Apartment: set! (Er, unless there's some untoward disaster.) Plane ticket: set! (And I don't even have to fly in the wrong direction to change planes. That's what comes of avoiding British Airways this time around...) I'll be in London for approximately six weeks, from mid-May to the end of June, reading religious novels in the British Library and, with any luck, looking at some publishers' archives.
This again. It seems to me that it is not, in fact, all that hard to avoid propositioning one's students--and that, moreover, if one is so endowed with chili peppers that the students proposition you, it is equally not that hard to defer certain unclothed activities to a more appropriate moment. That moment being when that student is no longer in any way under your control. "But wait!" you wail. "You're asking me to put off coupling for two years?! The student will have lost interest by then!" And so will you, I imagine, which is rather the point. If this is actually a grand passion that involves violins, sunsets, and spontaneously-blossoming roses, then no doubt you can take the necessary, if potentially cumbersome, steps to ensure that said grand passion can be pursued without violating your professional integrity or the student's rights.
Now, I admit to being unsympathetic because, in fact, a number of the faculty-student sex stories that have come to my attention have had negative repercussions for other students. In other words, this is never entirely about two (or more?) star-crossed would-be lovers; it's about the other students and even, yes, one's colleagues (who may have to pick up the pieces if something goes, to use an esoteric technical term, disastrously kaflooey--and, of course, I can think of at least two departments in the 80s and 90s that imploded over sexual harassment problems). Moreover, while I do in fact know plenty of "old-timey" stories about professors whose hands wandered on a regular basis, and whose female students shrugged and put up with it, it's never been clear to me that said students found such behavior precisely entertaining. They "put up with it" because, pace Prof. Kipnis, they appear to have felt that they had no choice in the matter. Now students have more choice in the matter, and strange as it may appear, many of them don't feel like being fondled, propositioned, or otherwise handled.
Finally, and I admit that this is unpopular in some quarters: one of the downsides of this profession, as with any profession, is that you don't get to be yourself, to indulge yourself, or to do whatever, er, yourself feels like whenever it pleases you. Part of that not-being-yourselfness means that you treat your students as students, and not as sex objects. Their lives will be full of plenty of "vulnerability" without your assistance.
Little and Wise; Or Rabbi Agur's School (RTS, n.d.). A ca. 1900 reprint of this 1872 set of moral fables for children, as supposedly taught by Agur ben Jakeh. Also known as Rabbi Agur's School and Its Four Teachers. (eBay)
William Mallock, Tristram Lacy, or the Individualist (Macmillan, 1899). Satire of late-Victorian upper-class literary/intellectual circles by the eternally cranky Mallock. Not well-received at the time (this copy is uncut). Mallock is arguably best known for being repurposed. (eBay)
There are times when exploring non-canonical fiction opens up all sorts of new intellectual worlds to explore. New authors! New ideas! New narrative forms! New tropes!
And then, there are times when exploring non-canonical fiction leads you to contemplate a new life as a George Eliot specialist.
This would be one of the latter.
If you're going to study nineteenth-century Catholic fiction, then it's impossible to escape Anna Hanson Dorsey (1815-96), an American novelist who was extremely popular in the USA and enjoyed some measure of transatlantic success. Unfortunately, "success" does not equate with "remains readable," and the experience of reading Dorsey's work is somewhat akin to being clocked over the head by a never-ending stream of clumsy adjectives and adverbs, then slowly drowned beneath waves of dialogue unlike anything that ever has been or ever will be spoken by mortal tongues. In The Sister of Charity, characters have a bad habit of declaiming thus:
"I know, I know, that these tumultuous feelings are not natural to me, dearest father; I fear nothing for myself, but oh! some strange, sad presentiment assures me, that human life is struggling in wild agonies with those waves whose loud thunder we hear—that prayers which can only be heard in heaven mingle with the blast—that ere long, the brave, the lion-hearted, the fair and good, will go down to their death, beneath the waters of yon furious ocean; within hearing almost of our sheltered home." (I.9-10)
In other words, there's a ship out there in a storm.
I managed to get about one hundred pages into Charles Dolman's UK reprinting of The Sister of Charity before reaching peak exasperation. It's time to defuse my ire by diffusing it, as it were...
I. 96: We're in the midst of an apparently hopeless murder trial--for patricide, no less. The young and hunky Herbert, a lawyer, has been brought in as part of a last-ditch effort to save the defendant; the defendant is a saintly Catholic, whereas Herbert, while (as I said) young and hunky, is also addicted to laudanum (gulp) and, even, worse...
I.98: ...reads Voltaire. Shock, horror, &c.
I.103: The prisoner "fell fainting back on some kind breast, which sprang forwards under a momentary impulse, to save him from falling." Somebody's chest detached itself from their body and took pity on the prisoner?
I.103: The author declines to transcribe the "burning eloquence" of Herbert's speech, which is probably wise, under the circumstances. Not only is the speech "burning," but it's also akin to "the lightning-fires of heaven" and tinctured with "immortal fire." It's amazing that the pages haven't scorched.
I.104: Dorsey really likes "lightning," I guess.
I.105: In a fit of guilt, the real murderer shows up and exonerates the prisoner. Now we have fratricide instead of patricide.
I.110: The murderous uncle, having cleared his nephew, conveniently drops dead right after his confession. Violent relations can be so aggravating.
I.111: Uncle-the-corpse is "trampled out of all resemblance to humanity," which is presumably some sort of cosmic poetic justice at work.
I.117: Herbert turns out to be terribly anti-Catholic, which means that he is either going to die horribly or convert and die pleasantly.
I.119: "Evelyn Herbert, are you an atheist?" I will pause a moment to allow all of my readers to recover from this terrible shock.
I.124: Alas, in the wake of Herbert's revelation, the beauteous Corinne is most unsympathetic to his marriage proposal. You would have thought that Herbert might have noticed the atmosphere growing distinctly icy.
I.126: Also, Herbert apparently needed to use breath mints.
I.132: Herbert resorts to "copious potations" in order to get over the sting of rejection.
Just taking a drink was not, I gather, sufficiently elegant for Dorsey's tastes.
I.132: When drunk, Herbert has a habit of "declaiming" atheism like "a madman." He turns out to be a fan of Lucretius, Zeno, and Epicurus, all of whom Dorsey's readers should be careful to avoid.
I.133: Mom charitably wishes that her son had "died" of illness as a boy instead of living to drink alcohol and read Voltaire.
I.143-48: We pause our drama to explain the life of a sister in the order of St. Vincent de Paul.
I.150: I'm not sure that the name "Father Borgia" would have conjured up the most positive associations...
I.158-59: We pause our drama again in order to demonstrate how to set up a domestic oratory.
I.168: Protestant nations are given not just to all manner of horrors, but also to "fanaticism" and, even worse, "transcendentalism." Ralph Waldo Emerson, what have you done?
I.176: After expounding on the difference between Catholic nations (good) and Protestant (bad), we move on to explicating the role of images in Catholic worship. As in a Protestant novel, this is a signal to hit "monologue mode" on the character's control panel.
I.183: What the--Dolman's must have made a printing error and transposed a lot of text, because while the page numbers are correct, the action has skipped mid-word to an entirely different scene. I am confuzzled. Is there a Tardis handy? Perhaps we could send a proofreader back in time.
In case you're wondering, Herbert's mother seems to have collapsed.
I.184: Now we're back to our first speaker, but we're still missing a chunk of his monologue. I mean, that's probably all for the best, but...
I.185: And now we're back to Herbert (I guess), threatening someone (who?) with a stone pitcher. This certainly lends a postmodern aura to the proceedings.
I.186: OK, we're back to our first speaker at Elverton Hall, whose monologue apparently concluded while the narrative skipped to this...other thing. Perhaps the rest of the monologue will show up in Herbert's scene?
I.188: Well, we had about two pages in the same scene, and now we're somewhere else entirely. This is the most bizarre reading experience I've had in some time. I can only imagine what some literary theorist, happening upon this book two thousands year from now, will conclude about nineteenth-century narrative form.
I.190:...And we appear to have jumped to the end of the novel, except that we're not yet at the end of volume one. I need to find a different copy of this book to inflict upon myself read.
[Your Honor, I have no idea how all these volumes from the "Novels of Faith and Doubt" series got into my mailbox.]
Eliza Lynn Linton, Sowing the Wind, ed. Deborah T. Meem and Kate Holterhoff (Victorian Secrets, 2015). Marriages gone sour, madness, and female journalists in Victorian England. First published in 1867. More about Linton here. (Amazon)
Guy Boothby, A Prince of Swindlers, ed. Gary Hoppenstad (Penguin, 2015). New edition of this novel about a Raffles-esque criminal-detective, by the ultra-prolific Australian novelist Guy Boothby. Boothby is better known for his Dr. Nikola novels. First appeared in 1900. (Amazon)
Leonard Merrick, Mr. Bazalgette's Agent (British Library, 2013). A detective novel with a female protagonist, Miriam Lea. First published in 1888. (Amazon)
Frederick William Robinson, No Church (Garland, 1976) and Beyond the Church (Garland, 1977). Two of the three novels Robinson published exploring contemporary church controversies (the third is High Church). In Beyond the Church (1866),characters representing various theological "types" (High Churchmen, freethinkers, etc.) seek spiritual homes; in No Church (1861), a young woman born in a prison experiences both Methodist and worldly life. (eBay)
Robert Buchanan, Foxglove Manor (Garland, 1975). A seriously oversexed Anglican priest conducts an adulterous affair with one woman while he impregnates another. Needless to say, he converts to Roman Catholicism in the final sentence. First published in 1884. Buchanan is now primarily remembered for his attack on D. G. Rossetti. (eBay)
Thomas de Longueville, The Life of a Prig (Garland, 1975). Satirical account of a very self-satisfied religious seeker. De Longueville, a Catholic author, was best known for this book and its sequels. First published in 1885. (eBay)
Winwood Reade, The Outcast (Garland, 1975). A young clergyman is slowly beset by doubts about both his religion and his vocation. First published in 1875. Reade is better known for The Martyrdom of Man. (eBay)
Lady Gertrude Douglas, Linked Lives (Garland, 1975). Anglican girl meets impoverished Catholic servant, eventually converts (along with her fiance); everyone dies unpleasantly (except the servant). First published in 1876. (eBay)
Mrs. Desmond Humphreys, Sheba: A Study of Girlhood (Garland, 1976). Set in Australia. A young woman matures, finds love (and sex), and is betrayed. First published in 1889. (eBay)
Charles Maurice Davies, Broad Church (Garland, 1975). Satire of late-Victorian trends in the C of E by the somewhat, ah, quirky clergyman-cum-ethnographer-cum-novelist. First published in 1875. (eBay)
William Howitt, Woodburn Grange: A Story of English Country Life (Garland, 1975). Clash between old and new money in the countryside. Published in 1867 (one of Howitt's last works). More on Howitt (an ex-Quaker) here and here. (eBay)
Edmund Randolph, Mostly Fools: A Romance of Civilization (Garland, 1976). Rather dystopian Catholic novel (set in the near future) about a young man's attempt to save England from its own degradation. First published in 1886. (eBay)
Edward Heneage Dering, Sherborne (Garland, 1975). Young man wrestles with his anxieties about and attraction to Catholicism. Originally serialized in the Catholic periodical The Lamp; published in volume form in 1875. (eBay)
Lucy Ribchester, The Hourglass Factory (Simon & Schuster, 2015). Intrepid female reporter tries to figure out what happened to a suffragette circus performer. (Amazon [UK])
Frances Knight, The Church in the Nineteenth Century (Tauris, 2008). General history of Christianity, mostly focused on Europe but with some attention to the global context. (Amazon [secondhand])
While a graduate student at the University of Chicago, I once walked the complete works of Charles Reade (thanks, AMS Press) several blocks from the South Loop branch of Powell's to the bus stop, and several blocks again from the bus stop to my apartment. The weather that day was warm and sunny. Yesterday, I managed to walk eleven volumes of the "Novels of Faith and Doubt" series (thanks, Garland Press) from my office to the car, which was not as impressive an achievement, but did involve negotiating an unexpected snow storm. And here people thought that buying books had nothing to do with upper body exercise.
Thomas Longueville, A Romance of the Recusants (British Library, n.d.). Facsimile reprint of Longueville's Catholic historical novel, originally published in 1888, set during the early reign of Queen Elizabeth. Longueville (or de Longueville) was best known as a satirist on matters religious, especially The Life of a Prig and its sequels. (Amazon)
Stephanie Forward, ed., Dreams, Visions and Realities (Birmingham, 2003). Anthology of mostly feminist fiction from around the turn of the twentieth century, both English and American. (Amazon [secondhand])
Anne Markey, ed., Children's Fiction 1765-1808 (Four Courts, 2011). Anthology of early Irish children's fiction. Includes two short novels by John Carey and Margaret King Moore, and three short stories by Henry Brooke, John Clowes, and an anonymous author. (Amazon [secondhand])
By sheer chance, I recently found myself reading two horror novels in which the act of writing played a significant part: Patrick Senecal's 5150, rue des Ormes and Alan Judd's Faustian The Devil's Own Work. 5150, rue des Ormes juxtaposes the journals of Yannick (being held hostage in the titular house) and Maude (the fervently Catholic wife of the man doing the hostage-holding) against an intermittent third-person objective narrator; The Devil's Own Work's first-person narrator tells the story of the fate of his friend, a bestselling novelist, in thrall to a strange manuscript and the woman (or demon) who guards it. Both novels produce some of their skin-crawling effects from the increasingly obvious discrepancy between the hopes vested in writing (to keep oneself sane, to impose order on chaos, to create art, to express the secret self...) and the actual outcomes for the ever more beleaguered writers. Initially, I was going to write about the two novels together, but 5150, rue des Ormes decided to take over this blog post.
Spoilers ahoy, so the rest goes below the fold. Beware! Long entry ahead!
Carter Maness' "All My Blogs are Dead" details the mass disappearance of his online prose as media outlet after media outlet goes kaput. But this is also a problem with many online academic and quasi-academic resources. When I went through my bookmarks a few weeks ago to clear out the dud links, I found that site after site had simply gone kerflooey (a very useful technical term)--not just sites like Literary Gothic (now available only via the Wayback Machine) and the lottery-funded Literary Heritage--West Midlands (which only brings up a blank page), but any number of university-hosted projects as well, like Intute (defunded), the Scottish Book Trade Archive, and so forth. Somebody leaves; somebody's grant doesn't get renewed; somebody's academic interests go in a different direction. The current state of GoogleBooks is also cause for concern; although HathiTrust and archive.org have overlapping archives, Google's increasingly evident sloppiness when it comes to maintaining the project should ring alarm bells, not least because of Google's habit of emulating the Terminator when they lose interest. (I feel like I should download all 3K+ books in my favorites list, just to be on the safe side.) Obviously, I have some self-interest here: for academics in relatively isolated locations, at schools with small libraries, or otherwise without access to a major research collection, online resources play a key role in shaping the kind of projects we can undertake (and, in some cases, the courses we can teach). But they have a bad habit of disappearing without a trace.
I have a bad habit of being a completist. This is a very bad habit indeed when one is working on a big literary history (known hereafter as Book 3 1/2) of an omnipresent nineteenth-century genre, because, of course, one cannot read every religious novel published in Britain between 1800-1900; I've identified well over a thousand of them, and stumble across more of them every week. Unlike Book 2, which had a well-defined corpus of novels to work with (historical novels! religious! about the Reformation! written in/available in the UK!), Book 3 1/2 is about a pretty amorphous field (religious novels! written in/available in the UK!); this is where Moretti's "distant reading" certainly has its appeal. The difficulty is not so much "where to start" (I've been reading this material for fifteen years!) as "when to stop." Last night, after I surfaced from the first week of classes (hence the radio pixel silence), I pulled up a book from my to-read list, an anonymous novel published by John F. Shaw called Christine; Or, the Bible Girl. And I read it. And I knew exactly what was going to happen at every step of the way, because it did absolutely nothing unusual or innovative for a novel of the 1870s. In that sense, Christine demonstrated that, yes, certain tropes had hardened (into what felt like literal concrete, reading-wise) by the last third of the Victorian period--but from a literary-historical perspective, I already knew that. If I were to write an article solely on J. F. Shaw's output, the novel might come in handy, but I doubt that it will rate even a single mention in Book 3 1/2. At this point, as I come near the end of my "let's read" period and move on to the "let's write" period, I need to be much more strict with myself about post-holing this kind of fiction (i.e., read X number of authors from X publisher during period X-Y), because too much of what I'm still reading doesn't teach me anything new about religious fiction and its various subgenres. Which is another way of saying: here is what I can write about now (at this point, quite a bit); there is what I can write about after I do more reading.
C. J. L. Almqvist, The Queen's Tiara, trans. Paul Britten Austin (Arcadia, 2001). Famous Swedish historical novel, set around the assassination of King Gustav III in 1792, but focusing on the passions aroused by the androgynous Tintomara. (Amazon [secondhand])
Idleness; Or, the Double Lesson, and Other Tales, trans. Mrs. J. Sadlier (Sadlier, n.d.). A collection of French Catholic moral tales, most set in Paris. The translator is the very prolific Mary Anne Sadlier (1820-1903). (eBay)
Minnie Grey; Or, for Conscience' Sake (J. F. Shaw, n.d.). A young Christian woman deals, among other things, with her beloved's rejection of evangelical faith. Shaw appears to have been uncertain about how to spell his own book's title, as the cover does not agree with the title page and the title page does not agree with the catalog listing. (eBay)
[May Ramsay], Maggie's Rosary, and Other Tales, ed. Mrs. Washington Hibbert (Burnes and Oates [c. 1871]). Collection of Catholic didactic fiction for children about praying the rosary, telling the truth, working-class Catholics, etc. (eBay)
Cecilia Mary Caddell, The Miner's Daughter: A Simple Explanation of, and Easy and Familiar Instruction on, the Sacrifice of the Mass (P. J. Kenedy, 1897). A book for Catholic children and converts explaining (using a fictional framework) what the mass is, what the prayers are, and so forth; originally published in the UK in the early 1860s. (eBay)
Simon Mawer, The Gospel of Judas (Little, Brown, 2000). Catholic priest starts studying what appears to be a "fifth Gospel," with obvious consequences for his personal life. (Amazon [secondhand])
Katherine McMahon, After Mary (Flamingo, 2000). Historical novel about a young English Catholic woman who becomes involved in recusant politics during the seventeenth century. (Amazon [secondhand])
Lori Marie Carlson, A Stitch in Air (Texas Tech, 2013). Historical novel set in sixteenth-century Spain, following the goings-on in a somewhat unusual convent. (Amazon [secondhand])