Friday, July 31, 2009

Unleavened Bread - Edith Wharton's Comments

In his memoir titled Fourscore, Robert Grant quotes a letter he received from Edith Wharton regarding his novel Unleavened Bread:

"As for Selma, I think her as good in her way as Gwendolen Grandcourt. Every stroke tells, and you never forget the inconscient quality of her selfishness; you never fall into the error of making her deliberately false or cruel. The lesser characters seem to me admirably differentiated, from Mrs. Margaret Rodney Earle to the incomparable Mr. Lyons, whose speech to the Benham Institute in the nomination of Miss Luella Bailey is a masterpiece of American rhetoric."

Unleavened Bread - The Title Explained

Author Robert Grant, in his memoirs titled Fourscore, explains the title of his novel Unleavened Bread, which I have reviewed here: "Regarding the title Unleavened Bread, it occurred to me as a suitable characterization of a personality which was without the inspiration of leaven, and hence was flat, hard and half-baked."

Bookmark - The Little Schoolroom

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Browsing - and a List of Titles

Tonight I have been browsing at using as my point of departure old issuses of Publisher's Weekly and American Literary Gazette from the early 1870s. When I saw a title that sounded promising, I would look to see if it was available at Google Books, and if it was, I put it on my list. Here is what caught my eye tonight.

The Prodigal Judge by Vaughan Kester
The Valiants of Virginia by Hallie Erminie Rives
What Can She Do? by Rev. E. P. Roe
Woven of Many Threads by Cecilia Viets Jamison
The Holcombes: A Story of Virginia Home-Life by Mary Tucker Magill
Newlyn House: The Home of the Davenports by A.E.W.
The Curate and the Rector by Elizabeth Strutt
The Pink and White Tyranny by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Old Margaret by Henry Kingsley

I am ever on the lookout for novels set in Virginia and, as can be seen, there are two on the above list. Of course I have no idea at this point whether I will enjoy reading any of the above, but it is great fun to browse and acquire books when there is no cost involved.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Best Sellers of 1862

Best Selling Books of 1862
As listed by Victorian Web

  • The Doctor's Family by Margaret Oliphant
  • The Last of the Mortimers by Margaret Oliphant
  • Ravenshoe by Henry Kingsley
  • Held in Bondage by Ouida
  • Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • A Strange Story by Bulwer-Lytton
  • The Lord Mayor of London by Harrison Ainsworth
  • Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope
  • No Name by Wilkie Collins

Victorian Web does not give the source for the best sellers lists it has put up. The reader will note that there is not a single American author on the list for 1862. This could be explained, perhaps, by the fact that the Civil War was raging in the US that year. Or does the word Victorian mean that only English authors and their books were considered for the list? I'm guessing this is the case, as there is no mention of Edith Wharton, W. D. Howells, or Henry James for any of the years (the lists range from 1862 to 1901).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Book Review - Unleavened Bread

Unleavened Bread
by Robert Grant

The book overview of Robert Grant's Unleavened Bread at reports that Unleavened Bread was one of the best selling novels of 1900. Today it is all but forgotten, which is a shame, as it is very readable and captures the period well. The setting is a state in New England, city of Benham, with one part set in New York City. Selma White is a school teacher at the beginning of the book and has reached the conclusion that teaching is not how she wants to spend the rest of her life. She feels she is destined to play a larger role in life, and the book chronicles her aspirations and efforts to find and fill that larger role.

Selma uses marriage to project herself in life, riding the coattails of her husbands, one marriage ending in divorce and one in widowhood. She strives for acceptance both socially and intellectually and meets with both disappointment and success along the way.

This is one of those forgotten books that would almost certainly do well if republished today. The action begins in about the 1870s and gives a portrait of New England and New York society through the years following the Civil War from the perspective of the children of soldiers in that war. This is not a novel of Reconstruction as it is set in the north, but issues devolving from that war are a part of the atmosphere.

Unleavened Bread could be read as a northern counterpart to Ellen Glasgow's novel Virginia, set in Richmond at the same time period. The experiences of the two protagonists, Selma and Virginia, are very different, reflecting the roles of women in the north and the south in the post-Civil War years.

I'm not sure I understand the title. Unleavened bread is bread made without yeast or other leavening agents. It is flat, does not rise. Is this a reference to Selma's efforts to rise in society?

Also available at Project Gutenberg.

The Seance

I'm reading The Seance by John Harwood. By chance yesterday I stumbled across a book titled Modern Spiritualism Laid Bare by Dr. John Bourbon Wasson. Should be an interesting comparison.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bookmark - Framley Parsonage

From Framley Parsonage
by Anthony Trollope
Lord Lufton and Lucy Robarts
Click here for a printable version.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bookmark - Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope
Click here for a printable version.

Bookmark - Framley Parsonage

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
Lady Lufton and the Duke of Omnium
Click here for a printable version.

Anne of Green Gables - The Blythes Are Quoted

The Guardian Book Blog reports that the final volume in the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery is to be published by Penguin Canada in October 2009. Titled The Blythes Are Quoted, an abridged version was published in 1974, but this new edition will have the full text as LMM intended.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bookmark - 495 Broadway, New York City

495 Broadway
New York City

Grover & Baker Sewing-Machine Company

Click here for a pritable version.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Successful Failure - by Cary Glasgow

Ellen Glasgow's sister Cary also wrote a novel titled Successful Failure: An Outline. Published in 1883 it tells the story of a divorced woman. It is unfortunately not available at Google Books or anywhere else online, at least as far as I can tell.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Judge Robert Grant's Home

The New York Times for November 27, 1897 has an article titled Authors at Home: Robert Grant in the Back Bay. Robert Grant was the author of Unleavened Bread, which I mentioned in an earlier post as having been banned by the Boston Public Library. There was apparently a series of Authors at Home articles, as this one is labeled number four. Grant's home was at the corner of Marlboro and Clarendon Streets in Boston, and the article gives a description that makes me want to see it. I wonder if it is still there, and if so, who lives in it.

Appended to the same article is a review, not very complementary, of What Maisie Knew by Henry James.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Good Americans by Constance Cary Harrison

Constance Cary Harrison was a Virginia-born novelist whose books I have enjoyed. She was married to Burton Harrison, who had been secretary to Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. After the war, she and her husband lived in New York, although they also had a home at 16th and N Streets in Washington. Their son, Francis Burton Harrison, served for a time as a Congressman from New York.

One of the books banned by the Boston Public Library in 1901 was Mrs. Harrison's Good Americans. I have not read it (yet), but I found a review in the New York Times for October 22, 1898. I'm still looking for more information on the BPL committee which made decisions about which books should be "rejected".

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Boston Public Library - Rejected Books 1901

The New York Times for March 2, 1901 has an article listing books "rejected" by the Examining and Reading Committee of the Boston Public Library. This list includes, among many others, Good Americans by Constance Cary Harrison; The Two Magics by Henry James (which contains The Turn of the Screw and The Covering End); The Touchstone by Edith Wharton. Deemed "unsafe" were Voice of the People by Ellen Glasgow, mistakenly named as Helen; and Their Silver Wedding by William Dean Howells.

I found this article by doing a search for reviews of Judge Robert Grant's novel, Unleavened Bread, which the committee has labeled "a very disagreeable and excellent story against women's clubs. . .". Edith Wharton is said to have admired this book, which is available both at the Gutenberg Project and Google Books. I haven't read it yet, but I have converted the Gutenberg version for reading on my Sony PRS-505, and it's next on my list.

I had never heard of the BPL committee and its lists of "rejected" and "unsafe" books. This bears more looking into.