Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Dime Novel Debate, Again

George Cary Eggleston
After my last post on the debates about the place of the Dime Novel in American culture in the 1880s, Demian Katz got in touch to tell me about the digitization efforts underway at Villanova University - available here - plus the online collections available at Bowling Green and Stanford. Exciting stuff! I'll be checking them out presently.

That also provides a good enough excuse to share a follow-up post on the Dime Novel debate - though in this instance, it was a debate that took place behind closed doors. In George Cary Eggleston's memoir, Recollections of a Varied Life (1910), he shares a moment of literary gossip that brings some interesting voices to bear on this apparently pressing point of controversy in the 1880s.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"Poor little Nellie Grant" and the Wedding of the Century

Nellie Grant, Algernon Sartoris (via)
Last year I took part in some filming for an episode of Heir Hunters, the BBC's genealogy / fortune-hunting reality-documentary show. Rather delightfully, the trail in this particular case led back to Nellie Grant, daughter of President Ulysses S. Grant, who married English rotter Algernon Sartoris at the White House in 1874 - and that's what I was brought in to talk about. The episode aired today and should be available here. It tells this remarkable story very nicely. But I thought it would also be interesting to share some of the primary source material that I uncovered during the course of my research for the episode - of which there's no shortage. This relationship made a large impact in Gilded Age America, and left an equally large footprint. While it's probably pretty banal to point out how contemporary the story feels, I still find it remarkable how much detail about this Transatlantic wedding - and the unhappy marriage that resulted - can be traced in the popular press, in the correspondence of the great and the good, and even in the literary history of the period. Celebrity wedding of the nineteenth century? I think it has a good claim to that title. What follows are a few highlights.