Red Hugh O'Donnell, Red Jim MacDermott, Soggarth Eoghan O'Growney, Michael Dwyer, Francy Higgins, Henry Joy M'Cracken, Goliath, Horace Wheatley, Thomas Conneff, Peg Woffington, the Village Blacksmith, Captain Moonlight, Captain Boycott, Dante Alighieri, Christopher Columbus, S. Fursa, S. Brendan, Marshal MacMahon, Charlemagne, Theobald Wolfe Tone, the Mother of the Maccabees, the Last of the Mohicans, the Rose of Castile, the Man for Galway, The Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, The Man in the Gap, The Woman Who Didn't, Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, John L. Sullivan, Cleopatra, Savourneen Deelish, Julius Caesar, Paracelsus, sir Thomas Lipton, William Tell, Michelangelo Hayes, Muhammad, the Bride of Lammermoor, Peter the Hermit, Peter the Packer, Dark Rosaleen, Patrick W. Shakespeare, Brian Confucius, Murtagh Gutenberg, Patricio Velasquez, Captain Nemo, Tristan and Isolde, the first Prince of Wales, Thomas Cook and Son, the Bold Soldier Boy, Arrah na Pogue, Dick Turpin, Ludwig Beethoven, the Colleen Bawn, Waddler Healy, Angus the Culdee, Dolly Mount, Sidney Parade, Ben Howth, Valentine Greatrakes, Adam and Eve, Arthur Wellesley, Boss Croker, Herodotus, Jack the Giantkiller, Gautama Buddha, Lady Godiva, The Lily of Killarney, Balor of the Evil Eye, the Queen of Sheba, Acky Nagle, Joe Nagle, Alessandro Volta, Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, Don Philip O'Sullivan Beare. A couched spear of acuminated granite rested by him while at his feet reposed a savage animal of the canine tribe whose stertorous gasps announced that he was sunk in uneasy slumber, a supposition confirmed by hoarse growls and spasmodic movements which his master repressed from time to time by tranquilising blows of a mighty cudgel rudely fashioned out of paleolithic stone." (full Ulysses text available at Project Gutenberg)

On this day for celebrating the Irish you might also want to test your knowledge on the Joyce quiz and Wilde quiz from the Guardian newspaper, or more broadly the Irish Writer's Quiz from Penguin books.

And for those of you who've been waiting with bated breath for the answer to last week's puzzler about Greta Garbo and Shakespeare, the best connection I was able to come up with was that the great director Max Reinhardt wanted to use Garbo as Titania in a movie of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it did not happen, since the movie was made with a Warner Brothers cast rather than MGM.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Six Degrees Revisited

As I mentioned a couple of weeks back in my original 6 Degrees of Rosenbach post, it's slightly scary sometimes how many connections there are between disparate items in the Rosenbach collection. This was brought back to me (again) in a conversation with our Librarian, Elizabeth Fuller, after an event we held last week with the Arden Theater. (You can check out some pictures of the event on the Arden's Blog)

The event featured highlights from our theater holdings and so, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the common intersections was Shakespeare. We included one straight-up Shakespeare play--a Merchant of Venice from 1619--but we also showcased some playbills from plays attended by Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll) at the Lyceum Theater, including one for The Merchant of Venice. Does the Lyceum Theater sound familiar? That's because Bram Stoker was the manager. Another Lyceum playbill included an advertisement for an upcoming production of Othello featuring Edwin Booth, the older brother of John Wilkes Booth. In another strange twist, Ellen Terry, the Lyceum's leading lady and a famed Shakespearean actress (and a friend of Dodgson's), had as a younger actress played in British productions of Our American Cousin, which of course achieved infamy in its American run as the play at which Lincoln was shot by the younger Booth.

Another of the night's recurring themes seemed to be Greta Garbo. One of the pieces that we showed was copy of Porgy and Bess signed by the Gershwins. Who directed the original production of Porgy and Bess? Rouben Mamoulian, who also directed Greta Garbo in the film Queen Christine. We also showed an early draft of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie. Guess who starred in the film version of Anna Christie? None other than Greta Garbo. In fact it was Anna Christie that was advertised with the famous tagline "Garbo Talks." Jumping off from O'Neill takes us to Eva Le Gallienne, who directed the 1941 Broadway revival of O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! Le Gallienne is in turn linked to Mercedes de Acosta, with whom she had a long-running romantic affair in the 1920s and Mercedes is linked back again to Greta Garbo.

By the way, speaking of Acosta and Garbo, if you haven't yet marked your calendar for the premier of composer-in-residence Joseph Hallman's performance of Raving Beauty on April 9th, you really should. The piece explores Mercedes's relationship with three women: her sister Rita, Isadora Duncan, and Greta Garbo. You can check out a fun offbeat interview with Hallman here.

Anyway, there are more interconnections I could highlights (Eva Le Gallienne also wrote and directed a stage adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and did a translation of Hans Christian Andersen tales that was illustrated by Maurice Sendak) but it's already getting pretty crazy, so perhaps I'll stop. My challenge for you, the reader, is the one Elizabeth posed to me--can you link the linkers and figure out a Shakespeare/Greta Garbo connection? I managed to find a good one, but I suspect there may be more out there and I am curious to see what you come up with.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

And the Award Goes To...

Inspired by this week's Oscars, which I did in fact watch, it seemed a fitting time to highlight some of the various awards and medals in the Rosenbach's collection. (By the way, if you've seen The King's Speech you might enjoy this Washington Post article about history and the movies)

I thought I'd start with Dr. Rosenbach's Medal of Honor. No, not the Congressional Medal of Honor--he never received one of those. But he did get the Edward Bowes Medal of Honor from Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour.

Major Edward Bowes Medal of Honor, presented to A.S.W. Rosenbach. 1934-1946. 2002.257

Unlike other Radio Hour guests like Frank Sinatra and Beverly Sills, Rosenbach was no golden-tongued crooner, but he and Major Bowes were close friends who shared a love of fine food and of the Bard—both were officers of the Shakespeare Association of America. Bowes repeatedly spun Rosenbach yarns on-air and once joked to Dr. R. that the publicity would “add a million bucks to your gross business….”

Most of the awards in our collection are, rather unsurprisingly, from Marianne Moore, who won scads of awards for her poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Bollingen Prize and the National Book Award. Here's the Book Award, which Moore won in 1952 for Collected Poems .

National Book Award presented to Marianne Moore. 1952. 2006.4100

If you'd like to see how she thanked the Academy, you can read her acceptance speech at the National Book Foundation's site

In 1967 Moore was honored by becoming a Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. The French really know how to make a pretty medal--and appropriately enough the reverse of the medal features an image of Marianne, the emblem of France.

Ordre des Arts et des Lettres presented to Marianne Moore.1967. 2006.2882

And here's Moore's National Medal for Literature, which she received in 1968 from the National Book Committee, which also selected the National Book Award winners.

National Medal for Literature presented to Marianne Moore. 1968. 2006.2881

This time Moore closed her acceptance speech by quoting Ben Jonson's lines about"Stand for truth, and ‘tis enough".

I could go on, but I think I hear the exit music, so that's it until next week...