Wednesday, February 27, 2013

83. The Mark Samuels Lasner Collection

The Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library, occupies a large reading room and two offices in a quiet corner of the Morris Library. (No, not William Morris.) The collection is associated with the Special Collections Department, and focuses on British literature and art of the period 1850 to 1900, with an emphasis on the Pre-Raphaelites and on the writers and illustrators of the 1890s. Its holdings comprise 9,000 first and other editions, including signed and association copies, manuscripts, letters, works on paper and ephemera. The collection is particularly strong in Aubrey Beardsley and Max Beerbohm material.
Part of the Michael Field books in the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library, 2013
Ricketts and Shannon are well represented, for example by a series of lithographs, and a few dedication copies of Vale Press books. The Michael Field works include, of course, copies of the four plays that Ricketts published at his private press, but the collection can also boast of rarer books, such as the plays that Michael Field published anonymously, and partly posthumously, between 1905 and 1918, and for which Ricketts provided a vignette: Borgia, Queen Mariamne, Deirdre, and others.

The Life of Benvenuto Cellini (two volumes, Vale Press, 1900) [Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library]
The two-volume edition of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini was published by the Vale Press in 1900. Ricketts dedicated a copy to his friend Cecil Lewis in July 1922: 'To C. Lewis from his Friend C Ricketts'. 
Charles Ricketts, 'The Moon-Horned Io', drawing for Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx (Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library)
One of the treasures that I had the opportunity to study during my visit to Delaware was a drawing for Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx (1894), 'The Moon-Horned Io'. On the same table I had a copy of the book, along with a copy of de deluxe edition, of which only 25 copies have been printed. It shows how rich this collection is. 

Mark Samuels Lasner stimulates the use of his collection - at the time of my visit many Pre-Raphaelite items were on loan to the exhibition in the National Gallery of Art in Washington - and he, and his assistent Ashley Rye, are welcoming, hospitable, and helpful. Access to the collection is available by appointment. Recommended.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

82. A visit to Delaware

Two weeks ago I travelled to New York for a meeting in preparation of an exhibition. Before my journey would bring me to San Francisco, I undertook a one-day trip to the University of Delaware in Newark (DE), where a collection of literature from 1850 to 1900 has its own rooms. The Mark Samuels Lasner Collection is well known through catalogues and exhibitions, and is particularly strong in Beardsley and Beerbohm material, however, Mark Samuels Lasner also procured exceptional items by Charles Ricketts and the Vale Press.

Mark Samuels Lasner, holding a dedication copy of The Parables from the Gospels, and the author of this blog, at the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware, 8 February 2013
Among his many treasures is a copy of the Vale Press edition of The Parables from the Gospels (1903) with two handwritten dedications by Ricketts to Thomas Sturge Moore. There is also the printed dedication (p. [ii]): 'Affectionately dedicated to T.S.M. by his old friend C.S.R.'. The first handwritten dedication is a long one: 'To T.S. Moore from C. Ricketts after ten years, since the publication of Daphnis & Chloe, I know of no one else to whom I would have the same pleasure in dedicating my work. CR'. 

Charles Ricketts, dedication to T.S. Moore, in The Parables from the Gospels (The Mark Samuels Lasner Collection Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library)
When he had finished this dedication Ricketts must have seen that he held the book upside down and that the dedication had ended up on the inner side of the back cover. He decided to write a second dedication on the fly-leaf in the front of the book.

Charles Ricketts, dedication to T.S. Moore, in The Parables from the Gospels (The Mark Samuels Lasner Collection,  on loan to the University of Delaware Library)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

81. John Gray in Holland

The first time that the name of Charles Shannon was mentioned in Holland coincided with the first appearance of the name of John Gray in a Dutch newspaper. See my earlier blogs on an article from the Dagblad that was later published in the Java-Bode (7 May 1891). The report of the performance of Ibsen's Ghosts in London on 13 March 1891 not only mentioned Shannon as a member of the Independent Theatre Society, but also noted that Oscar Wilde had come to see the play, and his name was followed immediately by that of John Gray, who was called 'the new poet'. 

John Gray, c. 1892
To call him a poet was rather premature. By March 1891 John Gray had published a critical piece, 'Les Goncourt', and a fairy tale, 'The great worm', both in the first issue of Ricketts's and Shannon's magazine The Dial (August 1889). An obituary of Albert Dubois-Pillet was published in The Academy of September 1890, and The Artist and Journal of Home Culture of August 1890 had published a 'Sonnet', a translation from Paul Verlaine. One of Gray's own poems had been published with a drawing by Ricketts in Black and White, 28 February 1891, and some more were to follow in the second issue of The Dial in February 1892. A 'new' poet, indeed.

Meanwhile Gray had sent Wilde a handwritten poem for what was to become his famous book of poems Silverpoints (1893), and he had been reciting his poetry to the Rhymers' Club in January 1891. He befriended the poets Lionel Johnson and Ernest Dowson, and by the autumn of 1891 he also knew Alexander Teixeira de Mattos. 'Tex', as his friends called him, was probably the writer of the article about the first performance of Ghosts. Gray lived at the Temple, and since April 1891 he rented rooms at No 3, Plowden Buildings, where George Moore - also mentioned in the article! - Arthur Symons and Tex lived on the same floor.

Binding by Phoenix Bindery for Paul van Capelleveen, Dutch silverpoints (2007)
Why would the author of an article for a Dutch newspaper mention Gray's name, apart from friendship? It is very likely that Teixeira de Mattos had inspired Gray to write to the editor of a Dutch magazine, De Nieuwe Gids ('The New Guide') in January 1891, in an attempt to get his poems accepted for publication. Nothing came of it. I published Gray's letters to the Dutch writer Frederik van Eeden in Dutch Silverpoints. John Gray's Struggle for Fame in Holland. This book was beautifully produced by Hans van Eijk on his private Bonnefant Press in 2007. As some copies are still for sale, I will not quote these letters here, but refer you to the Bonnefant Press website for your order, which will be patiently awaited.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

80. On the Dutch reception of Pre-Raphaelitism

On 24 January, Anne van Buul (1983) got her PhD on a study about the Dutch reception of Pre-Raphaelitism, In vreemde grond geworteld. Prerafaëlitisme in de Nederlandse literatuur en beeldende kunst (1855-1910). A short summary is given on the website of the Groningen University:

In 1848, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded by a group of young English artists and writers. Together, they aimed to renew the arts. At the end of the nineteenth century, Pre-Raphaelitism grew into a broad cultural movement. The term 'Pre-Raphaelite' no longer only referred to works of the members of the Brotherhood, but also to other modern English literature, visual and decorative art from the period between 1848 and 1900. This amalgam of English literature and art has had a great impact in The Netherlands.

Cover for Anne van Buul, In vreemde grond geworteld (2013)
The first part of Van Buul's study describes four phases in the Dutch reception of Pre-Raphaelitism. First, from 1855 onwards, Pre-Raphaelitism became a topic of conversation in the art world. Then, in the 1880s, Pre-Raphaelite literature began to play a role in the works and poetics of the poets of the Eighties Movement. In the 1890s, Pre-Raphaelite decorative art came to be a shining example for Dutch community artists. After 1900 the reception finally became less positive and the interest in Pre-Raphaelitism slowly decreased.

The reception-historical overview is followed by five chapters that zoom in on five important Dutch recipients: the writers Frederik van Eeden, Edward B. Koster and P.C. Boutens, and the artists Antoon Derkinderen and Jan Toorop. These chapters extensively describe their dealing with Pre-Raphaelitism in the form of critical reception, creative reception and translation. Together, the chronological overview and the case studies show how Pre-Raphaelitism was transferred to and integrated in Dutch culture during the fin de siècle.

Although the book is not about Ricketts and Shannon, Ricketts is mentioned on 32 pages, while Shannon's name appears on 20.