Wednesday, January 30, 2013

79. Oscar Wilde between Paris and Brighton

The Java-Bode reported the one-time performance of Ibsen's Ghosts in London on 13 March 1891. It not only mentioned Shannon as a member of the Independent Theatre Society, but also noted that Oscar Wilde had come to see the play. This is interesting, as his chronology mentions that he was in Paris on 11 March and in Brighton on 16 March and what he did in between is unrecorded. 

Norman Page's An Oscar Wilde Chronology (1991) shows that on 3 March Wilde was to visit the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé, that he was very ill a few days later, that he called on Zola on the 11th of March, and the next date is 16 March, when Wilde wrote that he was staying at the Hotel Metropole in Brighton, still (or again) very ill. These dates are based on Wilde's correspondence, as are those in the online Wilde Chronology of the Oscholars.

The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde (2000) show that Wilde had been in Paris since 25 February 1891 (and possibly earlier) when he wrote to Mallarmé that he would be honoured to meet the author of L'Après-Midi d'un Faune. Apparently, Wilde suffered from the flu, as he had lost his voice, but a few days later he wrote to his son Cyril that he went out every morning for a drive in the Bois de Boulogne and that every evening he would sit outside at 'little tables' looking at the passing carriages. On 7 March he wrote to Coulson Kernahan, his editor at Ward, Lock and Co, that he had not corrected the proofs for The Picture of Dorian Gray earlier, because he had been 'very ill'. All these letters were written from the Hôtel de l'Athénée, 15 rue Scribe, in Paris.


15, rue Scribe, Paris
Wilde's next dated letter is of 16 March 1891, again to Kernahan: 'I am still very ill, but Brighton is doing me good', and he announced that he would return 'to town' (London) the next day. There was no word about the first performance of Ibsen's Ghosts that he had witnessed in between.

From the Dutch review we now know that he had been in the audience on 13 March 1891. The English papers (The Times, The Daily Telegraph, etc.) mentioned no names other than those of the actors and that of Jack T. Grein, as it would have been risky to connect any respectable individual in the audience with a performance that was considered a scandal. The papers condemned the play and asked the Lord Chamberlain to ban it. In the Dutch review Wilde's name was followed immediately by that of John Gray, see next week's blog.

Among other names that were mentioned by the Dutch eye-witness of the event are the owner of The Times, John Walter, the Earl of Pembroke, the Earl of Londesborough, Clement Scott (of The Daily Telegraph), and at least ten other critics. From the Republic of Letters he mentioned George Moore, Oscar Wilde, and John Gray. The House of Lords was represented by Justin Huntly McCarthy and C.P. Colnaghi, from the art world the names of Charles Shannon and the engraver Carl Henschel, the actors Madeleine Shirley, Emily Duncan, Adrienne Dairolles and members of the Playgoers Club were mentioned. The orchestra that mainly consisted of Dutch musicians, was led by the Dutch conductor  and composer Jan Mulder, and played a few pieces by Edvard Grieg. Mulder also performed at a concert at the Dutch Club and at the Savage Club. He would also be present at the October 1891 performance of The Independent Theatre Society, when Zola's Thérèse Raquin in a translation of Alexander Teixeira de Mattos was staged. George Moore had revised this translation.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

78. Shannon spotted in the theatre

A new resource hosted by the National Library of the Netherlands, 'Historical newspapers', gives free access to Dutch newspapers from 1618 to 1995. Not all newspapers are available yet, but the great thing is that word searches are possible, and a search for 'C.H. Shannon', for example, yields seven results, including a very early one that was previously unknown. This article, 'Een vrije schouwburg', about the Independent Theatre, was published on 6 May 1891 in the Java-bode, a newspaper for the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). It was not written by one of their correspondents, but taken from another newspaper, Het dagblad ('The daily') of which no copies have been preserved.
Jack T. Grein
The Théâtre Libre was directed by André Antoine, but the 1891 event that mentioned this name on the programme was staged by Jack T. Grein (1862-1935), and although the article still calls his theatre production by the old name, the performance was in fact the first of a series of the Independent Theatre, a private society that could stage controversial plays using a subscription system. Grein staged Henrik Ibsen's play Ghosts on syphilis and adultary at the Royalty Theatre, at 73 Dean Street, Soho, London, on 13 March 1891. The play was considered to be 'repulsive', 'coarse', 'vulgar', 'absurd', 'revolting', you name it.

It took a few months for the event to be covered by a newspaper in the Dutch East Indies, and it probably only did so, because Grein was born a Dutchman who had emigrated to London in 1885 and was naturalized in 1895.

Another Dutchman, Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (1865-1921), lived in London and translated a few plays for the Independent Theatre, and his association with the theatre society was noticed as early as 18 April 1891, when it was reported that he would translate Emile Zola's Thérèse Raquin for Grein. Teixeira de Mattos also worked for several Dutch newspapers, and it may have been 'Tex' who wrote the review that was published in the Java-bode. Its author called himself 'The Man-about-Town'.


Portrait of Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, from  Stephen McKenna, Tex. A chapter in the life of Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (1922)
The newspaper story, full of banter, related how, after the performance, Grein had spoken from the stage, and it described the audience in some detail. The author tells us that the world of literature was represented by the novelist George Moore, by Oscar Wilde, by John Gray, 'the new poet', while artistic circles included 'the painters C.H. Shannon and Richard Savage', among others. Richard Savage was in fact Reginald Savage, an artist and a collaborator of Ricketts's and Shannon's magazine The dial.


Charles Shannon, Self-Portrait (1897)

Shannon's attendance of the first performance of Ibsen's Ghosts in 1891 places him in the vicinity of 'an apostel of the beautiful' (as the Morning post mockingly called Grein in a review of Ghosts, 14 March 1891), and thus in the forefront of the battle against Victorianism and censorship, but also in an artistic circle which included Wilde, Gray and Shannon, who were recognized and singled out for his report of the event by the correspondent. English newspapers noted that 'the large audience' included 'more females than might have been expected' for an unlicensed play, but Shannon's name was not mentioned. The 1891 Java-bode was the first to mention Shannon's name in the Netherlands.




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

77. A Paper Wrapper for A Pageant

Book-jackets, Thomas G. Tanselle's (partly new) study on paper wrappers for books, mentions a dustwrapper for volume 2 of The Pageant, 1897, that is unusual because the book mentions the name of the designer.
Wrapper for The pageant, 1897
Usually the designers of these jackets were not identified, but then, most wrappers were only sparsely illustrated, while this one is printed in colour after a design by Gleeson White. The drawing is not signed, but his name is mentioned in a footnote to the foreword, which is also quoted by Tanselle as it calls the jacket an 'outer wrapper', showing that the nomenclature for this phenomenon had not yet chrystallized.

Gleeson White, who was the literary editor of the magazine, must have designed it in consultation with the art editor, Charles Shannon, who could have commissioned another artist, for example Charles Ricketts, who designed the binding, or Lucien Pissarro, who designed the end-papers. Apparently it was not deemed important for this magazine to follow the new rules of book design, whereby the book was seen as a unity. The designs by Ricketts, Pissarro, and Gleeson White are quite different in character, and the whole now expresses not so much the unity of the book as the intimacy of a small coterie of artists.
Wrapper for The pageant, 1897
Gleeson White's design is printed in green, red and white on thin brown wrapping paper. It illustrates a brick wall, behind which one can see a pageant, with people who are out of sight, carrying spears and banners. In the front is a row of trees, with doves and flowers. The title, the publisher's name, and the price are mentioned on the front. The spine is almost never shown. It also mentions the title and the imprint.
Spine of wrapper for The pageant, 1897
The first volume of The Pageant (for 1896) did not have a paper wrapper, and one may assume that the reason for Gleeson White's wrapper must have been the lack of sales. The second volume, in spite of its attractive colour wrapper, was to be the last of this short-lived annual for art and literature.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

76. Patterned papers (h: bird and rose)

In June 1898 the Vale Press published a two-volume edition of The Rowley poems of Thomas Chatterton. For this book Ricketts designed two patterned papers, one for the boards and one for the spine. They were used on both volumes.
Charles Ricketts, patterned paper for The Rowley poems of Thomas Chatterton (1898) (vol. 2)
The paper on the boards is a pattern of 'rose and bird', according to Ricketts in his bibliography (1904). Colin Franklin, in his book The private press (second edition, 1991), identified the bird as a swallow and this may well be the case, although Ricketts's designs usually are too stylized for an exact determination.
Charles Ricketts, patterned paper for The Rowley poems of Thomas Chatterton (1898) (vol. 1) [detail]
Ricketts apparently did not really care for exactness in naming the bird, or the flower, for that matter. He said it was a rose, which is obviously true, but he does not tell us what kind of rose. The same goes for the patterned paper for Michael Field's Fair Rosamund, for which another rose and another bird (a dove this time) were drawn. 

Charles Ricketts, patterned paper for The Rowley poems of Thomas Chatterton (1898) (vol. 1) [detail]

The second paper is nameless. It has an abstract pattern of acorns and dotted triangles, that may be vine leaves, and were called 'vine-and-diamond domino' by Alice H.R.H. Beckwith (in Dictionary of literary biography, volume 112, 1991). There seem to be no repetitions, Ricketts must have engraved an entire block for it.

Earlier parts of this series about the Vale Press patterned papers:

a: Mouse and nut (Michael Drayton's Nymphidia or the Muses Elizium)
b: The Suckling rose (The poems of Sir John Suckling)
c: The ship (Fifty songs by Thomas Campion)
d: Bird, arrow and rose (Michael Field, Fair Rosamund)
e: A flowered paper (Henry Constable's Poems and sonnets)
f: Pine-cone and leaf (The sonnets of Sir Philip Sidney)
g: Wilde rose (De la typographie et de l'harmonie de la page imprimée. William Morris et son influence sur les arts et métiers) 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

75. Inked impressions of quads in In the key of blue

J.A. Symonds's In the key of blue has been published in several issues and editions. I have now written about the differences in appearance (cream or blue cloth covers), the presence of a publisher's list, and the different position of the signatures on the first pages of the gatherings. Now it is time to look closer at another feature: the presence of inked impressions of quads.

A block of type without a raised letter was used for spacing between words or sentences. Occasionally these quads are worked up to the level of the printing service and may leave an inked impression on the paper. (These raised quads are sometimes called 'raised space' or 'blacks'.) They reflect, as G. Thomas Tanselle wrote, more than 'the state of the type when it was composed', as 'impressions from quads and bearers, even when they remain the same, are often the result of faulty make-ready and locking up of the forme or the action of the press itself' (see G. Thomas Tanselle, 'The treatment of typesetting and presswork in bibliographical description', in: Studies in bibliography, vol. 52, 1999).

Some copies of In the key of blue show such impressions of quads.

Inked impression of a quad visible between 'quite' and ';' in J.A. Symonds, In the key of blue and other prose essays, 1893, first edition, cream coloured cloth (p. 150, line 7)
One inked impression of a quad is visible on page 150, line 7, between the word 'quite' and the semi-colon at the end of the line. Another one is visible on page 294, last line, between the last word 'words' and the question mark.
Inked impression of a quad visible between 'words' and '?' in J.A. Symonds, In the key of blue and other prose essays, 1893, first edition, cream coloured cloth (p. 294, last line)

In some copies, however, there are no visible inked impressions of quads on these pages.
No inked impression of a quad visible between 'words' and '?' in J.A. Symonds, In the key of blue and other prose essays, 1893, first edition, blue coloured cloth (p. 294, last line)
How are these inked impressions divided over the subsequent states, issues or impressions of the book? As follows:
Both are present in:
a) the proof copy;
b) the large paper copy;

None are present in:
c) copies with the edition statement: 'Reprinted July 1893';
d) copies with the edition statement: 'Third Edition January 1896';
e) copies with the edition statement: 'Third Edition (Unaltered Reprint), October, 1918'.


The regular copies of the first edition, be they bound in blue or cream cloth, show a more varied pattern. There are:
1) copies with both inked impressions of a quad visible on pages 150 and 294: bound in cream cloth;
2) copies with an inked impression of a quad visible on page 150, but none visible on page 294: bound in cream or blue cloth;
3) copies with no inked impressions of a quad visible on pages 150 or 294: bound in cream or blue cloth.

Copies c, d and e have been printed from electrotypes. The other copies have been printed before these plates were made.

After correcting the proofs - and after removing the asterisks from the signatures - the type may have been damaged slightly during the printing process, causing the inked impressions of the quads on page 150 and 294. While regular copies of the first edition were printed, the unintended visibility of the inked impressions of the quad on page 294 may have been noticed, and this was corrected. Later, the other one was noticed and another correction took place. All blue copies show only one or no traces of these quads. This might indicate that they belong to the later copies that were printed, not to the earliest ones. This corresponds with the large-paper copies that were usually printed after the regular ones: these also show both impressions.

However, how then is it possible that the proof copy shows them already? Was more than one forme used for printing the whole of the edition? We have not yet reached our conclusion.