Saturday, 24 January 2015

A Typical Research Day

Although, for me, only one day each week is flagged as a research day—a day on which I am not expected to either teach or attend meetings—I do research at all times of the day and all days of the week. I expect my colleagues do the same. The advantage of a research day is that it does give me the opportunity to do things that require extended focus, or extended meandering. If I were a very disciplined and well-organised person, I would make use of this time to write article after article. And sometime I do get to do this, but more often than not I use my time to follow up on the interesting leads captured in files and folders that litter my computer desktop.

Thursday was typical of that second kind of day. Last week I happened upon a blog post (here) that alerted me to the fact that the University of Virginia Library has acquired a copy of the French translation of Ab.9.2 The Rash Resolve; Or, or the Untimely Discovery (1724): Emanuella, ou la découverte premature. Par Madame Élise Haywood (Paris, an IX [1800/1801]). I located only two copies of this book in 2004 (both in Europe), so it was a pleasure to add a third.

While updating the holdings listed in my Bibliography, I took the opportunity to look for more copies, which led me to a series of discoveries: the Bavarian State Library have scanned their copy of Emanuella and it is now on Google Books (here), so I added it to my list of Haywood texts online here and revised my entry in my Bibliography; I found two new listings for the translation in French literary journals, and was able to correct the date on the one I listed in 2004 (adding this and this, and correcting the details of this); and—via the latter—I found a (very short) review of the translation here), so I have posted the review and translation here and added it to my list of Haywood reviews here and in my revised Bibliography.

After all this updating I still haven't got around to mentioning what first struck me about the University of Virginia copy of Emanuella: it contains the bookplates of Paul Lacroix (1806–84) the French author and journalist (famous enough to have his own Wikipedia page here) and André Breton (1896-1966), the founder of Surrealism (also on Wikipedia here). As David Whitesell points out in his blog entry, it is fitting that Salvador Dalí designed Breton’s "arresting" bookplate.

The University of Virginia copy was (owned and) donated by the renowned "angliciste," Professor Maurice Lévy (1929-2012; also on Wikipedia here), author of, among other things, Le Roman “Gothique” Anglais, 1764–1824 (PhD. thesis, 1968), Roman et société en Angleterre au XVIIIe siècle (1978) and some important articles on Mathhew Lewis. A pencil notation is visible on the photo of the endpaper posted by Whitesell, which suggests Levy paid one thousand francs (ca. A$220) for it—though when he did so is not clear.

The Levy collection is relatively small, but choice. As the collector himself explains (here), a "distinctive feature" of the French editions of (British) gothic novels—a feature "not shared by corresponding English volumes"—is that they are "individually illustrated with frontispieces by (most of them) reputed engravers." Nicole Bouché explains that "almost all" of Levy's late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century volumes are "in their original, often quite striking French bindings." That is, these French gothic novels are gorgeous: beautifully illustrated, printed and bound.

Anyone, like me, who has gone looking for a fetching illustration to use in a lecture on a gothic novel—such as Vathek, The Castle of Otranto, The Monk or Zofloya—will recognise the truth of Levy's observation: if you can't find a French edition, you may as well give up! My lectures on the gothic novel in my units "The Dark Hero" and "The Shadow of Reason" and "Reading the Past" are a hymn in praise of French engravers.

Until I read the posts by Whitesell and Bouché about the Levy collection, I had never heard of Levy's Images du roman noir (Paris: Éric Losfeld, 1973)—but as soon as I did, I knew I needed a copy, so I ordered one. (There appears to be only one copy in any library in Australia!) Nor was I aware of CERLI (the "Centre d'Études et de Recherches sur les Littératures de l'Imaginaire" [Centre for Studies and Research on the Literature of the Imagination (here)] until I read the Wikipedia entry (it is not mentioned in the Whitesell and Bouché posts), but I quickly found CERLI online, went straight to the bibliography page and was greeted by some very welcome headings: Fantastique; Littérature gothique; Vampires; Merveilleux; Fantasy; Science-fiction …

This site will going straight into my reader for the Dark Hero. Actually, I will have to do it next week now. Until then, I will just leave a screen-cap of the site on my desktop to remind me ...

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