Sunday, December 1, 2019

Peter Parley's Christmas

Or, a festive story of Transatlantic literary piracy starring nineteenth century children's favourite Peter Parley.
Tales About Christmas by Peter Parley (London, 1838) and Peter Parley's Christmas Tales (1838) - spot the difference

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Anna Katharine Green's The Leavenworth Case (1878)

First edition, 1878
This Friday I'm co-hosting (along with my colleague Hilary Emmett) the second reading group of the British Association of Nineteenth Century Americanists. The text that we've chosen for the event is Anna Katharine Green's The Leavenworth Case (1878), so I've been spending plenty of time recently thinking about this book and Green's life and career more generally. I'm looking forward to hearing what other people thought about it and her (a little trepidatiously, almost!), and I don't want to jump the gun on what evolves in that discussion, but here are a few thoughts in advance of Friday (no spoilers, if you're still reading).

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween: "Sagt der Fogel, 'Nimmermehr!'"

H. A. Kimball (Concord, NH), c.1865-1875, via NYPL
No time, alas, for a proper Countdown to Halloween this year - but this deserved to be shared.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Going West

Twain, Harte, Stoddard, Coolbirth - Ben Tarnoff's The Bohemians (Penguin, 2014)
Excuse the absence - I've been on a long voyage to the West and points thereabouts. With some inevitably, I finally ended up in San Francisco in the 1860s and 1870s, and got stuck there for a while. I've been working on what will be one of the first chapters of my book about Mark Twain and the Mississippi, which means I've finally been getting to grips with his time in California and the rich literary world of which he was a part. At the same time, I've also been chasing the ghost of Ralph Keeler - remember him? - which meant uncovering his early career in the Alta California and other San Francisco publications. And then, with some uncanny timing, I got asked to do some filming about the Gold Rush, which left me westering for a little while longer. How lucky, then, that these occidental travels coincided with the publication of Ben Tarnoff's The Bohemians (Penguin, 2014), one of the most engaging and readable books ever written on this pivotal and underexamined moment in literary and cultural history.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"A right fat, jolly, roistering little fellow" - Irving, Paulding, Saint Nicholas

It's Saint Nicholas' Eve, which means that in Holland - and in plenty of other places, too - Sinterklaas celebrations are in full swing. I'm paying brief homage to the Dutch part of my heritage by gesturing to the development of Saint Nicholas in the New World in works by early American writers - specifically Washington Irving and James Kirke Paulding. Yes, little Saint Nick was a popular chap amongst the Knickerbocker set.