Harper’s Monthly & The Self-Made Man – Still Learning…

October 12, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

By natural inclination, I spend a fair amount of my spare time delving into the “women’s publications” within the Rare & Early Newspapers collection.  Consequently, the title of the Editor’s Table of an 19th century issue of Harper’s New Monthly dragged me in, and in the spirit of fair play I decided to dissect and disseminate the contents, using the writer’s three questions.

Who is the Self-Made Man?  In the author’s view, this is not the man who achieved much because of education, as education is an outside influence that detracts credit from the man.  However, a self-made man can be educated.  The one who is not educated, but rises to success in spite of the lack, is not necessarily self-made, as success does not equal the morality required in a self-made man.

What is the Self-Made Man?  Again, this is not the one who commits good deeds, although a self-made man will be characterized by them.  “The difference between the two characters is a moral one.  It springs from the presence or absence of the humanitarian spirit.  It is all the difference between the pure love of truth and the love of opinion.”

What is his true position for good or for evil among the powers of the age?  Finally, all the negatives are set aside and the author clearly promotes a man who is driven to find truth — not in new discoveries or insights, but in the wisdom of the ages that has been tested by time, and continues to be trustworthy.  Ultimately, the author highly esteems the members of the Protestant Reformation, and the things they accomplished.  “It was an age where old truths were brought to light and re-established as old truths.  It was a most serious age; it was a modest age; and in all these respects, especially in the latter, it differed widely from our own.”

The final condemnation of the modern era, male and female, is contained in the author’s closing remarks:

All the writings of every kind during that remarkable period, and, we may even say, the century that followed it, would not present so much of this frothy self-laudation, as may be heard in one Hope Chapel meeting of ‘strong-minded women’ and ‘self made’ men.

The Gentleman’s Magazine & Poetry… Still learning…

September 28, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

Nestled among the prosaic commodity prices, legal decisions, and historical chronicles that regularly appear in an issue of Gentleman’s Magazine is a section that seems surprising to me — “Select Poetry, ancient and modern.”  In some ways, this is a reminder that times certainly have changed, and things are not as they always were.  A current publication for the leaders of our era, such as Forbes or Bloomberg or The Wall Street Journal would not contain poetry, unless a noteworthy personage deviated from business acquisition long enough to write, or possibly promote a struggling artist in the name of philanthropy, etc.

But, once upon a time, the well-educated person was learned in literary as well as economic matters.  As the column title hints, the classical emphasis on education set a background that persisted into all arenas of life.  With this in mind, I delved into the section and became even further struck by the subject matter of my sampling in meter and rhyme.  The closing refrain to each stanza concludes that nothing in life matters without….love.

But weak is our vaunt

While something we want,

More sweet than the pleasure that Prospects can give.

Come, smile, damsels of Cardigan,

Love can alone make it blissful to live.

The author of this particular poem only provided his (presumably) initials to this listing of Prospects, Nectar, Odours, Music, Friendship, Learning, Riches and Honour.  All, the poet asserts, are not sufficient to bring bliss to life — only love can do that.  The musings that follow include “Ode to a Goldfinch”, “An Astronomical Thought” and “A Translation of the Epitaph”.  Put together, they summarize the principle concerns of the time period — the natural and known world, the world yet to be discovered, happiness within all experiences, and the context provided by knowledge of eventual death.

That is, indeed, a selection of ancient and modern — even the modern of today.

The Woman’s Journal & Literary Notices… I’m Still Learning…

September 11, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

The Woman’s Journal (1872 and more), out of Boston, is the publication I am happiest to pull for any reason.  It is well-organized, with clear headings  and a clean layout.  If I have research to do, I save it for last as I am frequently inclined to ramble through the columns, and lose track of time.  With that said, it’s a splendid thing to be assigned an opportunity to focus on this paper.  Each instance of opening it brings me to a new regular feature, and this one brought me to the Literary Notices where I discovered a special treat.

In the first place, the professional tone and straightforward language convey an instant sense of intelligent discussion.  This is serious scholarship being presented.  The selections that follow only serve to deepen that impression, as listed here:

The Sphinx’s Children and Other People’sReason and Revelation Hand in HandA Study of DanteA Tale of a Lonely ParishTokologyA Book for Every WomanEvolution of To-Day

Each title precedes a 200-word thoughtful review, with summary and critique included.  The style is witty and educated, and I was wondering which of these might still be available –as they were so very interesting– when I spotted a last review occupying five times as much space as any of the others.  To my delight, it was headed as follows:

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:  With Extracts from His Journals and Correspondence.  Edited by Samuel Longfellow

It’s a great thing to be able to read someone else’s evaluation of a work with which you are yourself familiar, most particularly if their review was written 134 years ago.  There is much to recognize and much to learn in the details of this piece.  Interestingly, I looked up the author’s name and found it to be the only one of the editorial and contributor staff to be listed by initials, rather than first name.  Further research showed that H.B. Blackwell was really “Henry Brown Blackwell” and the only male member of the staff.  The entire review closes with the “last words he [Wordsworth] ever wrote were these:

O Bells of San Blas, in vain,

Ye call back the past again;

The past is deaf to your prayer;

Out of the shadows of night

The world rolls into the light;

It is daybreak everywhere.

The very last interesting bit in this excursion of mine is an item in the adjacent Gossip and Gleanings column which reads, “Rev. Samuel Longfellow has the gratification knowing that the 4,000 copies of his brother’s life composing the first edition, are all sold.”

Still Learning… Scientific American & Lupines…

September 4, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

We continue the “Still Learning” series by our former office manager, Stephanie, who relocated to another sate:

Lovers of children’s literature know the book Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, the sweet tale of a little woman who brought the bloom of lupine to the coast of Maine.  It was an act that flowed from a desire to be content in her circumstances, and even make a masterpiece of her life.  Cooney’s artwork is memorable, as is the lesson she -illustrates,  so the word “lupine” caught my eye as I skimmed through a The Scientific American issue of the late 1800’s.

I have been immediately aware of the inventions featured in this publication, without taking in the additional material in these journals.  Directly following an expected “The Properties of Iron and its Resistance to Projectiles at High Velocities” came the surprising, “Character, Cultivation and Use of the Lupine.”  The full page report begins, “We continue this week our valuable extracts from the agricultural office of the Patent Office Report for 1861 by publishing in full the article on the Lupine, by Louis Schade, of Washington, D.C. –“, exciting my interest with the promise of other content in preceding issues.

This one is so well-written that I, science and math challenged as I am, followed the explanation and proposal.  It seems Mr. Schade studied the extensive use of these plants in European countries, particularly Germany and Prussia, where they served the dual purpose of providing cattle fodder as well as fertilizing the ground.  It seems the lupine creates more energy than usual in its absorption of soil minerals, and it “dissolves the the chemical constituents of minerals by the evaporation of its root, which is impossible for other plants,” which in turn enriches the soil.  Within two years the physical change can even be seen in the changed color of the land.

The point of this piece is a plea that farmers adopt this crop as an economic solution to the very real challenge of favorable soil.  Species of lupine are compared and rated/recommended, and sowing methods and seasons are meticulously described.  I appreciate a bit more how vital this publication was to the successful establishment of the strong agricultural system we have today.  And I am looking forward to a little more digging through the botanical titles, particularly those that stretch my gardening interests into the realm of the science of growing food.

Being firmly convinced that the lupine, if introduced by our farmers into this country, will be a Godsend to all those who have either light, sandy or exhausted soil, I consider it a matter of the highest importance that some trials with the same should be made, particularly on the sand lands of New Jersey, and the worn-out lands in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky and other States.

 

 

Still Learning…Womankind & Celibacy v. Matrimony

August 24, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

As Womankind is less serious, less political, than its contemporary publications it seems the perfect thing to pick up on a sunny morning when the deepest thoughts I want to have concern the temperature of my morning cup of coffee.  In this frame of mind I turned pages until the following words caught my eye:

Nature has planted deep in the constitution of either sex an impulse toward one another.  Around this impulse, which nature simply bestows as part of her economy of self preservation, we have thrown a great deal of romantic drapery and pretty sentiment; have buried it in thickness of roses and lilies; have drowned its voice in songs and nightingales and tinkle of lutes and mandolins; have called upon the stars to witness to its loftiness…in fact, we have deified ourselves and our natural desires into some sort of impossible creation quite unfit for this mundane sphere.

Well, this unexpected phrasing led me to further examine the article, which spills into most of a fourth column on page 6 of the January 1893 issue.  The heading was even more startling, “Mrs. Frank Leslie Says Sensible Marriages Lead to Atrophy, Romantic Marriages to Murder and Suicide, Single Blessedness to Melancholy Madness.”

Collectors of newspapers will know the name “Frank Leslie“, many better than I do. As it turns out, this was indeed authored by the second wife of Frank Leslie, subsequent heir to his publishing enterprises.  She was a noted feminist and suffragist, editor and author.  According to Wikipedia, Miriam Squier received a business with $300,000 debt upon Leslie’s death, and turned it into a profitable enterprise.

Based on further commentary within the article that led me to this little discovery, I cannot imagine that Frank and Miriam knew great joy with one another.  But whatever the level of bliss, the impact that they made on the world of publishing cannot be denied.  In case you never have the opportunity to peruse this diatribe yourself, the following conclusion summarizes the whole:

Which then is better–or to put it a little more cynically, which is the lesser evil–the Scylla of matrimony or the Charybdis of single loneliness?  And if one decides for matrimony, which is the blacker gulf–that of a marriage de convenance, which we have styled a sensible marriage, or that of a marriage of romance and delusion, sure to end in bitter disillusion? I do not pretend to answer.  Like the sphinx, I only ask and wait for a reply.

 

Still Learning… Womankind & Bread Flour…

July 13, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

Written during the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020…

There have been odd shortages during these recent times of collective concern, and my own personal challenge has been procuring my favorite flour for baking.  I can’t understand why stock has been depleted in every brick-and mortar supplier as well as the major online providers.  The positive takeaway is that more homes are filling with the unparalleled aroma of freshly baked treats.  In my opinion, the general well being of the entire planet might be elevated by that means.

Anyway, concerns for the homey details of life took me this week to the publication Womankind.  Although it is shelved with our titles that often focus on suffrage in detail and politics in general, this is a different content altogether.  The January 1893 issue holds a “Household Department” column headed “DOMESTIC ECONOMY.  How to Cut Over Stockings for the Little Ones.  How the Thoughtful Mother Can Save Many Dollars in the Course of a Year–Diagram for Remodeling Hosiery.”  The title is quite daunting, but the attendant copy delivers on its promise with remarkable detail.  Further subheadings deal with egg white for sore throats, lemon juice to whiten frosting, salad oil to remove tar and the ingredients to make coffee jelly.  I can well imagine that households eagerly awaited the next installment of this handy publication.  In fact, in a corner of the paper that solicited letters to “Aunt Celia” from area children, I found evidence of that very fact.

“My papa takes your paper and we like it very much.  I don’t go to school now, but will go in the Summer.  I have never gone to school much but I can read and write…I can help papa plow and tend to the bees, can help gin and grind.”

Advertisements for angler’s hooks, gloves, egg baskets, and cameras mix with cures for rheumatism, headache or obesity, and a litany of virtues proceeding from the ingestion of syrup of figs.  It is a delightful, entertaining 18 page ticket to the late 19th century, and completely distracted me from my fruitless quest for a missing ingredient.  Additionally, it reminded me how thankful I am for the levels of work that have been accomplished by others prior to my purchasing a ten pound paper sack of ground, filtered, cleaned and delivered flour.

 

Still Learning…Website Topical Searches

July 6, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

While working on a different topic, I came across a derogatory reference to California gold, which started me thinking of how little I know concerning that period in American history.  I was born into the Information Age so there is no reason for me to remain in ignorance; the world wide web is packed with timelines and maps and diary excerpts.  Since I work in a place that houses many original pieces concerning every era since the first colonists arrived, I decided to begin my research on the Rare Newspapers site.

By merely typing “Gold Rush” in the search bar, I accessed 122 titles.  As an experiment I only used the items and listing descriptions to obtain an overall working knowledge, and for entertainment purposes I thought it might be interesting to summarize my findings.

Modifying my results to an issue date sort, and beginning with the oldest first, I found the following attached to a paper dated September 28, 1848:

Page 3 has a lengthy article: “The Gold Region of California” which is from the very early period of the Gold Rush. It is mostly taken up with two letters from the gold fields, introduced with: “It would seem from late accounts that California is afflicted with some rich gold mines. The people there have been seized with madness on the subject & are abandoning the ordinary pursuits of life for the sake of hunting gold…”

Listings for publications from October, November and December of that year bear similar accounts and tell of the growing numbers of those involved.  By January of 1849 the tone becomes cautionary:

Page 2 has: “California” which warns those thinking of heading to the gold fields to be very careful: “…large number of persons making preparations to proceed to El Dorado…will be obliged to undergo much suffering before reaching their wished-for haven & many will perhaps die on the passage…” with more. Also a short bit: “Death at the Gold Regions”.

Reading through all the write-ups I felt a bit more sure of my historical bearings when I encountered a familiar name that was not in this instance attached to a favorite brand of coffee (Pike’s Peak).

THE WASHINGTON UNION, Washington, D.C., August 29, 1858
* Pike’s Peak gold discovered
* Cherry Creek
* Start of Colorado gold rush

A page 2 report headed “Newly Discovered Gold Mines” says: “Monsieur Borden and company have arrived in Kansas City, from Pike’s Peak, Nebraska Territory. He reports newly discovered mines. He brought with him several ounces of gold, and confirms the existence of gold mines on Cherry Creek, branch south Platte; latitude 39”

It seems I have barely scratched the surface…

Still Learning… The Scientific American & the Cost of Cotton…

June 29, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

An 1862 series of issues from The Scientific American highlights farm equipment week after week.  There are new inventions in the shape of plows, seed distributors and devices for shelling beans.  Beyond agriculture, there are articles on engraving with electricity, followed by a detailed report of a boiler explosion.  When I sat down with a stack of dates for the purpose of compiling this post, I lost track of an hour and a half of my life, poring through the smorgasbord of offered information.  The regular feature “Patent Claims” describes patents issued and rejected, while the American prizes won at the London World’s Fair applaud the successful application of those successful inventions.  Finally, there are consistent complaints about the delinquency of the U. S. Patent Office.

However, I particularly appreciated the note from the editor in the issue dated November 22, 1862.  The heading reads, “An Important Crisis in the History of Newspaper Publishing.”  It describes the impact of the Civil War and the cotton supply on the printing industry, and serves as a reminder that large disasters and challenges within a nation have far-reaching effects on priorities and resources — often at an intensely personal level.

“This is a time of severe trial to all newspaper and book publishers; and the prosperity — yes, the very business existence — of may of them is suspended upon a slender thread.  That hitherto great national blessing, cheap literature, is likely for the present to receive a severe shock, and possibly its death-blow…The war now being waged for our priceless national heritage is working sad mischief to the newspaper interest.  A heavy tax is laid upon white paper…Paper-makers will not and cannot, prudently, enter into contracts to supply publishers.  They will only sell from week to week at their own prices; and, as usual, spectators are busy in getting a hold of every article that goes into the manufacture of paper, with a view to still further enhance the price.”

In contrast to the challenges of today, we can look at this warning in hindsight.  Munn & Company, Editors and Proprietors successfully navigated the economic upheaval, and “The Scientific American” is still being printed today.  However, the quality of an issue from the 19th century is definitely superior…

Still Learning… Gentleman’s Magazine – “Obituary, with Anecdotes”…

June 15, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

Bound volumes are masterful displays of a subscriber’s esteem for the published word.  Not only aesthetically pleasing, they are effective methods of preserving printed pages from more than 200 years ago.  I am quite partial to the untrimmed collections with ruffled edges wrapped into a stack and placed between two decorative covers.  As most collectors are not seeking entire volume, individual dates are disbound before being sent out.  Each extraction leaves a gap, and, consequently, all sorts of misshapen profiles neatly array our shelves.

Today I pulled an untouched volume of The Gentleman’s Magazine that chronicled an entire year, and spent some time just scanning the page headings.  And stopped, quite decidedly, when I read, “Obituary, with Anecdotes, of Remarkable Persons”.  Like a wander through an old cemetery, there is something appealing about reviewing the names of these people of note, as well as the few words allotted to them at the close of their lives.   Who made the cut, and was worth a mention?  What chosen phrase summarized the extraordinary essence of a human being and his or her impact on the world around them for the span of their days?  Some epitaphs perfectly illustrate “damned with faint praise” and others kindle a more noble flame within those who have time to amend their mark.  Either way, the vocabulary and turn of the phrase most definitely eclipse my tone and word choice, so I will let those loftier pens speak for themselves.

In Gloucester-place, Mary-la-Bonne, in her 32d year, Helen, wife of H.T. Hardacre, esq. the original proprietor of “The British Neptune,” leaving a young and numerous family.

At her brother-in-law’s house, in Russell-square, aged 50, Mrs. Elizabeth Trelawny, wife of Capt. T. Adjutant of the Bedforeshire Regiment of Militia.  She was esteemed in the earlier part of her life as particularly handsome; and Time had been uncommonly kind in making his progress on her countenance with forbearance.

In his 47th year, having enjoyed his title only two years and a half, Peter-Isaac Thellusson, Baron Rendlesham, of Rendlesham.  He was on a shooting party at Gosfield with Louis XVIII, the Earl of Chatham, and other Nobles, when he suddenly fell from his horse, and expired.

I couldn’t help smile at the section that immediately preceded this: “Additions and Corrections to former Obituaries,” but that’s an excursion for another day.

Still Learning… Harper’s Monthly Magazine & Disaster…

June 8, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

These past few months have been characterized by intense focus.  I wonder if we are all concentrating fiercely on the task at hand, since everything else seems a bit too immense.  Whatever the reason, I have thoroughly immersed myself in systematically working through volumes of titles in search of particular dates of interest as if this is the most important job in the world.  Since publications in view are from the 1800’s, I am glimpsing snippets of similarities and of differences to our modern era.

While shelving Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, I read the following:

“Harper’s Magazine has now reached the close of its Tenth Volume.  During the five years of its existence, its prosperity has been constant and uninterrupted.  It has not been checked even by the disaster which fell upon the establishment of the Publishers, or by the period of general depression from which the country is now emerging.”

I didn’t know about this time of economic difficulty that Wikipedia describes as “lasting [from the Great Panic of 1837] until the Great Panic of 1857.”  From where we stand it is easy to lose a historical perspective, but the December 1854 issue — sandwiched between two economic trials — provides that opportunity.  The editor’s note at the front claims the magazine even flourished through the difficulties.  At 144 pages, with 64 illustrations, this Harper’s devotes the first two-thirds to literary offerings ranging from an account of Napoleon’s exile to an installment of fiction by William Makepiece Thackeray.  Following that are an extensive listing entitled “Monthly Record of Current Events”, three categories of editorials (Editor’s Table, Editor’s Easy Chair, and Editor’s Drawer), two pages of political cartoons, and the illustrated hoops and flounces that comprise those “Fashions for December.” This is a comfortable compilation that seems to provide a wealth of distracting entertainment that was as surely craved then as it is now, situated alongside a factual depiction of the nation and world.

From the current events section I extracted a nugget of reporting that mirrors modern newscasts.

“It may be stated generally, however, in reference to all of them, that partisan divisions have been less rigid than usual — that old party lines have been broken down.”

Somehow, shared disaster still seems to have that unifying effect.

 

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