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Friday, December 30, 2016

A Letter from the Artist as a Young Man

Yesterday marked the centenary of the U.S. publication of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. Originally issued serially in a magazine titled The Egoist, the novel was published on December 29, 1916 by a New York publishing house, B.W. Huebsch.

 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man follows a character called Stephen Daedalus from childhood to young adulthood as he grapples with family conflict, a growing distance from Catholicism, and his desire to experience and create beauty. Frequent Rosenbach visitors and Bloomsday-goers may recognize Stephen from Joyce's later novel Ulysses, in which he crosses paths with wandering Leopold Bloom; in Portrait, Stephen ultimately decides to leave Ireland to find a wider scope for his creative expression; in Ulysses, the Stephen has just returned from his self-imposed exile and is in mourning.

Stephen is often said to be an alter ego of James Joyce, who similarly struggled with religion and family duty, sought out the society of writers and intellectuals, and abandoned a traditional career in favor of writing. The resemblance is more than coincidental: Joyce identified with Stephen Daedalus long before Portrait was published, even as early as 1903 when he first drafted a version of Stephen's story. (This version was rejected for publication in 1904 and bears little resemblance to the novel published in 1916.)


Joyce, James. Autograph letter signed “Stephen Daedalus”: Dublin, to James S. Starkey, 1904 Aug. 27. EMs 1176/19.

The above letter was sent in 1904 from Joyce to James Starkey, an Dublin poet who was well-acquainted with the literary elite of Ireland. Joyce tells Starkey that he would be much obliged if he would type up some marked sheets; he signed the letter "Stephen Daedalus."

Detail of the above.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Seasons Greetings (Cards)

As we wrap up the year, here are a few vintage Christmas and New Year's cards to enjoy from the Rush-Biddle-Williams family papers. Some of them are quite different from our modern cards. To my eye, the 1910 example sent by Mary B. Deedes to Marion Biddle seems more spring-like than holiday, and the idea of specifically New Year's cards, as in the example sent by Jean Willcox to Julia Biddle, is less common these days.

Mary B. Deedes, Christmas card to Marion Biddle.1910.RUSH IV:36:14
Mary B. Deedes, Christmas card to Marion Biddle.1910.RUSH IV:36:14


Eva Stotesbury, Christmas card to Anne McKennan Biddle. No date.RUSH IV:33:26   
Mary D. Bell, Christmas card to Anne McKennan Biddle. 1916.RUSH IV:33:01      
Albert Hayden Chatfield, Christmas card to Julia Williams Rush Biddle. No date. RUSH IV:31:31    

Jean Willcox, New Year's card to Julia Williams Rush Biddle. No date. RUSH IV:32:22  
Jean Willcox, New Year's card to Julia Williams Rush Biddle. No date. RUSH IV:32:22

Best wishes for the holidays and the New Year from all of us at the Rosenbach.



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

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Curious Appeal of Sherlock Holmes

This post was cross-posted at the Free Library of Philadelphia blog, where our affiliates have been celebrating their One Book One Philadelphia selection, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

In The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Christopher Boone’s investigation into the death of a neighborhood dog is inspired by his love of detective fiction. In particular, he is an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes, whose legendary powers of observation help make Christopher proud of his own ability to perceive and remember details that would be missed by most. But the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson also help Christopher make sense of surprising or difficult things that happen to him as he gets closer to solving his own mystery. He motivates himself to travel alone to London by reminding himself that Holmes and Watson stop for lunch at Swindon when they are traveling by train in "The Bosombe Valley Mystery" (131). Christopher occasionally struggles to recognize emotions other than happiness and sadness, but he is able to recognize and respond to the sensation of fear thanks to these stories: "I felt my skin... cold under my clothes like Doctor Watson in 'The Sign of Four,'” he observes (135). Christopher’s favorite book is The Hound of the Baskervilles, a Sherlock Holmes adventure in which dogs both real and imaginary play a crucial role in the mystery plot, just as they do in Christopher’s own story.

Image via Baker Street Wiki.

The Hound of the Baskervilles
occupies an unusual position in the world of Sherlock Holmes, and its popularity speaks volumes about what makes Sherlock Holmes appealing both to Christopher and the world at large. This book is one of the only novels Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about Holmes; most of the master detective’s adventures are published as short stories. Also, The Hound of the Baskervilles was first serialized in 1901, which is close to ten years after Doyle publicly and controversially killed off his beloved creation in an 1893 short story titled “The Final Problem.” The Hound of the Baskervilles was written as a sort of prequel—a throwback to the early days of detection before Holmes perished in mortal combat with his nemesis Moriarty—but Doyle eventually resurrected his creation in yet another set of short stories in 1903.

Why would Doyle kill off his most famous character, only to bring him back to life? In his own interviews and autobiography, Doyle is careful not to say; fans can only speculate. Sherlock Holmes made Doyle one of the highest-paid and most famous authors of his own time; perhaps money or celebrity lured him back, or pressure from multitudes of fans who sent letters to 221 Baker Street as though it were a real address. But Doyle also wished to write in other genres of literature—plays and historical romance, which he considered to be more serious fiction, although his publications in that genre never picked up much steam. "I do not wish to be ungrateful to Holmes, who has been a good friend to me in many ways," Doyle wrote in his 1924 autobiography; "If I have sometimes been inclined to weary of him, it is because his character admits of no light or shade. He is a calculating machine" (Memories and Adventures 92). Yet one might argue that the machine-like abilities of Holmes are part of what makes him so appealing as a character. He is aspirational: his powers of detection and deduction are beyond most of us, but as we watch him solve the mystery, we can glimpse those powers. For Christopher, who sees himself in Holmes’ powers of logic and perception, the master detective is a model of bravery and survival.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may not have been able to see the enduring literary appeal of Sherlock Holmes in his lifetime, but other book lovers and collectors certainly did. After Doyle’s death in 1930, Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach purchased Doyle’s "crime library" and the Rosenbach collection also includes Doyle’s hand-written manuscript of "The Adventure of the Empty House," the story in which Sherlock Holmes reappears and explains that he didn’t actually die at Reichenbach Falls, just found it convenient to pretend for a while. Indeed, by popular demand, Sherlock Holmes has continued to live on page and screen in the century since then.

"The Adventure of the Empty House," along with other related objects, will be on view during The Rosenbach's Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives exhibition next spring.


Arthur Conan Doyle, The adventure of the empty house: autograph manuscript. 1903. EL4 .D754e 903. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia



Friday, December 09, 2016

Cross Writing and Cross Reading

Whenever I give presentations involving 19th-century manuscripts, people are always fascinated by the practice of cross-writing. This is the practice of writing a letter and then turning it 90 degrees and writing the opposite way. We have a number of examples of this from our collection, such as this Civil War letter from Alexander Biddle to his wife.

Alexander Biddle, autograph letter signed to Julia Rush Biddle, 25 September 1862. Rush IV:30:23. Collection of the Rosenbach
The ostensible and oft-quoted goal of this 19th-century technique was to save money on postage by keeping the number of sheets down. Although this may have been true, especially before the mid-century regularization of postal service in both the US and UK, I suspect the practice also became  became an ingrained habit or a practice associated with virtuous thrift. Alexander Biddle, whose letter is shown above,  had plenty of money and he wrote to his wife nearly every day that he was in the military, clearly indicating that he lacked neither money nor paper for correspondence.

Modern researchers often find cross-writing frustrating to read and it turns out that the nineteenth-century folks often thought the same. In chapter 19 of Emma (first published in 1815) Miss Bates describes a letter from Miss Fairfax:

[I]n general she fills the whole paper and crosses half. My mother often wonders that I can make it out so well. She often says, when the letter is first opened, 'Well, Hetty, now I think you will be put to it to make out all that chequer-work' -- don't you, ma'am? And then I tell her, I am sure she would contrive to make it out herself, if she had nobody to do it for her, every word of it -- I am sure she would pore over it till she had made out every word. 

Jane Austen, Emma. EL3 .933e v.2. Collection of the Rosenbach

Lewis Carroll, himself a fantastically prolific letter writer, also criticized the practice in his amusing pamphlet Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-writing:
My ninth Rule. When you get to the end of a notesheet, and find you have more to say, take another piece of paper--a whole sheet, or a scrap, as the case may demand: but whatever you do, don’t cross! Remember the old proverb ”Cross-writing makes cross reading.” “The old proverb?” you say, inquiringly. “How old?” Well, not so very ancient, I must confess. In fact, I’m afraid I invented it while writing this paragraph!

Lewis Carroll, Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-writing. Oxford : Emberlin and Son, 1890. EL3. D645ei copy 2. Collection of the Rosenbach.
My thoughts about the persistence of cross-writing as a habit, even after the price of postage came down, are echoed in the 1878 book: Analysis of Letter-writing, with a Large Number of Examples of Model Business Letters, which is not in our collection but can be found on Google Books.

In this country paper and postage are reasonably cheap. There is, therefore, no excuse for writing cross lines either on the margin of your sheet, or over the lines of your letter on the regular rulings. These cross lines deform your letter and add very much to the difficulty of reading it. It is very rare indeed, perhaps never, that you will see a business letter thus defaced, But no letter, whether of a business or social character, should be thus deformed.

Cross lines in letter writing came into use many years ago, on account of dear postage and the high price of paper. Less than twenty-five years ago, it cost more to send a letter from Detroit to New York than it did to send a bushel of wheat or corn. The high rates of postage furnished some apology, at that time, for utilizing every nook and corner of the sheet, in writing an old fashioned family letter. But those days have passed, never to return to the people of this country; and with them the necessity if not the inducement of cross lining letters.

 Ladies still continue the practice to some extent in their correspondence with each other. But, generally, the person receiving a letter thus disfigured regards it with disfavor, if not with disgust. It now appears like an affectation of economy, or of real economy bordering on stinginess or poverty. It is, to say the least against it that can be said, in very bad taste.
Of course, the vehemence of his outcry is a testament to the fact that the practice was still very much in evidence. Thankfully (for period and modern readers alike) it did eventually die out, leaving us only to tangle with the challenges of deciphering handwriting, without the other factors that could lead to "cross reading."



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



Friday, December 02, 2016

Parisian Luxury

George Curikshank, Parisian Luxury. London: G Humphrey, 1824. 1954.1880.1831. Collection of the Rosenbach.
Although this 1824 print by George Cruikshank was doubtless intended as a dig at the stereotypically spoiled French dandy, I often find myself admiring the  dandy's set up, especially as we head into the craziness of the holiday season.  The idea of relaxing  in a brimming full hot bathtub while getting to enjoy a hot beverage from a beautiful silver coffeepot sounds pretty nice. At first I thought he was using some sort of ingenious (but possibly precarious) floating tray, but looking closely at the print, it seems to be a three legged table that is perched in the bath.

This is an English print and the British were pretty slow to catch on to hot bathing. You can read a great article on colonial bathing on Colonial Williamsburg's website, and although by 19th century bathing was becoming more common, this print clearly indicates that it was still seen as characteristically (even foppishly) French. Napoleon had famously been a fan of hot baths. A widely quoted excerpt from a memoir by his friend and secretary Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne explains:

His partiality for the bath he mistook for a necessity. He would usually remain in the bath two hours, during which time I used to read to him extracts from the journals and pamphlets of the day, for he was anxious to hear and know all that was going on. While in the bath, he was continually turning on the warm water to raise the temperature, so that I was sometimes enveloped in such a dense vapour that I could not see to read, and was obliged to open the door . 

Note that Napoleon not only liked baths but had a tub with piped in hot water! Our French dandy just has a regular tub that has to be filled and emptied by hand (by his servants, of course). Bourrienne's memoir is not always the most accurate account, but Napoleon's penchant for baths is confirmed by other memoirists as well and many suggest that long hot baths were linked to his becoming fat.

Like Napoleon, who got caught up news while in the bath, our dandy is actually being remarkably efficient--at the same time as he is bathing, he is also getting his barbering and manicuring needs taken care of. His barber, at the right, is shaving his head so that his wig (on the wig stand in the center background) will fit properly. I'm not exactly sure what is being done to his foot at the left, but medical historian Dr. Alun Withy notes in his fascinating blog post on 18th-century hand and nail care that " From around 1750... a range of practitioners began to specialize in hand and nail care, and advertised their services....By the later 18th century...the first ‘chiropodists’ were beginning to appear."

All things considered, I think I'd like to sign up for the dandy package. Perhaps we could all emulate Napoleon and get our work done while lounging in the bathtub (much later, the codebreaker Dilly Knox would  break WWI codes in the bathtub, so some Brits eventually embraced the idea). We'll see if it catches on.



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