Saturday 30 November 2019

1940s Sweater Girl, Reading

This is a WW2 period, candid photograph of a young woman reading. She is reclining on a art deco couch, in front of a bookcase, with a window behind her. Our reader has shifted to her left shoulder forward, and her right shoulder back, so that the light streams in over her right shoulder, illuminating the pages in front of her. Her eyes are fixed on the lower, left-hand page of the book she is reading.

The verso is stamped Velox, a common Kodak brand in the 1940s–50s according to David Rudd Cycleback's Photograph Identification Guide. The clothes that our sweater-girl reader is wearing are consistent with late War-period restrictions: a drab skirt with a hemline just below the knee, and only a few pleats (as described here), with a short, flat knit, light-weight sweater blouse (here).

As Debbie, The Vintage Dancer explains: "The term sweater girl started in the 1940s with movie star icon Lana Turner. She, and other young women, wearing snug fitting sweater tops were seen as both innocent and sexy. The modest coverage of the sweater said 'I am a good girl' while the two sizes too small fit said 'I have breasts!'" While to "be so flaunting with a woman’s natural assents was taboo in good company," even a more modest, but still snug fit (as here) "emphasized the ideal ’40s torso which was a thin waist, full shoulders and soft, natural chest."

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]

Wednesday 6 November 2019

A Dutch translation of Idalia

Idalia: Or, The Unfortunate Mistress (1723) was one of Eliza Haywood's earliest works, but it now appears that it was the last of her works to be translated, at least until interest in her works revived in the 1970s and 80s.

First translated into French in 1770 under the title Idalie ou l’Amante Infortunée, then translated into German in 1772 under the title Idalie, die unglückliche Liebhaberinn, it now appears that Idalia was translated into Dutch in 1803 under the title Idalie, of De ongelukkige minnares. (The latest translation previously known to me was the translation of Ab.9 The Rash Resolve, which appeared as Emanuella: ou la Découverte prématurée late in 1800.)

This Dutch translation of Idalia does not appear in my Bibliography of Eliza Haywood (2004), and I owe my discovery of it to a query I received from a Dutch PhD student only last week. Having done a little research, I have now compiled a new entry for the translation in my revised manuscript Bibliography under the code Ab.6.2A.

Ab.6.2A Idalie, of De ongelukkige minnares is now the fourth Dutch translation of a work by Haywood of which I am aware, and the second that I have discovered since the publication of my Bibliography fifteen years ago. (The other being Ab.54.2 De Anti-Pamela (1743), a Dutch translation of Haywood's Anti-Pamela.)

Like De Anti-Pamela, and both of the Dutch translations that I previously described in my Bibliography, a copy of Idalie, of De ongelukkige minnares is on Google Books, which has helped me quickly compile information about it. (See here for a constantly-updated list of links to original editions and edited texts of works by Haywood, including all the Dutch translations mentioned here.)

As you can see from the pictures posted here, Idalie, of De ongelukkige minnares was translated from the French ("Naar het Fransch"), does not identify Haywood as the author, is charmingly illustrated, and, if you follow this link to the text, you will also see that it contains a brief Preface (text and crude translation below). I have also found a review of the translation, which I will post separately, and add a link here in my catalogue of reviews of Haywood's works.

* * * * *


Het leezen van Romanieke geschriften thands, zo zeer als ooit, in den smaak der jonge lieden vallende, kan men niet genoegzaam zorgen dat zij dezen hunnen smaak aan zulke geschriften kunnen voldoen, waar in niets schadelijks voor de goede zeden is aantetreffen. ’Er zijn zeekerlijk reeds veelen en uitmuntenden van die soort in onze taale voorhanden; echter daar men gestadig naar iets nieuws tracht, en in diergelijke geschriften inzonderheid het nieuwe, altijd eenige aangenaamheid aan zig [sic, for zigt?] heeft, hebben wij gemeend deze oirspronglijk Engelsche Roman onze jonge Leezeren en Leezerensen niet te moeten onthouden, daar zij in dezelven den droevigen rampspoed ontwaaren, waarin de ongelukkige, en, door het noodlot vervolgde Liefde, gewikkeld kon worden, teneinde zij zo veel mogelijk is, behoedzaam tegen dezelve gemaakt worden, en het zoet dat dikwijls in schijn in de eerste beginselen der Liefde gelegen schijnt, leeren wantrouwen en altijd op de gevolgen en het einde van alle hunne daden het oog blijven vestigen. Zo de rampspoedige minnarij van deze Idalie daar toe eenigzins kan bijdraagen, zal ons oogmerk met de vertaaling volledig bereikt zijn.


The Reading of Novel writings nowadays is, as much as ever, in the taste of young people, [so] one cannot sufficiently ensure that they can satisfy their taste with such writings, where nothing harmful to good morals can be found. There are already many and excellent [novels] of this kind in our language; however, since something new is steadily sought, and in such writings, in particular the new, always some pleasantness has come to mind, we have thought that we should not withhold this original English novel from our young Readers and Reading people, since they perceive in them the sad calamity, in which unfortunate, and persecuted Heart, could be wrapped in order to make it, as much as possible, cautious against Love, and the sweetness that often appears to appear in the first principles of Love, teaches distrust and always on the consequences and end of all their deeds continue to pay attention. If the calamitous lover of this Idalie can contribute to that in any way, our intention with the translation will be fully achieved.]

Books, Consolation, Contemplation

In this ca.1910 tinted photograph (a Real-Photo Postcard), a French woman in conservative dress (probably in mourning dress), sits on a wooden chair, holding a book.

Probably due to entirely-accidental over-exposure, the book appears as a literal tabula rasa (a clean slate), but the mourning dress and contemplative pose of the sitter (a distant look, two fingers of the right hand gently resting on her jaw) suggest a work of religious consolation and piety.

We are to imagine that our sitter is meditating on the profound words she has been reading, our imagination being entirely liberated by the lack of any visible text above, on the theme of memento mori or sic transit gloria mundi (the inevitability of death, or the passing glory of the world in general).

The verso of the card is stamped “Charles Fiérens Rue Meyerbeer, 15, Roubaix” (i.e., 15 Rue Meyerbeer, Roubaix, France). Nothing seems to be known about Fiérens (sic transit Fiérens!), but Roubaix is a city in northern France, on the boarder of France-Belgium.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Mary Roesler, not really reading

In the rather odd image below, from the first decade of the twentieth century, a very photogenic Mary Roesler is posing with a book. It would obviously be a misrepresentation to say that this is a photograph of "Ms Roesler reading"—unless she had the rather extraordinary ability to read using her right ear. Or out of the corner of her eye, I guess.

The above photo is from a series of photographic postcards of our model tightly wrapped in gauze holding a flower, or rather more loosely draped in gauze holding a bunch of flowers, lying on her belly, or her back (ditto), sitting on a couch looking at herself in a hand mirror, playing a Pandura (classical lute-like instrument), awkwardly posing with a classical urn, standing while playing an aulos (twin pipes), facing left or right (ditto), sniffing a glass of wine. I.e., holding herself in a variety of poses, all of which are designed to show of her trim figure and a little bit of skin, mostly that on her lovely shoulders.

Although the postcard is, in many ways, quite typical, in attempting to show off an attractive model to advantage, using a book merely as a prop. It is somewhat unusual, in that, this is not plausibly a "reading pose." And, for that reason, it is rather more revealing than Ms Roesler's attire.

In this photo, it is obvious that the book in her right hand is a prop. We are not expected to imagine that Ms Roesler has been interrupted while reading, sprawled on her side on a cloth-covered lump, with one arm held high in the air, holding a book with the same refined delicacy as we'd expect her to hold a tea-cup, with pinky extended.

I explored this subject in some depth quite some time ago now (here), explaining that I had been collecting vintage images of women reading since about 2007, and that I would start to regularly post these images on my blog with comments, or without.

I have not, however, actually posted many of the two-hundred or so images I have been collecting, partly because my scanner became unusable when I upgraded my computer and partly because the image host I was using deleted all my images. Today's post is an attempt to re-start this project and to introduce the images that (I hope) will become a regular feature, now that I have access to a scanner once again.