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Archive Advent Calendar: 12 December 2013

A year after the success of Scenes of a Clerical Life (1858) George Eliot published her first novel Adam Bede to critical success. During the same year her gothic horror story The Lifted Veil appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine and she was also conducting research for “Mill on the Floss” which was published hot on the heels of Adam Bede in 1860.

“At the beginning of the year [1859] she [George Eliot] had gone into town to the London Library to research ‘cases of inundation’ and found useful examples of widespread destruction in the northeast of England during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.”[i]

George Eliot’s use of the Annual Register in her research on cases of “inundation” recorded in her journal in January 1859 factually underpins the final dramatic flooding scenes in the Mill on the Floss, one of her most enduring and autobiographically revealing novels.

1859 was also the year Eliot was outed as the female writer behind the pseudonym she resolutely retained. Fiercely intelligent, staggeringly talented and brave enough to weather both social disapproval and whipped-up gossip for her relationship with G.H. Lewes, Eliot was a towering female talent in Victorian literary London.  Three significant men in her life: G.H. Lewes her partner; Dr John Chapman proprietor of the Westminster Review which Eliot contributed to and edited between 1851 and 1854; and her publisher John Blackwood were also all subscribing members.

Check in tomorrow to find out which defining modern novelist resuscitated and reconfigured George Eliot’s waning literary reputation in a piece in the TLS in 1919.

[i] Catherine Hughes George Eliot: The Last Victorian. London:Fourth Estate, 1998.

Annual Registers

The Annual Register, still as complete, accessible and informative in 2013 as they were in 1859

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Archive Advent Calendar: 11 December 2013

We continue our archival countdown to Christmas by lifting the curtain on some of the Library’s theatrical members.

I promised a trip to the theatre yesterday and so in four archival records we will whisk through over a hundred years of acting and theatrical heritage evidenced in the Library’s membership records.

One of the earliest playwrights in the records is John Oxenford (1812-1877) author of over 100 plays, an accomplished translator and theatre critic for The Times. His play A Day Well Spent staged at the Lyceum theatre in 1836 was adapted by Johann Nestroy in Vienna in 1845 as Einen Jux will er sich machen.  Nestroy’s play adapted again by Tom Stoppard in On the Razzle which opened at the Lyttleton Theatre on 18 September 1981 and is also the inspiration behind the hit musical Hello Dolly!

No-one did more in the Victorian era than Henry Irving (1838-1905) to elevate the status of the stage and the profession of acting and he was rewarded for his efforts with a knighthood – the first actor to receive the accolade. His wit, verve and humility all in evidence in the description of his occupation on his joining form to the Library: “Comedian”.

The actress Isabel Bateman (1854-1934) came from an American acting family her father Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman took over management of the Lyceum in 1871 and it was he that spotted and recruited the talent of the young Irving who in turn provided the Lyceum with a runaway success with his critically acclaimed performance as Hamlet in 1874. Irving took over the management of the Lyceum in 1878 after the death of Mr Bateman and became the defining actor theatre manager of the Victorian age.

Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) is considered Irving’s natural successor.  He too was knighted for services to the stage and film in 1947: the youngest actor to have received the honour.  His joining form to the Library dates from 1944, a landmark year for Olivier.  His film version of Henry V in which he not only starred in but co-produced and directed was released and it was also the year in which he joined Ralph Richardson and Ralph Burrell in running the Old Vic at the New Theatre – and it is the address of the New Theatre which appears on his joining form.

Join us tomorrow when we find out who used the Annual Registers (currently shelved in the Sackler Study) in her research for one of the most enduring novels in the English language.

irving

Irving as Hamlet.
Austin Brereton Henry Irving: A Biographical Sketch London: David Bogue 1883.

Irving (2)

The defining actor of his generation Henry Irving joined the Library in 1890. His right hand man at the Lyceum Theatre, Bram Stoker joined the same year.

Bateman

From an American acting dynasty Isabel Bateman joined the Library in 1878. In 1898 she gave up the stage to take holy orders.

Oxenford

John Oxenford was the 705th person to join the Library in 1843.

Olivier

Laurence Olivier joined the Library in 1944 the year in which he won critical acclaim for the film version of Henry V.

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Introduction

Join us for an archival countdown to Christmas as Helen O’Neill,  Archive Heritage and Development Librarian treats us every week-day between now and Christmas Eve to a small tasty nugget from the archive…

An archival countdown to Christmas…

9 December 2013

Over the next three weeks join me for an advent calendar with a difference. Between now and Christmas Eve I will be opening small windows onto the Library’s literary and cultural past by unveiling from the archive past London Library members.  To get the ball rolling on these short but quick fire blogs I’m starting with a name synonymous with Christmas – Beeton.

The membership ledgers reveal the publisher Samuel Orchart Beeton joined the London Library in 1863.  He had established himself as a publisher in partnership with Charles H. Clarke when he was just 21 and capitalized on an early opportunity to publish Uncle Tom’s Cabinthe staggeringly successful novel by the then unknown American Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Beeton was innovative and prolific publisher and editor.  A supporter of women’s suffrage it is perhaps no surprise that his wife also played a role in the success of the company – commuting with her husband to work. The breadth of the Beeton publishing empire is clearly visible in advertisements in The Times on December 23 1863 in which the following Beeton titles appear:

Beeton’s Robinson Crusoe Penny parts
Beeton’s Christmas Annual
Beeton’s Dictionaries of Reference
Beeton’s Garden Management
Beeton’s Home Games
Beeton’s Home Pets
Beeton’s Household Management
Boy’s Monthly Magazine
Boy’s Own Library
Boy’s Own Magazine
Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine

Isabella Beeton’s took four years to write the most abiding of these titlesHousehold Management and it laid the groundwork for many a cookbook that was to follow – ingredients given first then instructions accompanied by colour illustrations: but it was a great deal more than a recipe book. The eldest girl of a household of twenty-one children in her youth Mrs Beeton’s clear and meticulous recipes were augmented by common sense advice on all things domestic from understanding cuts of meat to recognizing and administering to childhood diseases or hiring domestic staff. The book was a staggering runaway success.  She died when she was 28 but the Mrs Beeton name continued as a hugely successful brand that it is still recognised today.

Check in tomorrow when I will be sluicing down the Christmas pudding with another archival helping in the shape of a glass of something “dry and racy”.

Samuel Orchart Beeton joined the Library in 1863.  His wife Mrs (Isabella Mary) Beeton played a full role in Beeton’s publishing success and remains a household name.

Samuel Orchart Beeton joined the Library in 1863. His wife Mrs (Isabella Mary) Beeton played a full role in Beeton’s publishing success and remains a household name.

Stuck for ideas for Christmas gifts? Why not try your hand at a pair of Cricket Slippers in Berlin Wool and Purse Silk? Beeton’s Young Englishwoman September 1873.

Stuck for ideas for Christmas gifts? Why not try your hand at a pair of Cricket Slippers in Berlin Wool and Purse Silk? Beeton’s Young Englishwoman September 1873.

Beeton’s Every-Day Cookery and Housekeeping Book. London: Ward Lock & Co Limited, 1890.  Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Plum Pudding, like Dickens’s Christmas Carol is a quintessential Christmas legacy from our Victorian past.

Beeton’s Every-Day Cookery and Housekeeping Book. London: Ward Lock & Co Limited, 1890. Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Plum Pudding, like Dickens’s Christmas Carol is a quintessential Christmas legacy from our Victorian past.

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