A sheaf of verses

By Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections

Radclyffe Hall. A sheaf of verses. London: John and Edward Bumpus Ltd., 1908

Foyle Special Collections Library, Rare Books Collection PR6015.A33S54

A sheaf of verses with association items The Foyle Special Collections Library is delighted to acquire an important association copy of this collection of poems by the novelist Marguerite Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943).

Hall is best known today for her novel The well of loneliness (1928), a work whose open treatment of lesbianism caused a furore upon publication and resulted in its being banned for obscenity, with all copies ordered to be withdrawn and destroyed. However, she was also a talented lyric poet, as this volume, now of considerable rarity, reveals.

This copy of A sheaf of verses is of particular interest for its association with the leading educationalist, Lilian Faithfull (1865-1952), vice-principal of the Ladies’ Department at King’s College, London from 1894 to 1906 and subsequently principal of Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

Radclyffe Hall was briefly a student at King’s during Faithfull’s tenure and, although she did not complete a degree, she clearly developed a lasting respect for Faithfull, to whom she sent this copy of her book, inscribing the fly-leaf ‘To Miss Faithfull from Marguerite Radclyffe Hall’. That Faithfull likewise retained an interest in her erstwhile student is apparent from the fact that she inserted a cutting from The Times, dated 11 October 1943 and containing Hall’s obituary, in the volume.

A heaf ov versesFaithfull’s time at the helm of the Ladies’ Department at King’s saw a considerable rise in academic standards, as she sought to transform the department from a place where women students merely came to hear lectures to a fully functioning university, whose students could and did work systematically towards University of London degrees.  An interesting and informative account of her time at King’s can be found in her memoirs, In the house of my pilgrimage (London, 1924), a copy of which is also held in the Foyle Special Collections Library.

Junk and Justice

This post is written by Jack Gleeson, Special Collections Assistant, who is currently working on the Eric Mottram collection.

Presented to King’s College by his siblings in 1996, and now held in the Foyle Special Collections Library, the library of Professor Eric Mottram (1924-95) is a wide-ranging and varied collection, reflective of an academic with diverse tastes and scholarly interests.

Professor Mottram spent much of his life teaching both English Literature and American Studies, lecturing in numerous places throughout the United States and the world, and holding the position of Professor of English and American Literature at King’s from 1982 to 1990. As a result, a significant portion of his extensive collection is devoted to American novels and poetry, and, in particular, poetry from the Beat scene.

junkieIn the 1960s, Mottram met and corresponded with a number of figures in underground literary movements, and at the close of the decade he befriended and spoke with key Beat personage William S Burroughs (1914-97), who was living in London at the time.

Burroughs was of particular interest to Mottram, who around this time wrote The algebra of need, one of the first critical works to look at Burroughs’s output up to that point. This piece was initially published in Intrepid magazine’s special Burroughs issue of 1969-70, which was edited by Mottram, and then later as a monograph in 1971.

With this background and context in mind, Mottram naturally amassed a large number of books by Burroughs, and in cataloguing the collection we have so far come across signed copies of his later works Cities of the red night (1981) and The western lands (1987). Most captivating as a piece of literary and social history, however, is a first edition of Burroughs’s first published novel, Junkie (1953).

narcoticLater retitled Junky by Penguin in 1977, though even today never published under Burroughs’s intended title, Junk, the first edition of Junkie was put onto drugstore shelves under the pseudonym ‘William Lee,’ and was published as an Ace Double Book, bound together with the previous decade’s Narcotic agent by Maurice Helbrant, the ‘gripping true adventures of a T-man’s war against the dope menace’.

Chiefly autobiographical in nature, a work entitled Junkie was unsurprisingly full of references to opiate use and drug dealing, not to mention ‘alcohol depression,’ ‘crustacean horror’ and ‘junk sickness’; and additionally delved into pickpocketing, and homosexual relationships between Burroughs and others.

Tethered by the much stricter social mores of the 1950s, Ace Books set to work editing and censoring Burroughs’s manuscript, going so far as to insert a number of editorial notes, intended to protect themselves from legal liability for, or moral association with, the writer’s statements that they did not cut out.

These notes are inset throughout the text to rescue the reader from the world of drugs, asserting that Burroughs’s declarations that ‘Sex is more enjoyable under the influence of weed’ and that ‘Weed is positively not habit-forming’ (p. 33) are ‘contradicted by recognized medical authority’ (p. 34). Solomon and Ace Books likewise distance themselves from Burroughs’s disparaging comments about the United States justice system later in the book.

While a number of Burroughs’s remarks about junk and justice were included but accompanied by disclaimers, references to the author’s homosexuality were removed entirely from this first edition, and entire paragraphs and pages detailing relationships between Burroughs and other men were not seen until Penguin restored the complete manuscript in 1977. Further text, taken from letters written to Allen Ginsberg, was reinstated by scholar Oliver Harris for Penguin’s 2003 edition of Junky.

Carl Solomon, a friend of Allen Ginsberg, and nephew of AA Wyn, the founder of Ace Books, assured the readers in his publisher’s note that the text was published purely with noble intent: to ‘forearm the public’ against the ‘drug menace’ and to ‘discourage imitation.’

This seemingly honourable resolve and the social mores of the period did not however stop the publisher from unleashing the book with a lurid, attention-grabbing image on the cover, along with a vivid subtitle: Confessions of an unredeemed drug addict, both of which seem to capitalise on the plight of individuals suffering from drug addiction, and appear unambiguously aimed at a thrill-seeking reader base. It is worth noting that nothing quite as melodramatic as the scene depicted in the cover illustration actually happens in the novel.

The Junkie of this double books edition is a revealing item: we are now able to look back at the Ace Books censored novel, featured in this article, with the 2003 edition of Junkie in hand, and know exactly what was removed. We can witness the trajectory of Burroughs from the author of a throwaway subway paperback, advertised with the slogan, ‘TWO BOOKS IN ONE – 35c,’ to heavily-studied, hugely influential novelist and writer, whose personal life, far from having entire components cut out of texts by publishers, has been thoroughly exposed and explored through countless biographies and collections of letters.

Both of the eye-catching covers of this double book edition are shown here, courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Special Collections staff continue to sort and catalogue the Eric Mottram collection and are happy to answer enquiries on this or other areas of the collection.

Bibliography and references:

Jed Birmingham, ‘Eric Mottram and The Algebra of Need,’ RealityStudio, [http://realitystudio.org/bibliographic-bunker/my-own-mag/the-my-own-mag-community/eric-mottram-and-the-algebra-of-need/, accessed June 21, 2017]

William S Burroughs, Junkie (New York: Ace Books, 1953)

William S Burroughs, Junky: the definitive text of ‘Junk’ (London: Penguin Books, 2003)

William S Burroughs. Rub out the words: the letters of William S Burroughs, 1959-1974 (London: Penguin Books, 2012)

Maurice Helbrant, Narcotic Agent (New York: Ace Books, 1953)

Barry Miles, William S Burroughs: a life (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015), 491

Mathematical Shakespeare

On 27 June 1854 when seventeen year old Alfred Ainger (1837-1904) picked up his prize for ‘proficiency in Mathematics’ from King’s College London, was he surprised to discover that it was a handsomely bound volume of the complete works of William Shakespeare edited by Charles Knight, complete with the college arms stamped in gold on its cover?  [tape was required eventually]

AA01bookplateAA00To me a connection between a mathematics prize and the complete works of Shakespeare is not obvious.

Was this prize selected with Ainger in mind or is it the default prize for any number of achievements, so that the prize reflects the enormous esteem in which the Victorians held Shakespeare?

And did this prize have a career-altering effect?  The following year, when he was 18, the Dictionary of National Biography reports of Alfred: ‘Devotion to Shakespeare manifested itself early and in 1855 he became the first president of the college’s Shakepeare Society’.

In fact, in later life it is his literary skills, not his mathematical ones, for which Ainger would be recognised. He went to King’s school with the sons of Charles Dickens and was taken up by the novelist for his skill in amateur dramatics.  He knew Tennyson, became a published authority on Charles Lamb, and, along with producing books, articles and lectures, became an Anglican preacher and chaplain both to Queen Victoria and subsequently to King Edward VII.

His prize Shakespeare volume is quite new to our collection (2016), but already the engravings by William Harvey have provided illustrations for an exhibition I was assembling in January from King’s College London Archives to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

King’s has not been around yet quite 200 years, so the Archive might not expect to have much relevant to Shakespeare (1564-1616). Fortunately just over a century ago Fredrick Furnivall (1825-1910)  the prolific Victorian scholar, literary editor, lexicographer and rowing enthusiast donated to King’s, along with his impressive library, a collection of papers from the many societies he founded. The New Shakspere Society papers (Furnivall insisted on the variant spelling) proved a good source for Shakespeare in the archives at King’s, the frontispiece from Ainger’s Shakespeare providing the opening illustration.

AA_shrewEach play has a full-page illustration in the volume and it is intriguing to see how an entire play is squeezed into a single frame for such pieces as the Taming of the Shrew where the Sly framework literally frames an inner scene from the shrew taming when Kate and Petruchio encounter the tailor and haberdasher meant to provide her wardrobe.  The insanity of the comedy is conveyed visually by setting the inner frame at a dangerous angle.

AA_dreamThe four interwoven layers of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are stacked on top of each other with the young lovers at the bottom being awakened by hunters Theseus and Hippolyta in the middle of the image while Oberon and Titania and their flight of fairies crowd the upper region with Puck flying in from the left carrying the ass’s head taken from Bottom the Weaver.  The tone is as romantic as anyone could wish.

Chapbooks: Fleet Street time travellers

lane-at-back-of-Fleet-StI would love to have wandered around Fleet Street and this area of London’s alleyways and lanes before the banking corporations supplanted the newspaper offices and severed the unbroken link to the area’s printing history that had stretched back so many years.

In the back streets of this historic centre of the British book trade, at addresses like Shoe Lane, Bow Church Yard and Red Lion Court, all a stone’s throw from the Maughan Library, small volumes of stories and fables and tales known as chapbooks were once printed – their geographical provenance enduringly visible through imprints like: Printed and sold at the London and Middlesex Printing Office, no. 81, Shoe Lane, Holborn.

ac_tpIn my current cataloguing project I have been adding these little, well-thumbed volumes to the Special Collections catalogue.

The chapbooks I have been working on were printed and produced in the later 18th century, though versions of chapbooks existed from the 17th to the 19th century. These were usually produced on hand operated printing presses in small industrial units, with family members sometimes employed at the stages of production. Chapbooks were normally printed on one single sheet of paper and then folded into 8, 12, 16 or 24 pages. They would usually have been sold unbound and held together by a simple sewing.

When you walk through the narrow, high-walled alleyways around Fleet Street, Holborn Circus and St Paul’s (as I do often on my lunch breaks) it is not difficult to imagine the printers, workshop assistants, agents and delivery boys scurrying through the streets in pursuit of their occupation and living.

As easy as it is to imagine these scenes of production, it is also no stretch of the imagination to imagine the itinerant ‘chapmen’, from whom the books take their name, bargaining with printers and agents, buying chapbooks wholesale, and then heading out of town with them tucked inside their bags, ready to sell to country folk at fairs and festivals. The soubriquet ‘chapmen’ derives from an Old English word meaning ‘dealer’ or ‘seller’.

rh_tpAs literacy levels grew in the 18th and 19th centuries, the desire for these affordable, pithy tales also grew, and the stories that I have been working on include recognisable derivatives of the literary canon:

The travels and adventures of Capt. Lemuel Gulliver (abridged to a concise 24 pages)
A true tale of Robin Hood (true being an oft used word in titles, not always reflecting the veracity of the content)
The sleeping beauty in the wood

The tales are usually adorned with charming (and sometimes suggestive) woodcut illustrations. This was a cheap and durable method of illustration: woodcuts can be used for long periods and passed from one printer to another and, as Ruth Richardson says in her excellent British Library article on chapbooks, in the more expensive editions, children were sometimes employed to colour these woodcut illustrations.

penny-histories-spineThe chapbooks I have been working on were bound together in the 20th century by an independent firm on behalf of the Library. Each bound volume contains perhaps 10 or 15 of these wonderful tales on cheaply produced paper, that has evidently been thumbed through by readers of London or the country, and perhaps read aloud around a homestead fire as a bedtime treat for the family.

I like these books because I can sense the mechanics of their production in the streets where I work. In the Foyle Special Collections Library we hold examples of works from the infancy of printing (known as incunabula) to the present day, with grand editions, illustrations and provenance marking many out as significant, unique and of immense value to researchers and historians. These chapbooks have their special place in the collection, and there is something wonderful about the mass appeal that they offered, with their eclectic subject content covering heroic tales, ghost stories, battle and adventure and news and politics.

Their popularity is attested to by the well-thumbed pages, and also by the sparsity of detail on some of the imprints. This lack of detail in an imprint like ‘Printed and sold in London’ suggests that some printers may have been none-too-keen to display that they themselves had also ‘cashed in’ on the popularity of a certain tale, with their anonymity ensuring the pirated edition would not be traced back to them.

I have been reporting these editions to the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) to ensure they are accessible to researchers worldwide; and of course if anyone would like to have a look at these wonderful little volumes, they are welcome to consult them in the Foyle Special Collections Library.

Select Bibliography

The Bibliographical Society. Chapbooks Working Group.[http://www.bibsoc.org.uk/about/committees/chapbooks] Accessed 20 July 2016

EDPOP. ‘The European dimensions of popular print culture’. [http://edpop.wp.hum.uu.nl/] Accessed 20 July 2016

The National Art Library Chapbooks Collection [http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/n/national-art-library-chapbooks-collection/] Accessed 20 July 2016

Victor E Neuburg. Chapbooks: a guide to reference material on English, Scottish and American chapbook literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. London:  Woburn Press, [1972]. Foyle Special Collections [Special Collections Ref.]  Z6514.P7 NEU

Ruth Richardson. ‘Chapbooks’. [http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/chapbooks], accessed 15 July 2016

Andrew White Tuer. Pages and pictures from forgotten children’s books. London: The Leadenhall Press, 1898-1899. Foyle Special Collections  [Miscellaneous] PR91 TUE

Dame Barbara Cartland’s Christmas

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Some might be surprised to find these Christmas card from the romance novelist Dame Barbara Cartland in amongst our collections! In fact we have a few, plus a fair bit of other correspondence, in the papers of Sir Arthur Bryant. … Continue reading