Monday, August 8, 2016

Rejected Addresses

Horace and James Smith - Rejected Addresses (1812) direct link 
Open Library main page direct link to American edition 

Probably the first book of parodies to become a popular success.  The inspiration was the re-opening after a fire of Drury Lane Theatre when a monetary award was offered for a ceremonial address.  Numerous submissions were turned down so the Smith brothers came up with the idea of writing other rejected addresses done in the style of famous poets such as Byron, Scott, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey and Moore.  It was a huge success, going through numerous editions very quickly.

(The genuine address was written by Byron as a last resort and not without some infighting that apparently diluted his work.  Details start at p166 of Life, Letters, and Journals of Lord Byron - "You will think there is no end to my villanous [sic] emendations."  and "You will find a sort of clap-trap laudatory couplet inserted for the quiet of the Committee.")

The linked edition includes a preface from two decades later and identifies the poets being parodied.  Even if you don't recognize the targeted poets the Smiths' poems still have good-natured humor:

Bloom, Theatre, bloom, in the roseate blushes
Of beauty illumed by a love-breathing smile!
And flourish, ye pillars, as green as the rushes
That pillow the nymphs of the Emerald Isle!

The "American" edition includes solo work by each brother including "Address to a Mummy", "Lachrymose Writers", "To a Log of Wood upon the Fire" and "Diamond Cut Diamond".  There's also a biographical memoir (their phrase) that covers their lives with the same wit.

For the curious, or more appropriately connoisseurs of bad verse, a collection of some of the Genuine Rejected Addresses was also published in 1812.  "Before a British Audience I appear -- / Then whence this feeling of unfounded fear?" runs one example.  (And if nothing else you may want to check out E.N. Bellchambers' submission starting on p68 - too long to quote but it invokes Bacchus and Melpomene (the Tragic Muse), the invasion of the Goths, Liberty and Melpomene's offspring being Shakespeare, includes long footnotes in French, tosses in Aeschylus and Britannia, and perhaps inevitably brings up the Phoenix at the end.)

A full biography of the brothers was published in 1899 by Arthur H. Beavan.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Illustrated British Ballads, Old and New

George Barnett Smith - Illustrated British Ballads, Old and New (1881) direct link 
Open Library main page

The title pretty much tells you what this book is about - it includes both modern (more or less) ballads from identifiable authors (Macaulay and Drayton for example) as well as collected folk material.  The book is contemporary with Child and there are a few overlaps though overall Smith isn't quite so grim or fantastic.  There are decent headnotes and the illustrations range from merely ornamental to scenes from the ballad.

George Barnett Smith (1841-1909) was a British writer who worked for the Globe and the Dictionary of National Biography among numerous others.  He published several books including popular biographies of Shelley, Hugo, Emperor William I and Gladstone.  He later took up engraving.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Wars of the Roses, 1377-1471

Robert Balmain Mowat - The Wars of the Roses, 1377-1471 (1914) direct link
Open Library main page

Discussion about Game of Thrones has brought up the Wars of the Roses as one of its obvious inspirations (well, actually inspiration for A Song of Ice and Fire) though it doesn't seem that many people bother even to look at the Wars entry on Wikipedia.  Here at Discoveries & Oddities we don't need no stinkin' Wikipedia - we have the largest library in history at our disposal.  Which is why I was a bit surprised at how few books about this subject have been scanned.  Not sure if that's because there actually aren't many public domain titles on this particular topic or if it's because the scanning so far has been mainly American libraries.

Oh, and some guy named Shakspere wrote about the Wars as well.

In any case this seemed the best choice from few options.  The positive side is that it seems quite readable and thorough.  The negative side, at least for people who just want an overview, is that it seems quite thorough.  (I particularly like that the relevant year is specified at the top of each page, something I often wish histories and biographies did.)  Still, it's shorter than the Alison Weir book that's probably what most people read today.

Robert Balmain Mowat (1883-1941) was a British historian who published on a variety of subjects including diplomacy, Napoleon, treaties, the idea of kingship, Rousseau and most periods of British history.  (His A History of the English-Speaking Peoples pre-dated Churchill's.)  His book that seemed to attract most attention from contemporaries was a biography of Lord Pauncefote, first British ambassador to the US.  Mowat attended Corpus Christi, taught at the University of Bristol and died in a wartime plane crash.  His son Charles Loch Mowat (1913-1970) was also a historian

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Greek Anthology

The Greek Anthology (edition of 1916) direct link (volume 1) direct link (volume 2) direct link (volume 3) direct link (volume 4) direct link (volume 5)
Open Library main page

Selections from the Greek Anthology (1895)

Anthologia Polyglotta (1849)

The Greek Anthology is not by any stretch a discovery or an oddity but I did recently learn that the century-old Loeb edition is still the closest to a full English translation so it seemed worth a post.  Apparently the original text is intact but a few of the erotic poems were translated only into Latin so it's not complete in English.  The Penguin collection from the Anthology has about a fifth of the total and seems to be the next largest.  (Most of my information comes from Gideon Nisbet's "Flowers in the Wilderness: Greek Epigram in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries" in the collection Expurgating the Classics.)

Of course there may be a reason that the many other translations are only selections.  As both Nisbet and Paton (the Loeb translator) point out, the anthology is an enormous assemblage of both sublime and routine in a sometimes opaque if not arbitrary organization.  In other words, not a page turner, at least in the full version.  But much of the material is certainly worthwhile, one reason there are so many selected editions.

For a shorter overview, I've included a link to Selections from the Greek Anthology, edited by Graham R. Towson (pen name of poet Rosamund Watson) with translations by Andrew Lang, Richard Garnett and others.  There's also a link to the curiosity Anthologia Polyglotta, which for each of the selected poems includes translations into various languages (usually Latin, Italian, German and English).