Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A History of Pantomime

R.J. Broadbent - A History of Pantomime (1901)

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I've only read lightly about theatrical and acting history (aside from Elizabethan) but find it interesting because of how spotty and inadequate the records are, to say nothing of the changing terms that make comparisons tricky.  What would we think of David Garrick if we could see him today?  How exactly were classical Greek performances staged?  In any case this book traces pantomime from ancient origins (or at least Greek and Indian origins) up through Romans, mystery plays, the Italians, fairy tale versions and even its appearances in America.

I can find almost nothing about the author except he wrote a couple of other books including Annals of the Liverpool Stage.  This book is referenced in an odd mix of other works such as ones on Lewis Theobald, Busby Berkeley and religious performances.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Dreams from Beyond

Julie Novakova - Dreams from Beyond: Anthology of Czech Speculative Fiction (2016)

Direct link

Here's another book that's not public domain but is free to download.  SF from outside the Anglo-American tradition is slowly becoming more available in English translation and even reaching wider audiences.  (President Obama read Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem.)   I haven't read this one yet but it's loaded on my e-reader and looks promising.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My Maiden Effort

Gelett Burgess (ed) - My Maiden Effort: Being the Personal Confessions of Well-known American Authors as to Their Literary Beginnings (1921)

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The writer Gelett Burgess (for more info see earlier post) collected stories from 124 other writers about how they got their start.  Today something roughly like this appears every year or two but for all I know this was the first - it probably wasn't but just appears to be.

Like seeing older attempts at best-of or canonical lists part of the interest now is which writers are still known.  There are some but not many:  George Ade, Rex Beach, Robert Chambers, Edna Ferber, Hamlin Garland, Zane Grey, Sinclair Lewis, Ida Tarbell, Booth Tarkington, Owen Wister.  A few others such as Richard LeGallienne for specialized reasons.

And are the stories worth reading?  Well, I haven't gone cover to cover but checking several they're too often about juvenilia rather than any start to a more serious career (though not all - Tarbell wanted to be a biologist until discovering writing).  Still, I'd guess anybody who's bothered to read this far won't be too put off by that.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Celebrated Crimes

Alexandre Dumas - Celebrated Crimes (1840)

Archive.org direct link (volume 1)
Archive.org direct link (volume 2)
Archive.org direct link (volume 3)
Archive.org direct link (volume 4)
Archive.org direct link (volume 5)
Archive.org direct link (volume 6)
Archive.org direct link (volume 7)
Archive.org direct link (volume 8)

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Crime seems to be one of the few types of stories with a close to universal appeal.  To hit that market, struggling journalist Alexandre Dumas, just a few years away from The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, produced this compilation of crime stories.  It's not exactly what we would consider true crime today since it covers the Borgias, Mary Stuart and the Man in the Iron Mask.  Other topics are not familiar to English-speakers (or at least not to this English-speaker) - Marquise de Ganges, La Constantin, the Camisard revolt.  (Though the latter will be the subject of a future post.)

I've linked to an uncredited 1910 translation that claimed to be unexpurgated.  A previous translation in 1843 made the comment:

"In preparing for publication, in an English dress, the following work of one of the most popular French writers of the present day, the Translator has carefully removed from it several of the blemishes of the modern school of literature to which it belongs; levity of expression on serious subjects, indelicacy of language, and a desire to gratify the vulgar appetite for horrible and revolting detail."  (The semi-colon that should be a colon is in the original.)

In any case there doesn't appear to be any translation more recent than the 1910 one so enjoy all the indelicate language and revolting detail.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Guggenheim Museum collection

Guggenheim Museum collection

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The Guggenheim Museum has made a couple hundreds of its publications available for free download.  These aren't public domain as I usually post and admittedly aren't as effective as actual books (some are a bit cramped on a computer screen) but remember - "free".

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Glossary of Tudor and Stuart Words

Walter W. Skeat - A Glossary of Tudor and Stuart Words (1914)

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Shakespeare, it seems, is perpetually in need of glossing.  There's been a small but steady stream of books explaining his words and phrases, some detailed and scholarly, others brief and for student or general use.  This example was chosen not entirely at random but due to Skeat and the Clarendon Press who might perhaps add additional interest.

Walter Skeat (1834-1912) created one of the first major editions of Chaucer (largely the basis for the Kelmscott Chaucer) which along with the work of FJ Furnivall established both a scholarly groundwork and the more-or-less accepted canon.  (Is there a collection of Chaucer apocrypha?)  Born in London, Skeat became an Anglican deacon then math professor before falling to the siren lure of philology.  He edited several dictionaries and reference works along with editions of several early English texts.  (For a sampling see Specimens of English Literature.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Shropshire Word-Book

Georgina F. Jackson - Shropshire Word-Book (1879)

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Following the posts of dictionaries with a few related items.  This one is an example of the many regional dictionaries and glossaries that seemed to fascinate the British.  Or maybe the idea that this was primarily a British activity is just a sampling error but in any case there are a surprising number of these works.

Some examples from this book:

cratcher - a hearty eater

fallal - nonsense; jocoseness; exaggerated civility

gee-ho-plough - a plough drawn by two horses abreast

goster - swagger; vapouring talk; empty compliment

opple-gob - a dumpling made by enclosing an apple in a lump of dough, and boiling it

swilker - to splash about; to dash over, as of any liquid carried in an open vessel

Plus lots of terms related to cattle, mining, cooking, assorted plants and so on.

Georgina F. Jackson is better remembered today for Shropshire Folk-Lore (1883), with Charlotte Sophia Burne.  There are almost no biographic information available except that she seems to have died shortly before the folk lore book was published.  (See E. David Gregory's Victorian Songhunters, p379 forward.)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Burgess Unabridged

Gelett Burgess - Burgess Unabridged: A New Dictionary of Words You Have Always Needed (1914)

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The next (and last for this blog) in The Guardian's Top 10 dictionaries is this collection of invented words which seems a bit like cheating to me.  Sure it's in dictionary form but it's primarily a humor book and only one of the words passed into common usage - this is apparently the source for "blurb".  (I haven't checked the OED to verify.)

Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) was a Boston native and graduate of MIT who moved to San Francisco to teach at Berkeley.  He became a writer, mainly of humorous works but also including kids books, novels, short stories and the occasional political piece.  His poem "Purple Cow" is still in currency (or at least I learned it as a child so I'll just extrapolate from that to the entire country).

Friday, May 12, 2017

Passing English of the Victorian Era

James Redding Ware - Passing English of the Victorian Era (1909)

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The next in The Guardian's Top 10 Dictionaries is this collection of Victorian slang and fleetingly popular expressions, many I would guess of narrow usage.  There can't be many dictionaries that open with the stated hope that it's not too dull.

As always, examples from browsing:

"Absolutely True - Absolutely false, from the title of a book, the statements in which, of a ghostly character, were difficult of acceptation."

"Blue o'clock in the morning - Pre-dawn, when the black sky gives way to purple."

"Chuck a yannep - To throw a penny."  (Spell the last word backwards.)

"Farthing-faced chit - Small, mean-faced, as insignificant as a farthing."

"Long-tailed bear - One of the evasions of saying 'you lie'.  From the fact that bears have no tails."

"Runner - Technical name for dog-stealer."

"True inwardness - Reality. One of the principal shapes of literary jargon produced in the '90s.  Probably the only serious survival of the aesthetic craze of the '80s."

"Who took it out of you? - Meaning wholly unknown to people not absolutely of lower class."

James Redding Ware (1832-1909) was born in London and seems to have lived there his entire life.  Ware (the name is a pseudonym) published many detective novels, including what's believed to have been the first with a female detective, and the usual miscellany that indicates a working writer (journalism, plays, how-to books, and so on).