Newly Digitized: The Autobiography of Daniel Isgrig

We’re happy to announce that the Lilly Library’s Isgrig Manuscript Collection is now fully digitized and can be accessed online through the collection’s finding aid.

Daniel Isgrig was born in Baltimore County, Maryland in 1775, the son of Michael and Barbary (Lohr) Isgrig. In 1782 his father moved his family up in the Allegheny Mountains in Maryland. They then emigrated to Kentucky, eight miles above Fort Cumberland, in 1789. At the age of eight, Daniel had only about six months of formal schooling. On July 22, 1795, he married Mrs. Rachel (Barnes) Langley, a widow with a four-year-old son, Abraham, and a two-year-old daughter, Margaret. In 1806, he moved to Hamilton County, Ohio, near Cincinnati. He was drafted in the War of 1812 for a term of six months military service against Upper Canada, but being lame, his son, Daniel, not yet eighteen, served for his father. In 1817 he sold the land near Cincinnati, Ohio, purchased land in Ripley County, Indiana, and moved his family to that county. Daniel Isgrig wrote three books: Hieroglyphic (1834) The Hoosier (1836), and Biography (1838). He died in 1854, and is buried in Shockley Cemetery.

We invite researchers to explore this fascinating slice of Midwestern history!

 

The Tragic Musical Memento of the Duchess de Berry

The Tragic Musical Memento of the Duchesse de Berry

By Lindsay Weaver, Intern, Lilly Library Technical Services

The Lilly Library is currently cataloging an exciting collection of music once owned by Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Sicile, Duchesse de Berry (1798-1870), an important political figure in France during the nineteenth-century as well as a generous patroness of the arts.

One of the most intriguing items in the collection so far is a slim funereal volume bound in black morocco with silver fleur-de-lys stamped on the spine. If the Duchesse were a heroine in a novel, this item more than anything else would represent the tragic climax of her origin story. Inside are twenty-five pieces of printed music pertaining to the murder of her beloved husband, which occurred 197 years ago this week on 14 February 1820.

Marie-Caroline married Charles-Ferdinand d’Artois, Duc de Berry, at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on in June of1816. Despite their arranged engagement, a genuinely affectionate romance blossomed. Said to be inseparable, they strolled arm-in-arm in the public gardens of the Tuileries and scandalized the royal family by addressing one another in the familiar “tu” rather than the formal “vous.”

This, unfortunately, was not to last. On the evening of 13 February 1820, the Duc and Duchesse de Berry arrived fashionably late to the Opéra. Though an avid theater-goer, Marie-Caroline was exhausted and wanted to leave early. Unknown to Paris at large, she was three months pregnant. Charles-Ferdinand, ever the dutiful husband, escorted her to their carriage but wished to see the remainder of the performance. His decision to stay turned the evening from a diary footnote to history book fodder. As the Duc turned away from the carriage, an anti-monarchist called Louvel plunged a knife into his back and ran. The wounded prince was carried into an administrative office in the opera house where he died in the early hours of the morning with Marie-Caroline weeping at his side, covered in his blood. For over a month after the assassination, she sequestered herself in an apartment draped in black cloth.

A widow at twenty-two, they had been married less than four years.

Collections of music such as this one are fascinating pieces of history and offer rich insight into those who created them. Of the twenty-five songs contained in this volume, all but five are settings of a text entitled “Stanzas on the Death of His Royal Highness, Monseigneur Duc de Berry” by Marc-Antoine Désaugiers, then the director of the Théâtre du Vaudeville. The poem, which solemnly enumerates the Duc’s good qualities, ends on a hopeful note by declaring Marie-Caroline’s unborn child the future relief of France’s mourning. The words may have brought her comfort.

The contents also suggest something about her social circle during this time. Composers of personal importance are represented more than once: there are two works by her harp instructor, François Joseph Naderman, as well as two by Ferdinando Paër, her singing teacher. (And while this volume is not an exhaustive collection of all settings of Désaugier’s “Stances,” notably missing is a popular one by Paër’s rival, Gaspare Spontini.) Paër also appears as the musical intermediary between other composers and the Duchesse—three songs are marked as having been “offered to M. Paër by the music’s author.” Other pieces bear faint creases, clearly having been folded into quarters prior to binding, as though offered in passing to the Duchesse who tucked it away.

Lastly, multiple pages bear annotations, suggesting this was not passive, dutiful acquisition. There are penned annotations marking articulation or supplying missing accidentals, suggesting the Duchesse had engaged with this music. Given much of it is for soprano voice with piano or harp accompaniment, this seems likely: the Duchesse was reportedly a talented musician, especially on the harp.

This is only one of many interesting items at the Lilly Library relating to the musical life of the Duchesse de Berry and should prove an interesting collection to anyone interested in the music-making of women during the Bourbon Restoration.

References:

Margadant, Jo Burr. “The Duchesse de Berry and Royalist Political Culture in Postrevolutionary France.” History Workshop Journal 43 (Spring 1997): 23-52.

Reiset, Vicomte de. Marie-Caroline, Duchesse de Berry: 1816-1830. Paris: Goupil & Cie, 1906.

Skuy, David. Assassination, Politics, and Miracles: France and the Royalist Reaction of 1820.

Lindsay Weaver is a master’s student in library science with a specialization in Music Librarianship. Her research interests revolve around the the opera world in Paris during the nineteenth century. Currently an intern with the Lilly Library Technical Services Department, she hopes to work in a special collections library one day.

Walter Mason Camp Papers Digitized

camp_04We are excited to announce the full digitization of the Lilly Library’s collection of the papers of Walter Mason Camp. Camp (1867–1925) was an American author, editor, and researcher best known for interviewing hundreds of both Native American and white participants in the American Indian Wars of the second half of the 19th century. The collection consists largely of Camp’s penciled notes, mostly on small scraps of paper. Field notes include information on the Bozeman expedition of 1874, the Battle of Little Big Horn (1876), the Yellowstone Campaign of 1873, and many other topics related to Native American history and conflicts in the American West. Also digitized as part of the collection are photographs, maps, and the transcriptions of the field notes done by Professor Kenneth Hammer for his book Custer in 76.

You can view and download all digitized items in this collection by visiting Archives Online.

We would like to thank our Digitization Manager Zach Downey for leading this project. We would also like to thank our Public Services Assistant Jody Mitchell and student assistant Lilly Poor for their dedicated work in realizing this goal.

PEN Center USA Translation Award to Stephen Kessler

Photograph of Cernuda on cover of book
Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems by Luis Cernuda. Translated by Stephen Kessler. (Black Widow Press, April 2015)

Tonight the PEN Center USA celebrates its 26th Annual Literary Awards in Beverly Hills, California. Congratulations to poet and translator Stephen Kessler, winner of the 2016 PEN Literary Award for Translation for the work, Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems by Luis Cernuda. (Black Widow Press, April 2015.) The book is the most complete collection of the poetry of Spanish poet Luis Cernuda to appear in English. Kessler previously translated Cernuda’s prose poems, Written in Water (City Lights Books, 2004), and won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets for his translation of Cernuda’s later poems, Desolation of the Chimera (White Pine Press, 2009).

Luis Cernuda was a member of the Generation of 1927, a group of Spanish poets influenced by modernist movements such as Surrealism and Futurism. Leaving Spain after the fall of the Spanish republic, he taught for several years at Mount Holyoke College and then settled in Mexico in 1952.

Stephen Kessler’s papers are part of the holdings of the Lilly Library. His collection is one of a growing number of collections documenting contemporary literary translation.

PEN Center USA is a branch of PEN International, the world’s leading international literary and human rights organization.

“Wipe Thy Self”: A Page from the Audubon Ledger at the Lilly Library

“Wipe Thy Self”: A Page from the Audubon Ledger at the Lilly Library

Christoph Irmscher, Provost Professor of English and Director of the Wells Scholars Program

In spring 2016, the Lilly Library acquired a handsome ledger bound in sturdy marble-covered boards. Dubbed the “Audubon Ledger” by bookseller Donald Heald, volume had been in the possession of Audubon’s great-granddaughter, Margaret Audubon McCormick until it was sold at Sotheby’s on January 26, 1983.  The earliest entry in the book dates from December 10, 1842; the latest was made on February 14, 1844.

The Audubon Ledger is a treasure trove for the scholar:  it is chock-full with lists documenting Audubon’s income and expenditures as he was finishing work on the Royal Octavo edition of Birds of America (1840-1844) and beginning to launch his new venture, The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.  Eight pages of draft letters, all in the handwriting of Audubon’s son Victor Gifford, add to the documentary value of the collection. But the Ledger has something else to offer too, something more unexpected.   Among the 70-plus pages of lists we find an example of a different kind of bookkeeping, a mysterious page-long aside, in Audubon’s own handwriting, consisting of nothing but a stream of words, slathered on the page in no apparent order and, it seems, with near-complete disregard to meaning.  Complete sentences are the exception rather than the rule.

audubon-ledger_00001

 

 

Transcription

  1. 219:

Second Course

Acquisition and use of Words in little sentences

Wipe Pocket  to wash

Fish, Wipe, Table, deceits  Smoke Pad  Bush–

Tables, Indian Ink  Pocket  Ashes  Ashes

Towels  to wipe, to wash, to catch to pilfer dainties

to extinguish, to listen, to smoke   to draw with water color

to wipe wiped mixed washed pilfered  between

already beautiful, Shine  shrine  rail sight

The table is high, The pocket is wide,  Pilfer

not that is not nice   Wipe thy self.

Bath Thread Needle

Wheel Bath Oath  envy harm song

 

Songs box, calf, (maggot, mite) fashion tired

waste booth both Silk (Willow pasture) boundary

Box boxes thread hurt to separate to avoid

(Willows to pasture) neither again Songs leather feather

(cart load, a tan [?])  mould vein quarrel noble

herd, poodle, nudel, needles, skull, there,

there that the to the the thine one no mine his

(clear pure)  Wine by shine flax stone.

The wheel is on the wagon  The mite

is in the cheese   The Willow is a tree.

Roof week to travel (to range to string)

Book Brook Roof partition   ah I me self

thee (yet, however)  (still, yet) high hole leek

Stomach breath smoke, rich soft proud cloth

Book beech (search to sack)  (matter thing affair)

revenge (guard watch) week cook kitchen oak

corpse (pool laughter)  to laugh—to make to pilfer

throat to rake to reach rays to cook cake

The book is new   The brook is deep  The beech is a

tree   The smoke comes out of the chimney.

The page that precedes this strange jumble of words (p. 214) is as ordinary as they come:  a list of monies the Audubons had collected in New York City on July 14, 1844, from subscribers to the Royal Octavo edition.  It is, as is most everything else in the volume, in Victor Gifford Audubon’s handwriting. Subsequent pages seem to have been cut out, and the number at the top of our strange meditation has been corrected to read “219.”

It’s difficult at first to discern some kind of principle behind this profusion of words.  Some come from the same semantic field (“wipe,” “wash,” “bath” “clear,” “pure”), some are repeated a number of times (“wipe” occurs, in somewhat different form six times; “pilfer” and “smoke” three times; “wash” twice).  Sometimes Audubon’s words acquire an incantatory quality and sound displaces meaning: “to rake to reach rays to cook cake.” Other passages—especially the few fully formed sentences—are almost embarrassingly simple, as if they had been lifted from a children’s picture book: “The wheel is on the wagon   The mite is in the cheese   The Willow is a tree.”  “The smoke comes out of the chimney.”  As we read on, elements of a landscape begin to emerge—willows, beech trees, a brook, a pasture, a house with a roof and a kitchen, smoke coming from the chimney. (I am immediately reminded of the “inscrutable house” in Elizabeth Bishop’s wonderful poem “Sestina.”) Then there is the feel of things, the soft, rich cloth of a dress (made of silk?) worn, perhaps, by a mother. “Pilfer not,” she might have said to her child, “that is not nice.”  And: “Wipe thyself.” We have, indeed, entered a child’s world, as the novelist Katherine Govier pointed out to me when I showed her a copy of that page.  But Audubon was a child not in England or America, where mothers or maids would have said such things.  He grew up in Napoleon’s blood-drenched France, raised by his stepmother.  The sounds made in this text—“Wheel Bath Oath,” “waste booth both,” “nudel, needles, skull,” “book Brook Roof””—are entirely English, as is the landscape it evokes, however confusedly.  Sing willow, willow, willow.

This page, then, evokes a childhood Audubon never really had, at least not in that form, a childhood he therefore couldn’t have outgrown. Hence, too, the sense of loss that pervades this page, a loss of purity and perhaps of life—the mite in the cheese, the maggot, the ashes, the skull, the corpse.   Pilfer not, the mother once said, and yet Audubon did, his entire adult life, when he entered into, and took away, the lives of birds.  And the need to “wipe thyself” would have been immediately clear to someone who spent his days wading through dirt and blood.  Birds weren’t “nice” in their habits, Audubon once said (in his essay about the Shoveler Duck; Ornithological Biography 241).  But neither was he.  “To draw with watercolor,” Audubon writes, close to the beginning of our page:  an apparent reference to the work he did.  And he goes on to define what he did: “to wipe wiped mixed washed pilfered  between already beautiful.”  All watercolors on the world could not wash out the damn’d spots each killing of a bird—of a living thing that was “already beautiful,” something that didn’t need the artist to make it so—left in him.

Of course, you might say, this is all speculation, a fantasy.  The title of the page (“Second Course”) and dry-and-dust subtitle (“Acquisition and use….”) might just mean that Audubon was reading a grammar textbook at the time and taking notes.  But for whom? Or had the insecurities he had felt as a non-native speaker finally caught up with him? In a journal he kept in England in 1826, he referred to himself as a man who “never Lookd into an English grammar” (Writings 186). But by the mid-1840s, he was widely respected as writer, even by other writers:  Longfellow, for example, based his Evangeline partly on the descriptions of Louisiana he had found in Audubon’s essays.  But maybe he was collecting words because he was getting ready to teach his grandchildren about homonyms and synonyms and the like?  Thomas Brewer, who visited Audubon on July 4, 1846, did attest to Audubon’s fondness for the “rising generation” (Herrick 2: 288).

However, the sheer difficulty of the fragment casts doubt on these more pedestrian readings.  What good are notes that make no sense?  And speaking of non-sense, perhaps this text is a clinical document more than anything else.  Audubon’s dementia became an established fact in May 1848, when his friend John Bachman visited him on his estate and found the naturalist’s “noble mind all in ruins” (Herrick 2: 289). But this change had not happened overnight—as early as July 1847, Spencer Fullerton Baird found his former mentor “much changed” (Herrick 2:288).  Did the first signs of his illness announce themselves even earlier?  We now know for sure what Alzheimer patients have perhaps always known intuitively, namely that language dysfunction is one of the first indications of the disease.  And we also know, and some of us have probably experienced it when taking are of a family member, that dementia patients still retain a measure of control over “a lexical phonological system that is used to repeat both known and novel words and that processes linguistic information independent of its meaning” (Glosser et al.).  But what if the last part of that statement—that there is no meaning in these repetitions—isn’t true after all?  What if all we needed to do is listen?  What if meaning—if of a different, more fantastical, speculative kind—still resides somewhere even in the lexicon of the troubled mind, waiting for the right person to unlock it?  “The brook is deep.”  John James continues to baffle us.

 

References

Audubon, John James. Ornithological Biography, or An Account of the Habits of theBbirds of the United States of America: Accompanied by Descriptions of the Objects Represented in the Work entitled The Birds of America, and Interspersed with Delineations of American Scenery and Manners.  Vol. 4. Edinburgh: Judah Dobson, 1839.

—.  Writings and Drawings.  Ed. Christoph Irmscher.  New York:  Library of America, 1999.

Glosser, Guila and Susan E. Kohn, Rhonda B. Friedman, Laura Sands, Patrick Grugan, “Repetition of Single Words and Nonwords in Alzheimer’s Disease,” Cortex, 33. 4 (1997): 653-666.

Herrick, Francis Hobart.  Audubon the Naturalist:  A History of His Life and Time.  2 vols.  New York:  Appleton, 1917.

Spectral Analysis of the Boxer Codex

boxer-pigment-analysis_00005During the first week of May, Ms. Ellen Hsieh, an Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship recipient, and Dr. Christian Fischer, from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program at UCLA, visited the Lilly Library to study the images of the Boxer Codex, one of the most important manuscripts in the Library’s collection.

The Boxer Codex was supposedly made in Manila at the end of the sixteenth century during the early Spanish colonial period. It contains Spanish-language text and 95 pages of illustrations which are not influenced, apparently, by contemporary European artistic styles. The objective of the research was to analyze the coloring materials used in the different sections of the codex in order to study the nature and provenance of raw materials as well as the production process of the codex.

Scientific analysis was conducted using portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) and fiber optics reflectance spectroscopy (FORS) in the visible and near-infrared. FORS spectra were collected with two spectrometers, a USB2000+ (Ocean Optics) operating in the visible and a UV-Vis-NIR Fieldspec 3 (ASDI, Panalytical), while pXRF qualitative data were obtained with a Niton XL3t GOLDD+ XRF analyzer (Thermo Fisher Scientific). These non-invasive technologies provide complementary information particularly useful for the identification of pigments and dyes, and have been successfully used to study other manuscripts from Europe and the Americas.

Preliminary results show that the painter(s) of the Boxer Codex used both pigments and dyes such as azurite, cinnabar and indigo. However, precise identification of the whole palette and probable mixtures will require further in-depth analysis and interpretation of the collected data.

The researchers are thankful for the financial support provided by the Lilly Library and the warm welcome and assistance from the librarians, conservators, and staff during their visit.

An Orson Welles birthday present

Label from a laquer disc for Ceiling Unlimited, Rulers of the Earth
Label from a laquer disc for Ceiling Unlimited, Rulers of the Earth
Earlier this week, the IU Libraries and the National Recording Preservation Foundation announced a project to preserve, digitize, and make available online all the Orson Welles radio recordings held in the Lilly Library.

It is the largest trove of Welles recordings in existence, and most are originals cut directly from the radio broadcasts as they aired. Experts from IU’s Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative will capture the audio from several hundred fragile lacquer discs and preserve it digitally to the highest standards.

May 6 is the 101st anniversary of the birth of Orson Welles, so we thought a sneak preview of the project would be a great way to celebrate.

We present today one episode of the Welles production Ceiling Unlimited. Sponsored by the Lockheed-Vega Aircraft Corporation, producers of the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, the series focused on patriotic stories from the world of aviation. The fifteen minute episodes ran weekly from November 1942 to February 1943, and took a variety of forms. The first episode told the story of the B-17. Others dramatized real-life stories of aviators. Some episodes took a more imaginative turn.

The recording shared here was broadcast on the first anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It imagines a meeting in hell, convened by the Devil– played by Orson Welles, of course. Attending the meeting are four historical leaders who sought to conquer the world: Napoleon, Philip the II of Spain, Louis XIV, and Kaiser Wilhelm. They discuss Hitler’s efforts to do the same and consider the role of the airplane in wartime.

Welles the narrator eventually interrupts the conversation, with a sigh: “Ladies and gentlemen, excuse me. I think I’ve had enough of playing the Devil. And just for a moment I’d like to be Orson Welles, taxpayer, citizen.” He concludes the broadcast with a somber message of vigilance, a vow to “never again be caught with folded wings, while madmen fly across the sun…”

Listen to the full episode: Rulers of the Earth

Over the course of the coming year, look for more previews from our project, Orson Welles on the Air: Radio Recordings and Scripts, 1938-1946. In August 2017, the IU Libraries will be proud to host the most complete original source of audio for Orson Welles’s radio work, with the highest extant sound quality, presented in a web site rich in supplemental materials for exploring the work of this radio innovator.

New Donation: The Artwork of Clifford Odets

odets-painting_002 (002)The Lilly Library is pleased to announce a $1.2 million gift by Walt Whitman Odets of a collection of more than 450 paintings by his father, Clifford Odets, the iconic American playwright, screenwriter, and director.

Clifford Odets is best known as an influential playwright, screenwriter, and founding member of the Theater Group. The Lilly Library is already the home of an impressive archive of Odets’ written work, including extensive correspondence spanning his career, drafts of such landmark dramatic works as Clash by Night and Golden Boy, and drafts of screenplays of iconic films such as The Big Knife and The Sweet Smell of Success. Other drafts include films on which Odets worked that were later turned over to other writers, such as It’s a Wonderful Life.

But Odets’ creativity was not limited to the written and spoken word, and the addition of his paintings to the Lilly Library’s collections continues a longtime interest on the part of the library in writers who are also artists, represented not only by our archival holdings of the writings and artworks of such luminaries as Sylvia Plath and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., but also by our vast holdings in artists’ books and fine bindings.

The paintings joining the Lilly Library’s collections are water colors, gouaches, and crayon on paper, ranging in size from 4×6 inches to about 12×15 inches. Some of the works are even smaller, for they are rendered on 3×5 U.S. Government stamped postcards; Odets was a philatelist and knew that the cards were made of suitably archival paper. The style is naïve and strong with intense color and imagination. Odets was clearly influenced by the artists whom he himself collected; he owned works by Maurice Utrillo, John Marin, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee. Odets first exhibited his own works on paper at the J.B. Neumann Gallery in New York in 1947 and continued creating art until his death in 1963.

The addition of Clifford Odets’ art to the Lilly Library’s manuscript holdings will allow researchers, students, and aspiring artists to explore and understand the complex ways in which creativity develops over time and across multiple mediums.

We wish to extend our deep gratitude to Walt Whitman Odets for this generous gift. Dr. Odets is a practicing clinical psychologist with a background in photography and aviation. He chose the Lilly Library as the beneficiary of this extraordinary collection due to the “mid-western spirit of openness that welcomes” everyone to use the collections. We are proud to continue that tradition!

You can explore the Lilly Library’s extant Odets holdings here.

This Thursday and Friday: two events with Dr. J. Greg Perkins

Perkins1March 31st 2016, 5:30pm

Dr. J. Greg Perkins is the author of the recently published monumental work of fiction, the 19-volume series Darkness Before Mourning. One of the largest works of serious fiction ever created by a single author, the series was over 40 years in the making. It provides a remarkable window into American society, life, families, and personal relationships from the 1950s to the present. Beginning with the first volume in the series, The Announcers, each independent work forms part of a biographical continuum, exploring in profoundly dark semi-fictionalized form the author’s searing experiences. The books are published by Chatwin Books of Seattle Washington.

Born in Kokomo, Indiana, Dr. Perkins is a proud graduate of Indiana University with a B.S. in chemistry and a Ph.D. in biochemistry. A Faulkner scholar and enthusiast, and with over 30 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Perkins has been a senior executive at Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Hoffman-LaRoche, and Burroughs Wellcome. Perkins has written numerous New Drug Applications (NDAs), Investigational New Drug Applications (INDs) and scientific papers, as well as the co-author of the book, Pharmaceutical Marketing: Principles, Environment, and Practice, 2002.

Dr. Perkins will present a talk entitled Science and Literature: Two Heads of the Same Coin, with a reception to follow. The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Lilly Library.

 

April 1st 2016, 10:00am to 11:30am

Students, faculty, and the public are invited to join us for coffee and conversation to meet noted author J. Greg Perkins. Throughout years of remarkable professional accomplishments, Dr. Perkins wrote extensively, engaging in what he calls, “writing therapy,” never intending for anyone else to read or witness his works on the page until three years ago, when he began to consider adapting part of the work as a script for a play. It was while working on the script that his work was discovered and subsequently published by Chatwin Books.

Students are especially encouraged to meet this Indiana author, IU graduate, and  distinguished member of the pharmaceutical world.

Naked Hemingway

We are thrilled this week to present a guest blog post by Christoph Irmscher, Provost Professor of English, George F. Getz Jr. Professor in the Wells Scholars Program, and Director of the Wells Scholars Program. Professor Irmscher has conducted extensive research in the Lilly Library’s Max Eastman collections. As part of this research, he discovered a photograph of Ernest Hemingway that shows the great American author as you’ve never seen him before. Here, Professor Irmscher recounts the story behind this remarkable archival find.

 

Naked Hemingway 

by Christoph Irmscher

The poet, editor, and activist Max Eastman (1883-1969) was one of the handsomest men of his time. His film star looks melted the hearts of women right and left and, judging from the letters they sent him, they were not content with worshipping him from distance. A fervent believer in what might be called the “big tent” approach to modern love, Eastman readily invited his female fans into his life, if mostly for brief periods of time and with the understanding that he had not promised them anything at all. In 1925, when Eastman, having returned from Bolshevik Russia, was frequenting the coffee shops of Paris, Hemingway was a member of his circle of friends. Max deeply admired Hemingway’s In Our Time and even toyed with the idea of having his wife Eliena—the sister of Stalin’s favorite prosecutor Nikolai Krylenkotranslate it into Russian.  But his respect for the writer didn’t extend to the person. In Great Companions (1964), Max records a terse exchange that he had with Hemingway, who guiltily shared with him the pleasure he got from staring at the girls in the Parisian dance halls.  Coming home from his nights in Montmartre, Hemingway was, he told Max, “disgusted” with himself.  He asked Max if he felt so, too.  Max, an early convert to Freudian psychoanalysis, had little patience for such talk: “No, I don’t, Ernest.  I enjoy lustful feelings, and what’s more I don’t think you’re talking real.”

Max Eastman on the beach. Undated photograph. Eastman mss. II.
Max Eastman on the beach. Undated photograph. Eastman mss. II.

As Hemingway turned his adolescent approach to sex into literary method, Max’s respect for the writer took a hit too. Reviewing Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, a book about bullfighting in Spain, Max freely expressed his frustrations with Hemingway’s masculine swagger.  His heart went out to the bull in Hemingway’s narrative, “this beautiful creature …  gorgeously equipped with the power for wild life, trapped in a ring where his power is nothing.” Max had no sympathy for the toreros who would hunt the animal till he would sink down, “leadlike into his tracks, lacking the mere strength of muscle to lift his vast head, panting, gasping, gurgling, his mouth too little and the tiny black tongue hanging out too far to give him breath, and faint falsetto cries of anguish, altogether lost baby-like now and not bull-like, coming out of him.” Max accused Hemingway of deriving pleasure from such callous acts of murder, an attitude he compared to the “wearing of false hair on the chest.”

Hemingway’s supporters were outraged. “I don’t know when I have written anything that I have heard more about from various sources than that article,” said Max.  Nevertheless, he included the review in a book he published in 1034, Art and the Life of Action.  Two years later, as Max was hanging out in the office of his editor at Scribner’s, Maxwell Perkins, look who happened to drop in:  Ernest Hemingway, en route back to the Spanish Civil War! Hemingway relished the opportunity to exact revenge on Max. To Perkins’s consternation, he ripped open his shirt and invited the men to inspect his chest hair.  He then proceeded to tear open Max’s shirt, too, revealing a chest that was, Perkins recalled, as “bare as a bald man’s head.” Rifling though a copy of Art and the Life of Action, which just happened to be lying on Perkins’s desk, Hemingway yelled out a particularly objectionable sentence and then, for emphasis, socked Max on the nose with the book. Max lunged at Hemingway, and both men fell on the ground.  By the time Perkins had reached them, Max was on top of Hemingway, although that might have been an accident. Max declared himself the winner.   Given his age he had, he told the press, used a wrestling move to take Hemingway down. Hemingway assured the Times that no such thing had taken place, and that Max instead had taken his slap “like a woman.” But there is one detail that does make Max’s account somewhat credible:  he did know how to wrestle.  Decades ago, while he was John Dewey’s student at Columbia University, he had coached a wrestling team in a Lower Eastside boys club.

Waldo Peirce, photographer. Ernest Hemingway, on the Marquesas Keys, 1928. Eastman mss. II.
Waldo Pierce, photographer. Ernest Hemingway, on the Marquesas Keys, 1928. Eastman mss. II.

Max never forgot what had happened. As Hemingway went from one well-publicized risky adventure to the next, Max continued to insist on his own version of masculinity that involved not loud displays of virility but a deliberate celebration of the human body and its infinite capacity for pleasure. As it turned out, he was not the only one with a grudge against Hemingway. Decades after the battle in Perkins’s office, a mutual friend of both men, the painter Waldo Pierce, presented Max with a surprise gift. In the 1920s, Pierce had been Hemingway’s fishing buddy in Florida, and it was on one of those occasions that Pierce had persuaded Hemingway to pose for his camera wearing nothing but a kind of turtle-shell on his head and the butt-rest of a fishing rod around his privates. I recently discovered the original photograph in Max’s extensive papers housed at the Lilly Library.  Hemingway had sometimes needled Pierce for his devotion to his family (in a letter to Dos Passos, he once called him a “domesticated … cow”). Well, here was Pierce’s chance to retaliate. Before he sent the compromising photograph to Max, he inscribed it on the back: “The great Pescador hiding his light under a but-rest [sic].”  Max, with evident satisfaction, noted the near-absence of chest-fur.  And he published the photograph in the second volume of his autobiography, Love and Revolution (1964), accompanied by the sarcastic caption, “Hemingway in the twenties.” By then, Hemingway had been dead for three years.

Whether Max or his publisher balked, we don’t know.  But in the published version of the photograph, Hem is wearing a pair of dainty swimming trunks.  No matter, Max had finally won the battle.

Christoph Irmscher’s biography of Max Eastman, Max Eastman’s Century, which contains an in-depth discussion of the material discussed above, will be published by Yale University Press.