Posts tagged ‘editorial’

22/01/2023

So where were we? (Part 4)

To resume:

All of my reviewing threads are absurd, but some are more absurd than others.

In this I include Authors In Depth, not least because the writers who end up being recruited tend to be those whose oeuvres would, on their own, make a ridiculously complicated project—let alone all of them at once.

Be that as it may.

So far my progress in this area looks like this:

Mary Elizabeth Braddon:

The Trail Of The Serpent (1860)
The Octoroon; or, The Lily Of Louisiana (1859 / 1861)
The Black Band; or, The Mysteries Of Midnight (1861 – 1862)
Lady Lisle (1862)
The Captain Of The Vulture (1862)
Ralph The Bailiff, And Other Tales (1862 / 1869)

E. D. E. N. Southworth:

Retribution; or, The Vale Of Shadows (1850)
The Deserted Wife (1850)
The Mother-In-Law; or, The Isle Of Rays (1851)
Vivia; or, The Secret Of Power (1857)

Frances Trollope:

The Refugee In America (1832)
Hargrave; or, The Adventures Of A Man Of Fashion (1843)

Mrs (Mary) Meeke:

Count St. Blancard; or, The Prejudiced Judge (1795)
The Abbey Of Clugny (1796)
Palmira And Ermance (1797)
Ellesmere (1799)

“Gabrielli” (Elizabeth Meeke):

The Mysterious Wife (1797)
The Sicilian (1798)

Margaret Minifie and Susannah Minifie Gunning:

The Histories Of Lady Frances S—, And Lady Caroline S— (1763)
Family Pictures (1764)
The Picture (1766)
Barford Abbey (1768)

So which of these threads do I intend to continue with?

Don’t be silly: none of them.

Instead I’ve read the second and final novel by someone even more obscure than these ladies—by which means I can fool myself that I have at last ticked something off the list…

 

27/10/2022

So where were we? (Part 3)

Well, this is a cheat, or at least the softest option—since of all the sub-sections of this blog, my examination of the roots of Australian fiction has travelled the least distance. However—

My posts in this area have chiefly addressed the arguments surrounding the various definitions of “first” – provenance vs publication – while we have also taken a look at a random piece of poetry, the earliest piece of fictional writing of any kind to be published here.

So far, our Australian bibliography looks like this—

The Beauty Of The British Alps (1825): written and published in England by Mary Leman Grimstone before the author’s journey to Tasmania; not strictly part of this series
The Van Diemen’s Land Warriors, or The Heroes Of Cornwall (1827): an anonymous poem satirising the failure of the Tasmanian authorities to deal with the local bushranger problem
Louisa Egerton; or, Castle Herbert (1829): written partially on shipboard and completed in Hobart by Mary Leman Grimstone, but sent to England for publication; set in England
The Hermit In Van Diemen’s Land (1829): a collection of satirical sketches by Henry Savery, lampooning prominent Hobart citizens, which appeared in the Colonial Times before being published in book form
Quintus Servinton (1830 – 1831): by Henry Savery, the first novel written, published and (mostly) set in Australia

But as we all know, I can never take a step forward without taking one back; and there is another work from 1830 that I need to take a look at before we can actually make some progress.

It’s an odd work, written in England by an Englishwoman who never set foot in Australia, and dealing predominantly (although not always overtly) with English problems; but it is mostly set in Australia, and was certainly the first such piece of writing to be aimed at an audience that we would today call “young adult”.

Next up, then—

Alfred Dudley; or, The Australian Settlers by Sarah Porter.

Beyond that, we take a leap into the unknown. There are plenty of non-fiction works out there, particularly travel diaries and memoirs, and a surprising amount of poetry; but the dogma is that very little Australian fiction of any description was written over the next decade and a half. My next efforts here will be focused upon trying to determine whether that is true.

 

 

13/09/2022

So where were we? (Part 2)

I’m going to keep this brief (Huzzah! they cried), because the points that most need making are best made in a different context.

Instead, I just want to remind everyone – myself included – of where we had got up to with the Chronobibliography.

We did examine two short fictions, James Smythies’ Leandro; or, The Lucky Rescue and Peter Belon’s The Reviv’d Fugitive, both of which dealt – more or less – with the consequences of the issuing of the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685.

However, most exasperatingly, we also had to deal with a resurgence of political writing, most of which hashed over the iniquities of the Stuarts yet again, while a much smaller proportion dealt with the legitimacy of William and Mary’s claim to the throne, or tried unavailingly to attack Louis XIV using the same tactics that had been so successful against James.

What was strikingly missing, though our wander through this material took us pretty much to the end of 1691, was any reference to the Battle of the Boyne. This may have been, as I suggested re: the appendix of Nathaniel Crouch’s revised The Secret History Of The Last Four Monarchs Of Great Britain, because though James himself had scarpered, the war between the Irish and the English forces led by William was still in progress at that time, and would end only with the signing of the Treaty of Limerick in October 1691.

Furthermore, and rather curiously given the preponderance of political writing to date, not only is there no sign of a belated effort to deal with the Battle of the Boyne subsequently, but political writing overall seems almost to vanish from the annals of popular literature from this point.

Oh, sure: Nathaniel Crouch rehashed The Secret History… not once but twice more, catching us up on “the happy revolution, and the accession of Their present Majesties” and “the later reign of James the Second, from the time of his abdication of England, to this present Novemb. 1693”; while some anonymous sadist also decided that we had to hear the story of the Sham Prince one more time; but other than this, a cautious glance forward reveals a fairly steady diet of fiction from this point onwards…at least until the ascension of Anne.

I think another Huzzah! might be in order.

And in fact—I’ve already made a start on 1692, reading one particular work of fiction that to my mind represents a critical watershed in the development of the English novel…

03/09/2022

So where were we?

Yes. Well. We needn’t get into all that.

This past interruption – I think, all things considered, we might call it an interregnum – was punctuated with various failed attempts on my part to get things moving again which, though they produced nothing of substance, did result in a handful of unfinished posts and a scary number of books read but not reviewed (most of which, heaven help me, I’m probably going to have to re-read, in order to remember what I wanted to say).

As a way of tackling all this, and to try and avoid paralysing myself again through overabundance of competing material, what I’m going to do is write a series of short posts reminding us all, myself not least, of where things were up to in each sub-section of this blog and what I was trying to achieve—which hopefully will pave the way for me to move onto the next relevant work.

I won’t make any promises about anything, though. I’ve learned the folly of that.

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31/12/2019

Happier new year?

So I’m sitting here making resolutions.

Aren’t you astonished?

Looking back, I’m frankly appalled at what I didn’t get to this year—in particular my failure to add a single Chronobibliography post; though to be honest, I hadn’t realised it was so long since I had (and am in something of a panic over the evaporation of the intervening time).

As always, there were reasons…or excuses; and as always, I’m wrapping up the old year by making all sorts of plans for the new. I’m painfully conscious it’s as much a matter of discipline as anything else. Whether my good intentions amount to anything remains to be seen, but I do have a plan for reading and blogging that will hopefully result in more frequent and more regular updates.

Anyway— I’m particularly grateful to those of you who have stuck it out through my laziness and disorganisation. As you may have noticed*, I’ve bought you a little present: a site upgrade that ought to eliminate any advertising. If you’re going to have the patience and generosity to keep visiting, you certainly shouldn’t be punished for it.

(*At least, I hope it’s noticeable. As administrator I generally don’t see what you see, so feedback on this point would be very welcome.)

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08/06/2019

I bet it’s not as much fun as it sounds…

Ahem.

Evidently Benjamin Disraeli’s third novel, The Young Duke, fits the general parameters of the silver-fork novel; it has accordingly been added to my provisional reading-list for the genre. However, The Young Duke was published in 1831, four years after Vivian Grey—and therefore after the silver-fork novel had become “a thing”. It will be interesting to compare the approaches of these two novels to their subject matter…

…or perhaps I should say, if and when I can compare them.

Having wrapped up Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, I rewarded myself by starting my hunt for a copy of Benjamin Disraeli’s Vivian Grey, considered the first English response to Goethe’s Bildungsroman and a silver-fork progenitor work.

This proved unexpectedly difficult, due (in the first instance) to a combination of the novel’s publishing history and the idiosyncrasies of the cataloguing system recently adopted by our major libraries: because the book was initially published anonymously and then later reissued as by “the Earl of Beaconsfield”, it doesn’t always come up if you search for it as by Benjamin Disraeli.

But that was, or soon became, a relatively minor speed-bump. A more immediate obstacle was the surprising discovery that neither of the usual suspects (i.e. Penguin and the Oxford University Press) had ever issued an edition of Vivian Grey; that except for an expensive, limited-edition reissue by Pickering & Chatto of “The Early Novels Of Benjamin Disraeli” in 2004, there has not been a hard-copy, English-language edition of the book since 1968; and that the edition before that was from 1934 (in the US) and 1927 (in the UK). There are, of course, ebook and print-on-demand editions around, but I prefer to avoid those if I can.

Well. Okay. It turned out there was a copy of 1968 edition available for interlibrary loan, and inexpensive ones of the 1927 edition online. But while I was pondering that, a far more insidious issue raised its head: the incompatibility of these single-volume releases with the fact that Vivian Grey was originally published in five volumes, two of them in 1826 and the other three in 1827.

And my ugly suspicions were correct: when Vivian Grey stopped being by “Anonymous” and was reissued as by “the Earl of Beaconsfield”, it was also cut to pieces – “severely expurgated”, to use one academic’s description – and (I gather) lost a lot of its fun in the process. The much-shortened 1853 edition is now considered the standard text.

This, of course, shall not stand…

It seems that my academic library holds the five-volume version in its Rare Books section; and while this is theoretically tempting, trying to get it not only read, but written up, in-library is too impracticable even for me.

Fortunately some online library collections do hold scans of the original edition; and while reading a five-volume novel online isn’t exactly appealing, this finally seems like the most sensible way of tackling Vivian Grey.

Meanwhile—a separate issue altogether is the simultaneous discovery that while Vivian Grey and Bulwer-Lytton’s Pelham represent the English reaction to Wilhelm Meister, and certainly did significantly inspire the development of the silver-fork novel proper, there are a couple of other works that also played an important part in the latter, and which pre-date both of these better-known books.

One of them, indeed, may also have been an influence upon these two—as we may judge from its title alone: Robert Plumer Ward’s Tremaine; or, The Man Of Refinement, published in 1825.

And before that we find something that is not strictly a novel at all, but nevertheless appears to warrant a place in this timeline: Theodore Hook’s Sayings And Doings; or, Sketches From Life, from 1824. Published in three volumes, these were a collection of short stories – “tales” – intended to illustrate particular maxims…and, it seems, offer not-infrequently malicious portraits of public figures, including most of Hook’s acquaintances. These proved so popular that the perpetually debt-ridden Hook continued to write them, eventually producing two more “series” of tales that eventually filled nine volumes.

I haven’t looked into the availability of these yet. I’ve been too busy slamming my forehead against my keyboard…

 

02/01/2016

More than ordinarily pear-shaped

Well…2015 rather fell apart there, didn’t it? I’m sure that those of you who visit here – and other places – are tired of listening to me whinge, so I’ll just say that some significant personal issues developed over the second half of the year, which prevented me from giving much time to any of my hobbies. I am trying to make some changes at the moment, and I hope that we will all see an improvement in 2016.

As far as this blog in concerned, I am utterly mortified to realise that the putative main subject thread – that is, the development of the English novel – did not get a single update during 2015. There were a couple of reasons for this, none of them very satisfactory: the unappealing nature of the material was one (though that never stopped me before), while another was the fact that after signing off the year 1689 with a flourish some twelve months ago, I immediately came across another item from that year that I was unable to persuade myself could be legitimately ignored. I did read the item in question (short version: erk), but didn’t get around to posting. Hopefully with the help of a little loin-girding, it will be showing up here before too much longer.

A side-reason for not progressing in the Chronobibliography was the introduction of the Australian fiction section, which proved a major distraction. I also made some progress with my examination of early crime fiction, with posts on Eugène Sue’s Les Mystères de Paris and Catharine Crowe’s Men And Women; or, Manorial Rights. I also read Frances Trollope’s Hargrave, another important work in this respect…which had the effect of sending me off on yet another tangled tangent…

…because YET ANOTHER TOPIC AREA is exactly what I need right now.

When researching Hargrave, I discovered that several of Frances Trollope’s novels have crime themes, and should probably be included in this section of reviews. However—it was also asserted that a major influence upon Trollope, and in particular her tendency to mix disparate genres in her novels, was Edward Bulwer-Lytton, specifically his 1828 novel, Pelham; or, The Adventures Of A Gentleman.

This is where it gets complicated. Pelham in turn had been influenced by Benjamin Disraeli’s Vivian Grey, which was published the year before. Both of these novels drew heavily upon what is considered the first Bildungsroman, Johann Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship—and themselves influenced that odd, transitional English subgenre, the “Silver Fork Novel”…a topic I’ve been meaning to tackle, but put off because I felt I had quite enough to be going on with…

Which is of course beyond true. Trouble is, though, I’m now struggling to see this collision of elements as anything other than A SIGN.

Sigh.

So – as the panic begins to take hold – what is on the horizon? Four unwritten posts, to start with, consisting of my second attempt to draw a line under 1689, a “Reading Roulette” selection, another study of the 19th century religious novel, and of course Hargrave. This being the case, new material is the last thing I should be pursuing; but I’ve recently discovered that there may be an opportunity to get my hands on a copy of one of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s more obscure early works via academic loan. If that does work out, it will be a case of drop everything.

Because let’s face it, everything’s better with Braddon.

29/12/2014

One last thing…

Yes, yes. I’ll shut up in a minute, I promise.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of my blog visitors for sticking by me in what has been an even more than usually erratic year, and particularly those of you who have taken the time to comment.

I should know better by now than to make promises, so I will confine myself to hoping for a more regular posting routine in 2015.

I’ll also hope to see you all there!

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29/12/2014

Like a hole in the head

Even though I need more things to write about like I need an aperture in my cranial equipment, for the past several months I’ve found myself becoming increasingly fixated upon the idea of taking a look at the development of the Australian novel. This area of study, like its American counterpart, offers one significant advantage over the Chronobibliography that comprises the main thrust of this blog—namely, that it is possible to identify a finite starting point.

More or less.

Truthfully, when it comes to identify “the first”, there are probably few areas of literary study that offer more ground for argument than the Australian novel of the 19th century—where we have novels written in Australia but published in Britain, and novels written in Britain but published in Australia; novels about Australia written in Britain, and novels about Britain written in Australia; authors born in Britain but publishing in Australia, and authors born in Australia but publishing in Britain; authors who lived all their lives in Australia, authors who emigrated to Australia, authors who emigrated from Australia, authors who wandered through for a space of months or years, and authors who never in fact set foot in Australia but wrote about it anyway. We even have a few – just a few – of those rarae aves, authors who were born, lived and published in Australia.

There are, consequently, as many “firsts” in the history of Australian fiction as even a complete obsessive like me could possibly desire.

The dogma (of which I have, by now, learned always to be deeply suspicious) is that “the first Australian novel” is Quintus Servinton: A Tale Founded Upon Incidents Of Real Occurrence by Henry Savery, which appeared in Tasmania in the early months of 1831. It was certainly “the first novel” written and published in Australia; its author, however, was born in England. Henry Savery was convicted of forgery in 1825 and sentenced to transportation after having his initial death sentence commuted. He wrote his novel – a semi-autobiographical and rather self-serving tale of convict life – while working as an assigned labourer in the New Norfolk district west of Hobart.

There appear to be three challengers for Quintus Servinton‘s crown. One of them is another, earlier work by Henry Savery: The Hermit In Van Diemen’s Land, which was published in 1830. This is not, however, a novel, but a series of sketches about Hobart life and its prominent citizens, which appeared first as separate stories in the local newspaper, The Colonial Times. It is also, in a sense, a roman à clef since, although without any political motive, its characters are based on real people, with a key to their identities being appended to the single-volume publication.

The other works highlight the difficulties in this area of study. Mary Leman Grimstone was already established as a poet and novelist when she accompanied her sister and brother-in-law to Australia in 1825. It seems that her second and third novels, Louisa Egerton and Women’s Love, were written during her stay in Tasmania, thus pre-dating all of the other contenders—but they were published in England, appearing in 1830 and 1832, respectively. Furthermore, as far as I am aware (I guess we’ll be finding out!), both are set in England as well.

We should also make mention of another 1830 publication, Alfred Dudley; or, The Australian Settlers. Although originally believed to be the work of the English writer, William Howitt (and is still listed in some sources as such), this children’s fiction has been attributed to a Mrs G. Porter, another English writer who never visited Australia, but drew upon Robert Dawson’s non-fiction work, The Present State of Australia: A Description of the Country, Its Advantages and Prospects, with References to Emigration: and a Particular Account of the Manners, Customs, and Condition of its Aboriginal Inhabitants for her story—which is, in any event, the first work for children to be set in Australia.

Taking all this into consideration, Quintus Servinton still seems a sensible place to start—although knowing myself, I suspect that the other works mentioned (and perhaps Mary Grimstone’s first novel, The Beauty Of The British Alps) will also be putting in an appearance.

 

29/12/2014

Vale, Aphra

epitaph1In her dedication of The Lucky Mistake to “George Greenveil” (George Granville, Baron Lansdowne), published the year of her death, Aphra Behn comments:

…the Obligations I have to you, deserves a greater testimony of my respect, then this little peice, too trivial to bear the honour of your Name, but my increasing Indisposition makes me fear I shall not have many opportunities of this Kind…

The last years of Aphra Behn’s life were a constant struggle against increasing ill-health. Most cruelly, it seems that she suffered from an arthritic complaint that made it painful, if not impossible, for her to write, and thus to earn an income. It is also easy to imagine that the overthrow of James II in 1688 took a simultaneous toll on Behn’s spirits. It is sad yet strangely fitting that her death almost coincided with the coronation of William and Mary in April of 1689.

Whatever her public reputation, Behn had friends and admirers who organised for her burial in Westminster Abbey; and while the epitaph on her gravestone is often taken as an expression of public disapproval, there are many who believe that Aphra wrote it herself—one last joke at her own expense.

Despite the increasingly punitive morality that would see Aphra Behn expunged from the English literary canon from the mid-18th century until her revival in the early 20th, in her lifetime and the decades that followed her writing was extremely popular – and profitable, for her publishers if not so much for herself. It has been pointed out that Behn was the first English writer of fiction to have her works collected and reissued, with William Canning publishing Oroonoko, The Fair Jilt and Agnes de Castro together in 1688 as “Three Histories“. Then, in 1696, Charles Gildon issued another collection under the title, The Histories And Novels of the Late Ingenious Mrs. Behn—following this two years later with, All The Histories And Novels Written By The Late Ingenious Mrs Behn, and two years after that with, Histories, Novels And Translations.

And this is where things get awkward. The last volume was sold under the assertion that its contents were, “The greatest part never before printed.” It certainly offered under Aphra Behn’s name various short works not published before…but where did they come from? Charles Gildon, who declared himself to be Behn’s “literary executor”, insisted that they had fallen to his lot after her death; but this hardly explains why he waited eleven years to publish them, particularly given Gildon’s perpetual hand-to-mouth existence and his frequent forays into debt.

Not surprisingly, debate about the origin of these works still continues. There seems to be strong scepticism about their authenticity amongst the experts on Aphra Behn, with most prepared to go no further than to suggest that Behn may have left certain writings unfinished at the time of her death, and that Gildon, or someone paid by him, completed them and published them under her name. Others reject altogether the assertion of her authorship.

And on this basis, I have finally decided not to include these posthumous publications in my consideration of the oeuvre of Aphra Behn…which means that with The Lucky Mistake, we have reached the end of our journey through her works of fiction.

Furthermore, we have also finished our examination of the fiction of 1689—a point I hoped to reach by the end of this year (though for once I had more sense than to jinx myself by saying so out loud). The beginning of 2015 will see us tackling the works of 1690: a year in which I would expect at least a measure of politics to re-emerge, given the events that culminated in the Battle of the Boyne; but which, at least on the basis of a superficial glance, seems to have been a period of consolidation for the English novel.

I’m likewise hoping (ever hopeful, me!) that 2015 will be a year of consolidation for this blog. I did try to get back on track recently with “Authors In Depth”, but ended up lengthening the list rather than making significant headway with our established writers; while “Reading Roulette” came to a halt when a certain book took some dogged tracking down. (It’s on its way now, though!)

Now, between those categories of reviewing, plus my examinations of the roots of the Gothic novel and early detective fiction, you might think I had quite enough to be going on with; yet as I sit here in the waning days of 2014, I find myself in anticipation of founding yet another category of reviews; even though I need more things to write about like I need…um…