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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dracula Debut

As the lead story in history.com's "Today in History" page points out, today is the anniversary of the publication of Dracula. Simone Berni's Dracula By Bram Stoker: The Mystery of the Early Editions notes that "There are several sources (mainly letters and memoirs) that report contradictory information regarding the first day Stoker's novel was available to the public.  The most likely dates, besides 26 May, are: 24 May,  30 May, 2 June, and 24 June, although 26 May is now generally accepted as the publication date."

Dracula was published in 1897 and while a 199th anniversary may not be a nice round number, I figured if it was good enough to be the history.com headline, it's good enough for me. It's also a testament to the staying power that this book, and the vampiric character it created, have in our history and popular culture.

Bram Stoker, Dracula. Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co., 1897.
EL3 .S874d 897 copy 1

In addition to Stoker's working notes for the novel, the Rosenbach has two copies of the first edition, one inscribed to  Lord Tennyson, son of the famous poet, and another which retains its original dustjacket, the sole known surviving example.


Dust jacket for Bram Stoker, Dracula. Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co., 1897.
EL3 .S874d 897 copy 1

Whenever I give a tour about Dracula, I'm asked how it was received when it first came out, so I'd thought I'd reprint a few contemporary reviews in this blog post. It got generally good reviews as a horror story, although some reviewers thought it was deficient in some literary aspects and I suspect all of them would be surprised to learn that it is still in print over a century later.

One of the things that also fascinates me with the reviews is that many reviews latch on to one of the key aspects of the novel--that it brings a character inspired by folklore/superstition into an overtly modern setting--but they disagree on whether this is a good thing or a bad one. (You can find more reviews at Vampire Over London)

The Daily Mail (July 1, 1897)
It is said of Mrs. Radcliffe that when writing her now almost forgotten romances she shut herself up in absolute seclusion, and fed upon raw beef, in order to give her work the desired atmosphere of gloom, tragedy and terror. If one had no assurance to the contrary one might well suppose that a similar method and regimen had been adopted by Mr. Bram Stoker while writing his new novel “Dracula.” In seeking for a parallel to this weird, powerful, and horrorful story our mind reverts to such tales as “The Mysteries of Udolpho,” “Frankenstein,” “Wuthering Heights,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “Marjery of Quether.” But “Dracula” is even more appalling in its gloomy fascination than any one of these.

We started reading it early in the evening, and followed Jonathan Harker on his mission to the Carpathians with no definite conjecture as to what waited us in the castle of Dracula. When we came to the night journey over the mountain road and were chased by the wolves, which the driver, with apparently miraculous power, repelled by a mere gesture, we began to scent mystery, but we were not perturbed. The first thrill of horrible sensation came with the discovery that the driver and the Count Dracula were one and the same person, that the count was the only human inhabitant of the castle, and that the rats, the bats, the ghosts, and the howling wolves were his familiars.

By ten o’clock the story had so fastened itself upon our attention that we could not pause even to light our pipe. At midnight the narrative had fairly got upon our nerves; a creepy terror had seized upon us, and when at length, in the early hours of the morning, we went upstairs to bed it was with the anticipation of nightmare. We listened anxiously for the sound of bats’ wings against the window; we even felt at our throat in dread least an actual vampire should have left there the two ghastly punctures which in Mr Stoker’s book attested to the hellish operations of Dracula.

The recollections of this weird and ghostly tale will doubtless haunt us for some time to come. It would be unfair to the author to divulge the plot. We therefore restrict ourselves to the statement that the eerie chapters are written and strung together with very considerable art and cunning, and also with unmistakable literary power. Tribute must also be paid to the rich imagination of which Mr. Bram Stoker here gives liberal evidence. Persons of small courage and weak nerves should confine their reading of these gruesome pages strictly to the hours between dawn and sunset.

The Spactator (July 31, 1897)
Mr Bram Stoker gives us the impression — we may be doing him an injustice —of having deliberately laid himself out in Dracula to eclipse all previous efforts in the domain of the
horrible — to ‘go one better’ than Wilkie Collins (whose method of narration he has closely followed), Sheridan Le Fanu, and all the other professors of the flesh-creeping school.

Count Dracula, who gives his name to the book, is a Transylvanian noble who purchases an estate in England, and in connection with the transfer of the property Jonathan Harker, a young solicitor,
visits him in his ancestral castle. Jonathan Harker has a terrible time of it, for the Count — who is a vampire of immense age, cunning and experience — keeps him as a prisoner for
several weeks, and when the poor young man escapes from the gruesome charnel-house of his host, he nearly dies of brain-fever in a hospital at Budapest.

The scene then shifts to England, where the Count arrives by sea in the shape of a dog-fiend, after destroying the entire crew, and resumes operations in various uncanny manifestations, selecting
as his chief victim Miss Lucy Westenra, the fiancée of the Honourable Artur Holmwood, heir presumptive to Lord Godalming. The story then resolves itself into the history of the battle
between Lucy’s protectors, including two rejected suitors — an American and a ‘mad’ doctor —and a wonderfully clever specialist from Amsterdam, against her unearthly persecutor. The clue is furnished by Jonathan Harker, whose betrothed, Mina Murray, is a bosom friend of Lucy’s, and the fight is long and protracted.

Lucy succumbs, and, worse still, is temporarily converted into a vampire. How she is released from this unpleasant position and restored to a peaceful post-mortem existence, how Mina is next
assailed by the Count, how he is driven from England, and finally exterminated by the efforts of the league — for all these and a great many more thrilling details, we must refer our readers
to the pages of Mr Stoker’s clever but cadaverous romance. Its strength lies in the invention of incident, for the sentimental element is decidedly mawkish. Mr Stoker has shown considerable
ability in the use that he has made of all the available traditions of vampirology, but we think his story would have been all the more effective if he had chosen an earlier period. The
up-to-dateness of the book — the phonograph diaries, typewriters and so on — hardly fits in with the mediaeval methods which ultimately secure the victory for Count Dracula’s
foes.

The Athenaeum (June 26, 1897)

Stories and novels appear just now in plenty stamped with a more or less genuine air of belief in the visibility of supernatural agency. The strengthening of a bygone faith in the fantastic and magical view of things in lieu of the purely material is a feature of the hour, a reaction – artificial, perhaps, rather than natural – against late tendencies in thought. Mr. Stoker is a purveyor of so many strange wares that ‘Dracula’ reads like a determined effort to go, as it were, “one better” than others in the same field. How far the author is himself a believer in the phenomena described is not for the reviewer to say. He can but attempt to gauge how far the general faith in witches, warlocks and vampires – supposing it to exist in any general and appreciable measure – is likely to be stimulated by this story. The vampire idea is very ancient indeed, and there are in nature, no doubt, mysterious powers to account for the vague belief in such things. Mr. Stoker’s way of presenting the matter, and still more the matter itself, are of too direct and uncompromising a kind. They lack the essential note of awful remoteness and at the same time subtle affinity that separates while it links our humanity with the unknown beings and possibilities hovering on the confines of the known world. ‘Dracula’ is highly sensational, but it is wanting in the constructive art as well as in the higher literary sense. It reads at times like a mere series of grotesquely incredible events; but there are better moments that show more power, though even these are never productive of the tremor such subjects evoke under the hand of a master. An immense amount of energy, a certain degree of imaginative faculty, and many ingenious and gruesome details are there. At times Mr. Stoker almost succeeds in creating the sense of possibility in impossibility; at others he merely commands an array of crude statements of incredible actions. The early part goes best, for it promises to unfold the roots of mystery and fear lying deep in human nature; but the want of skill and fancy grows more and more conspicuous. The people who band themselves together to run the vampire to earth have no real individuality or being. The German man of science is particularly poor, and indulges, like a German, in much weak sentiment. Still, Mr. Stoker has got together a number of “horrid details,” and his object, assuming it to be ghastliness, is fairly well fulfilled. Isolated scenes and touches are probably quite uncanny enough to please those for whom they are designed.

Hampshire Advertiser (June 5, 1897)

DRACULA, by Bram Stoker, and published by Constable and Co., 2, Whitehall-gardens, is a series of extremely interesting papers and diaries, arranged in sequence by the author. One of the most curious and striking of recent productions is a revival of a mediaeval superstition, the old legend of the “were-wolf,” as illustrated and modernised by Mr. Bram Stoker, in the book which he entitles “Dracula.” There are two things which are remarkable in the novel – the first is the confident reliance on superstition as furnishing the groundwork of a modern story; and the second, more significant still, is the bold adaptation of the legend to such ordinary spheres of latter-day existance as the harbour of Whitby and Hampstead-heath. “Dracula,” at all events, is one of the most weird and spirit-quelling romances which have appeared for years. It begins in masterly fashion in the wids of Transylvania, and introduces to us an ordinary solicitor’s clerk, engaged on a mission to a Count who lives in its most remote fastness.

Stoker's Obituaries 
It is also interesting to look at Stoker's obituaries. Both the New York Times and the Times of London focus on his relationship with the famous actor Henry Irving, whose theater company Stoker managed, and then address his writings at the end.  Neither one thought that Dracula would be his most important or long-lasting work.

The New York Times ( April 23, 1912 excerpt)
His best-known publication is "Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving," issued in 1908. Among his other works, mostly fantastic fiction, are " Under the Sunset," "The Snake's Pass," "The Watter's Mou," "The Shoulder of Shasta," "Dracula," "The Mystery of the Sea," "The Jewel of the Seven Stars," and "The Lady of the  Shroud."

The Times (April 22, 1912, excerpt)
"A fluent and flamboyant writer, with a manner and mannerisms which faithfully reflected the mind which moved the pen, Stoker managed to find  time,  amid  much  arduous  and  distracting  work,  to  write  a  good  deal.  He  was  the  master  of  a  particularly  lurid  and  creepy  kind  of  fiction,  represented  by  “Dracula”  and  other  novels;  he  had  also  essayed  musical comedy, and had of late years resumed his old connexion with journalism.But his chief literary memorial will be his Reminiscences of Henry Irving, a book which with all its extravagances and shortcomings--Mr. Stoker was no very acute critic of his chief as an actor--cannot but remain a valuable record of the workings of genius as they appeared to his devoted associate and admirer."



Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Unpublishable Memoirs

Dr. Rosenbach became famous for selling the best books at the highest prices, but how does one amass a great collection when one doesn't have the money to play the game? The clever but unscrupulous protagonist of Dr. R's first book,The Unpublishable Memoirs, has a simple solution: clever cons and sly stealing.

The Unpublishable Memoirs is not a personal memoir, but a work of fiction. It consists of eleven mystery stories about Robert Hooker, a bibliophile who is tired of being snubbed for his lack of cash and so wreaks his revenge by snookering the rich out of their rare books and art.

Oliver Herford, "Bibliofiends." pencil and ink. ca. 1917. 1954.660. Collection of the Rosenbach.
The image shown above is the original drawing for the frontispiece of the book. Entitled "Bibliofiends," it was executed by Oliver Herford and the second figure on the staircase was apparently supposed to represent Dr. R.

A.S.W. Rosenbach, Unpublishable memoirs. New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1917. Ro1 917u copy 4. Collection of the Rosenbach.
I don't want to give away too much of the plot, since that would ruin the fun, but suffice it to say that the tales include cleverly constructed forgeries, fake customs officials, a story based on the Murders in the Rue Morgue and a host of other fascinating twists. The book  is well out of copyright now, so you can read it or download it at Internet Archive and many other sites to enjoy it for yourself.

The Unpublishable Memoirs was published in 1917 and Dr. Rosenbach sent gratis copies to his friends, clients, and collectors. Henry Huntington noted “it will be a pleasure to add it to the Library,” but another friend, Walter Hart Blumenthal, responded less kindly with a page of typographical errata. A London edition came out in 1924, and in 1925, more surprisingly, there was a version in Czech, which only printed the first of the eleven stories.

A.S.W. Rosenbach, Neueřejnitelné memoáry Unpublishable memoirs. Prague: Method Kaláb, 1925. Ro1 925. Collection of the Rosenbach.



Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog.



Friday, May 13, 2016

The Mexican War

One of the exhibition ideas we've considered here is "Wars You Forgot" and I suspect for many of us north-easterners, myself included, the Mexican War is not one we spend much time thinking about. But today marks the 170th anniversary of the U.S.'s declaration of war on Mexico; Congress voted to approve the war on May 13, 1846.

The basic issue in the war was territorial disputes in the southwest. In 1845 the U.S. had annexed Texas, whose independence Mexico had never recognized, there were disputes over the United State's southern boundary line, and Mexico had also rejected expansionist President Polk's requests to purchase California and New Mexico. Fighting lasted for two years until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848. In the treaty the U.S. southern border was fixed at the Rio Grande and Mexico agreed to sell all its possessions above that line.

"UnitedStatesExpansion." National Atlas of the United States. From Wikimedia.

One of the Mexican War items in our collection is a letter written in 1847 by the young soldier Abner Perrin en route to Vera Cruz, Mexico.  A later biographical sketch shown below (written in 1887, after the had served as a Brigadier General for the Confederacy) claims that:
When only sixteen years old, contrary to the desire and remonstrances of his Father and Mother and influenced with patriotic ardor and a love of arms, he volunteered in Captain Preston S. Brook's company of the Palmetto Regiment, commanded by Colonel Pierce Butler; and during the Mexican War, participated in the services and the valorous achievements of that gallant regiment.

Charles C. Jones, "Brig Gen Abner Perrin CSA." Augusta, Ga.: 30 June 1887. AMs 1187/8. Collection of the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
You can find out more about the Palmetto Regiment's participation in some of the major battles of the War at the South Carolina Information Highway.  [For those Rosen-fans for whom the name Pierce Butler rings a bell, the Pierce Butler who led the Palmetto Regiment (and died at the Battle of Churubusco) is NOT the Pierce Butler who married Fanny Kemble.]

Our letter predates all this action; from his ship, seventeen year old Abner tells his father:
I have luckily time to drop you a few lines as there is a small boat making towards us from the coast. I am perfectly well in every respect and very much pleased. We have had a very pleasant passage so far. We will be in Vera Cruz in a few days. Before you received this letter probably we shall be far on our way to the City of Mexico. I shall write to you when I get to Vera Cruz: tell all the family to write to me my friends also.

Abner Perrin, autograph letter signed to Abner Perrin. Off Key West, 24 October 1847. AMs 1187/7. Collection of the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
Abner Perrin, autograph letter signed to Abner Perrin. Off Key West, 24 October 1847. AMs 1187/7. Collection of the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
Although the Mexican War itself proved to be relatively short, its effects would be long lasting. Not only did it add a vast new swath of territory to the United States, but it also re-opened the tense question of how to balance slave and free areas. Some called for the new territories to be free, others wanted to extend the Missouri Compromise line west to the Pacific, while southerners called for popular sovereignty and pressed for a territorial vote to decide whether slavery would be legalized. Eventually the intricate Compromise of 1850 was passed, incorporating popular sovereignty among other measures to appease both parties. The Compromise quelled sectional tensions, but not for long, as in 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise and established popular sovereignty in all the territories, leading to the rise of the Republican Party and setting off the Civil War.





Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog.



Friday, May 06, 2016

The End of Alice

There's only a little over a week left to see our exhibits Down the Rabbit Hole: Celebrating 150 years of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Camera Lens: the Photograph of Charles Dodgson, so if you haven't seen them, or if you've been meaning to see them again, come on by before they close on May 15th! We've scheduled two great programs to round out the Alice festivities: From Wonderland to the Phantom Tollbooth with consulting curator Leonard Marcus and author Norton Juster on Thursday, May 12 and a Carroll Hands-on Tour on Sunday, May 15.


Lewis Carroll , Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. London: MacMillan and Co., 1866.
EL3 .D645a 866b copy 3. Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.     
As we think about endings, the ending of Alice in Wonderland itself foreshadows the hold on the imagination that the story would have and its remarkable staying power. It concludes with Alice waking up and realizing that her experience of Wonderland was "a curious dream!". But she then goes on to tell her older sister "all these strange Adventures" that had happened in her dream of Wonderland. Then the book closes with the musings of the sister:
But her sister sat still just as she left her, leaning her head on her hand, watching the setting sun, and thinking of little Alice and all her wonderful Adventures, till she too began dreaming after a fashion, and this was her dream:—

First, she dreamed of little Alice herself, and once again the tiny hands were clasped upon her knee, and the bright eager eyes were looking up into hers—she could hear the very tones of her voice, and see that queer little toss of her head to keep back the wandering hair that would always get into her eyes—and still as she listened, or seemed to listen, the whole place around her became alive with the strange creatures of her little sister's dream.

The long grass rustled at her feet as the White Rabbit hurried by—the frightened Mouse splashed his way through the neighbouring pool—she could hear the rattle of the teacups as the March Hare and his friends shared their never-ending meal, and the shrill voice of the Queen ordering off her unfortunate guests to execution—once more the pig-baby was sneezing on the Duchess's knee, while plates and dishes crashed around it—once more the shriek of the Gryphon, the squeaking of the Lizard's slate-pencil, and the choking of the suppressed guinea-pigs, filled the air, mixed up with the distant sobs of the miserable Mock Turtle.

So she sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality—the grass would be only rustling in the wind, and the pool rippling to the waving of the reeds—the rattling teacups would change to tinkling sheep-bells, and the Queen's shrill cries to the voice of the shepherd boy—and the sneeze of the baby, the shriek of the Gryphon, and all the other queer noises, would change (she knew) to the confused clamour of the busy farm-yard—while the lowing of the cattle in the distance would take the place of the Mock Turtle's heavy sobs.

Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.


Lewis Carroll, Alice’s adventures under ground: [facsimile] [Vienna: Privately printed by Jaffé for Eldridge R. Johnson, 1936] Reference collection.Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The manuscript version of Alice's Adventures ends with a similar paragraph of the sister imaging Alice as a grown woman, but ties the sister's dream into the setting where the real-life Charles Dodgson told the original story--on a boat trip with the three Liddell sisters in July 1862.

She saw an ancient city, and a quiet river winding near it along the plain, and up the stream went slowly gliding a boat with a merry party of children on board—she could hear their voices and laughter like music over the water—and among them was another little Alice, who sat listening with bright eager eyes to a tale that was being told, and she listened for the words of the tale, and lo! it was the dream of her own little sister. So the boat wound slowly along, beneath the bright summer-day, with its merry crew and its music of voices and laughter, till it passed round one of the many turnings of the stream, and she saw it no more.

Then she thought, (in a dream within the dream, as it were,) how this same little Alice would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman: and how she would keep, through her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather around her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a wonderful tale, perhaps even with these very adventures of the little Alice of long-ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.
Lewis Carroll, Through the looking glass. London: Macmillan, 1872 [i.e. 1871].
EL3. D645th copy 3.Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The second Alice book, Through the Looking Glass, also ends with a meditation on that initial boat trip and the passage of time, in the poem "A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky"

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July --
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear --
Long had paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream --
Lingering in the golden gleam --
Life, what is it but a dream?
In keeping Dodgson's love of wordplay, the initial letters of the poem's lines are an acrostic spelling out the name "Alice Pleasance Liddell."

So this brings me to the end of this post about endings.  Come see us before the end of our Alice exhibitions and stay tuned for the beginnings of some fascinating new projects and exhibitions.





Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog.






She saw an ancient city, and a quiet river winding near it along the plain, and up the stream went slowly gliding a boat with a merry party of children on board-she could hear their voices and laughter like music over the water-and among them was another little Alice, who sat listening with bright eager eyes to a tale that was being told, and she listened for the words of the tale, and lo! it was the dream - See more at: http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/alices-adventures-under-ground-the-original-manuscript-version-of-alices-adventures-in-wonderland#sthash.Z8Y8OZK8.dpuf

She saw an ancient city, and a quiet river winding near it along the plain, and up the stream went slowly gliding a boat with a merry party of children on board-she could hear their voices and laughter like music over the water-and among them was another little Alice, who sat listening with bright eager eyes to a tale that was being told, and she listened for the words of the tale, and lo! it was the dream - See more at: http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/alices-adventures-under-ground-the-original-manuscript-version-of-alices-adventures-in-wonderland#sthash.Z8Y8OZK8.dpuf