Sunday, 17 November 2019

Lillian and I, Reading

This is another photo that breaks my collecting rules, since it features two women reading magazines, rather than books. I bought it because the age and setting of the photo are significant.

The clothing (particularly the high-neck, boned collars) and the hairstyle (a casual and simplified Gibson Girl pompadour) both suggest a date of ca. 1900–1910—which is relatively early for a photograph to be taken is a domestic setting, outside of a studio.

It is likely that the photo was staged, but (like this one) it is possible that the photographer was attempting to capture a typical setting for reading and it is highly likely that the reading material itself was genuine. (Unfortunately, as with the same photo, while it may be possible to identify the particular issue of the magazine below, I have not been able to identify it, and so the date remains a guess.)

By contrast, studio photos almost always appear to be taken with prop-books, books that belonged to the photographer and that are not actually being "read" by the subject of the photos in any meaningful way. (And, being props, it is likely that any magazine used in a studio photograph was as out of date as those found in waiting rooms today, and so they are unreliable guides to dating.)

On the verso of the photograph the two women are identified as "Lillian and I"—it is not clear if Lillian is the woman on the left, or if this is just the conventional grammatical form for the two women. The vendor was from from Hamilton, Ohio, and it seems likely that the photo was taken somewhere nearby.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Lucy Stout, reading in a hammock

In this ca. 1915 black and white Real-Photo Postcard above, a young American woman is reclining on her side, in a beautiful floral hammock. The subject of the photo is identified on the verso as Lucy Stout.

Lucy has been interrupted—genuinely, it seems—while reading. Rather than resting her hand on a book, posing behind a pile of books, or an open book, she holds the book in her hand purposefully: marking her spot with the index finger and thumb of her left hand, while turning pages with her right.

Note that, unlike the reader of the Portland Sunday Telegram in this photo, she has not been interrupted reading the very first page of her book, she is nearly finished it.

The ARTURA stamp box on the verso dates this postcard to 1908–24. The high-neck dress, simple hair-style, and long hair of our reader all point to a date early in this range. However, the vendor was in Shell Knob, which is in the Ozark Mountains in Missouri; the background to the photo looks a lot like some of the scenes Photos of Shell Knob Trails, so it may be that Lucy was a local, or was visiting a local family. If so, this simple and conservative style may not offer any further hints to the dating the photo.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Frequency of Posting

For a variety of reasons it was unusually difficult for me to regularly post new material on this blog throughout much of 2018 and the first half of 2019, and so I have tried to post much more regularly since July of this year. Although new posts were not appearing, I consistently maintained a number of important posts that aggregate information and links to texts etc. But, when new posts are not being added, it does give the blog an abandoned look, and both posts and the blog as a whole become increasingly invisible online.

November is always a particularly busy time for me at Monash, and so it is not terribly surprising that I only managed a single post last month—but it was still pretty annoying, since I had consistently managed three per month since July, and was hoping to maintain that rate until the end of the year at least. In reality, I have never been as consistent as I had been hoping—regularly producing the same number of posts month after month—and it (belatedly, I guess) occurred to wonder just how impossible a task I had set myself to be this consistent. That is, I wondered whether there was a pattern to my posting that reflected how busy I am at different times of the year.

Above is the result of a bit of cut-and-paste and Excel magic: a chart of the frequency of posts, per month, for the eleven years from June 2009 (when I started this blog) to June 2019. The numbers across the bottom are months, from January (1) to December (12). This frequency distribution of posts-per-month is a pretty good match for how busy I am at work—with one post per month on average in May (total of 11) compared to roughly three posts in July (total of 33).

As you can see here, for students the two teaching semesters run from March to May and August to October; but results are not finalised until the end of the exam period and so, for staff, the two teaching semesters run from March to June and August to November. The weeks prior to semester starting are a reasonably busy time for teaching preparation too and, for me, at the start of the year in particular, since I tend to do more teaching in semester one than in semester two (the split is often two-thirds, one-third, from semester one to semester two). The little bumps in late March and October are probably the mid-semester breaks.

And so, what you see above is a reflection of the constant battle between teaching and everything else I do as an academic. I could probably do a similar chart of when I submit essays for publication, and when I get work done in the garden at home, but I suspect the results would be much the same. The conclusion I draw from this is that I shouldn't be surprised when I fail to be absolutely consistent with my posts on this blog and, perhaps, it is a bit foolish to even try to be.

Reading the Portland Sunday Telegram, 1940s

In this late 1940s photograph (another Real-Photo Postcard), a young woman in a floral dress, sitting on a bed in a cabin, is reading the Portland Sunday Telegram.

In my collecting, I have generally tried to avoid images of people reading newspapers, magazines, or browsing photographs, in favour of people reading books; and I have preferred candid or domestic photos to posed or studio photographs. While this image may be staged (the woman is focused on only the first page of the Portland Sunday Telegram, suggesting that the photographer has not caught her deeply engaged in sustained, immersive reading) the setting in emphatically domestic, and it is possible—likely, in fact—that the photographer was attempting to capture a typical instance of sustained, immersive reading, in a familiar or common location for such reading.

The appeal of this image depends very much on this genuine-staged quality, but it is also beautifully framed and illuminated, and the setting is appealingly simple and rustic. Light streams in from the right; our central figure holds a brightly-illuminated newspaper in her hands, sitting at an angle on the bed to ensure the full power of the sun falls on the page in front of her. To the left, with his (?) back to the photographer, sits another reader (?)—this one at a table. The presence of a second person, not participating in the process of being photographed, does make the photograph seem more natural or, at least, heightens the impression of this being highly typical, if not entirely unstaged.

Regarding the dating of the photograph: there is an EKC logo in a dotted-line stamp box on the version, the EKC logo intersecting the top of the stamp box, and the words “EKC Place Stamp Here” in the middle. Apparently EKC published postcards between 1939 to 1950 (but only cards from 1938–45 appear in the long list here. It is likely that a close examination of all issues of Portland Sunday Telegram from this period would reveal the exact issue our reader is holding, and so the likely date of the photograph—which would be nice. Unfortunately, I don't have access to the newspapers, or the time to do the searching.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

A Dutch Review of Idalia (1723)

The following review of Idalie, of De ongelukkige minnares (1803), a Dutch translation of the 1770 French translation of Idalia: Or, The Unfortunate Mistress (1723), appeared in Vaderlandsche letteroefeningen, No.15 (1804): 656–57 (online here; for information on this newly-discovered translation, see my earlier post here; for a complete list of reviews of Eliza Haywood's works—including works in translation—see here).

As far as I can tell from my crude translation below, the reviewer was not terribly impressed with the plot, the protagonist, or the moral of the story, but the characterisation of Idalia (a "coquettish, manly girl"), plot outline ("madly in love, carelessly careless, raped, seduced, and complicated in many sadnesses") the criticisms offered ("such girls must be locked up"!) do suggest why a modern reader might enjoy the book a bit more than our 1803 reviewer did!

Hopefully, someone fluent in Dutch, French and English will sit down one day and compare the three texts, and let us know how much the plot has been changed from English to French and French to Dutch. Our reviewer does not really say enough about the plot to indicate whether it has been changed radically, but in the case of The Fortunate Foundlings, which was translated from English to French and then from French back into English, the ending was changed completely each time, giving three quite different plots, to say nothing of the characterisation etc.

* * * * *

Idalie, of de Ongelukkige Minnares. Naar het Fransch. Met Plaaten. Te Amsterdam, by G. Roos. In gr. 8vo. 300 bl.

Een Boek, waar by wy juist driemaal zyn ingesluimerd; eindelyk zyn wy het toch doorgeworfteld, en weten nu de geschiedenis van de ongelukkige Minnares en nog van ene Barbarysche Princesse, maar werden er noch wyzer, noch beter door, en de lezing gaf ons zelfs geen enkel aangenaam ogenblik. Wy kennen nu toch Idalie; zodanige meisjes moest men opsluiten, indien namentlyk hare deugd niet beter bevestigd is, dan die van dit coquette, manzieke meisje, niemand toch kon haar aanzien, of hy werd ogenbliklyk op haar verliefd, en vergat ook aanstonds alle zyne verbintenissen en betrekkingen. Wy zien haar hier, in mannen en vrouwen gewaad, te water en te land, mal verliefd, voorbeeldloos onvoorzichtig, verkracht, verleid, en in velerleije verdrietlykheden ingewikkeld. Het verhaal is smaakloos, en styl en taal zyn, in deze overzetting althands, ellendig genoeg. Eindelyk steekt zy zich zelve dood, en, hoezeer wy den zelfmoord wraken, was ons dit nu toch aangenaam, omdat wy nu niets meer van haar horen zullen. De Voorredenaar meent, dat, daar het Leezen van Romanicke geschriften t hands zo zeer als ooit, in den smaak der jonge lieden valt, men niet genoegzaam kan zorgen dat zy dezen kunnen smaak aan zulke geschriften kunnen voldoen, waarin niets schadelyks voor de goede zeden is aan te treffen; en daarom heeft hy dan voor de vertaling uit het Fransch van deze oorspronglyk Engelsche Roman gezorgd. Wie kan berekenen, welk een aantal soortgelyke Geschriften deze zyne zorgvuldigheid ons in het vervolg nog ter beöordeling bezorgen zal? Dat de man zich toch minder met onnodige zorgen mogt pynigen!

[Idalie, or the Unfortunate Lover. From the French. With plates. At Amsterdam, by G. Roos. In gr. 8vo. 300 bl.

A Book, whereby we have justly snoozed three times; I finally got through it, and now I know the history of the Unfortunate Lover and one Barbary Princess, but they [the characters] didn’t get any wiser or better, and the reading didn’t even give us a single pleasant moment. We now know
Idalia; such girls must be locked up, if her virtue is not better confirmed than that of this coquettish, manly girl; no one could look at her, or he fell in love with her, and soon forgot all his commitments and relationships. We see her here, in men’s and women’s robes, on water and on land, madly in love, carelessly careless, raped, seduced, and complicated in many sadnesses. The story is tasteless, and style and language are, in this translation, miserable enough. Finally she stabs herself to death, and—however much we disapprove of suicide—this was now pleasant to us, because we will not hear from her anymore. The Preface-writer believes that since the Reading of Novel writings is as much as ever in the taste of the young people, one cannot sufficiently ensure that they can taste such writings in which there is nothing harmful to good morals can be found; and therefore he arranged for the translation from French of this originally-English novel. Who can calculate, what number of similar writings this care will still provide us with in the future? That a man may be less concerned about unnecessary worries!

[Updated 7 November 2019]