A Writer Struggles: Necessity as the Mother of Invention

Cards on the table by Emmett Gowen

Not every American regional writer is destined to become a Mark Twain, a William Faulkner, or even a modest success. Such is the case of Emmett Gowen (1902-1973), an obscure Tennessee-born writer who published two forgettable novels in the early 1930s with Indianapolis publisher Bobbs-Merrill. Court-martialed from the Marine Corps, Gowen served three years in the Naval Prison at Parris Island, South Carolina before being dishonorably discharged in 1923. He taught himself the craft of writing as a reporter on several Memphis newspapers while churning out stories for pulp magazines.

In 1932, Bobbs-Merrill published Gowen’s first novel, Mountain Born, a chronicle of the lives and loves of Tennessee hill folk, to mild critical acclaim, but lackluster sales. Undeterred, Gowen pressed on with the writing of a second novel contracted by the publisher, but ran into a problem faced by many would-be professional scribes — lack of money to complete their work. On October 29, 1932, Bobbs-Merrill received “Cards on the Table,” Emmett Gowen’s clever and artistic plea for a life-saving advance against royalties that would enable him to finish a racy novel on the trials and tribulations of Southern tenant farmers. The ploy worked. The amused publisher advanced Gowen $200.00, but their relationship ended after Dark Moon of March (1933) generated fewer sales than his first book. Gowen persevered, becoming a regular contributor of articles featuring rugged men in the “great outdoors” to magazines like Field and Stream, Argosy, True, and Outdoor Life. In the late 1950s, he assumed the presidency of Emmett Gowen, Ltd., an outfitting and guide service for hunters and fisherman vacationing in Mexico and Central America. His most successful book, The Joy of Fishing, was published by Rand McNally in 1961.

Gowen is among the several hundred authors (Irvin S. Cobb, Ring Lardner, James Whitcomb Riley) represented in the Bobbs-Merrill mss. (1885-1957) housed at the Lilly Library. The papers of the Indianapolis publisher are arranged by author and include autobiographical questionnaires, correspondence, reader’s opinions, promotional material, and royalty records. The 131,056 items in the collection have been partially described in “Studies in the Bobbs-Merrill Papers,” edited by Edwin H. Cady, in The Indiana University Bookman, no. 8 (March, 1967), pp. 1-166. A dissertation in 1975 by Jack O’Bar entitled A History of the Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1850-1940: With a Postlude Through the Early 1960’s (LZ2 .O124) was derived largely from the Bobbs-Merrill mss.

— David Frasier, Reference Librarian

View larger images of Gowen’s letter

Dvorak in America

Jeanette Thurber portrait

The Lilly Library is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of the Dvořàk/Thurber mss., ca. 1885-1937, which consists of documents, correspondence and ephemera relating to Antonìn Dvořàk, Jeanette M. Thurber, and the history of the National Conservatory of Music in America (NCMA). These materials were a gift from Prof. Robert Aborn, whose dissertation “The Influence on American Musical Culture of Dvořàk’s Sojourn in America,” may be read in its entirety at: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/3462.

Jeanette M. Thurber founded the National Conservatory of Music in 1885, which was based on the Paris Conservatoire model. In addition to replicating the European Conservatories to which American students had been turning in order to obtain a first class musical education, she also hoped to train as yet untrained students, the handicapped, and blacks as well as to encourage an indigenous music culture in the United States. Initially tuition free, the Conservatory was originally located at 126-128 East 17th Street; however that building was demolished in 1911. Unsuccessful attempts to revive the school and relocate it in Washington DC persisted through the 1920’s. The staff included Victor Herbert, Rafael Joseffy and Henry Finch as well as the noted composer, Antonìn Dvořàk, who was the director from 1892-1895. It was at the Conservatory that Dvořàk met his pupil, Harry Burleigh, one of the earliest African-American composers. Burleigh introduced traditional American Spirituals to Dvořàk at the latter’s request.

Antonìn Leopold Dvořàk (September 8, 1841 – May 1, 1904) was a Czech composer of Romantic music. During his time in America, among other compositions, Dvořàk wrote Symphony No.9 “From the New World,” String Quartet in F (the “American”), and the String Quintet in E flat, as well as a Sonatina for violin and piano.

— Cherry Williams, Curator of Manuscripts

Image: Jeanette M. Thurber (photo)

View a copy of letter (copy made by Mrs. Thurber) from Dvořàk to Littleton discussing his initial contract with the NCMA.

Student scholar from Harvard reflects on Lilly Library visit

In the March/April 2009 issue of Harvard Magazine, Harvard senior Brittney Moraski writes about her visit to the Lilly Library to use the papers of poet Sylvia Plath. Moraski reflects on her experiences working in libraries and archives and concludes that “we have to be curators of our own lives”. Read the full article: http://harvardmagazine.com/2009/03/life-in-detail

The Lilly Library first acquired a small collection of Sylvia Plath’s poetry manuscripts in 1961. The extensive collection of Sylvia Plath letters, papers, and memorabilia that the Lilly Library acquired in 1977 came from her mother, Aurelia. Included in that collection are diaries, letters, poetry manuscripts, school papers, articles and prose pieces submitted for publication, scrapbooks, memorabilia, drawings and paintings, and more than 200 books from her library. To learn more about these materials, see the Guide to the Sylvia Plath Materials in the Lilly Library.

Islamic manuscripts on exhibition at the IU Art Museum

Allen mss 10

Highlights from the Lilly Library’s collection of illuminated Islamic manuscripts and books were the focus of a Saturday morning symposium held on March 7, 2009, at the Hope School of Fine Arts. Papers presented by Prof. Christiane Gruber and her students, who have been studying the collection in detail, elaborated on previously unexamined aspects of the collection. The papers will be published by the Indiana University Press in December, 2009, with accompanying illustrations. The symposium complemented the on-going exhibit at the IU Art Museum:

From Pen to Printing Press: Ten Centuries of Islamic Book Arts
March 6–May 10, 2009
Special Exhibitions Gallery, first floor

The exhibition and related programs are made possible with support from Indiana University’s New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Program, funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., and administered by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research; the Thomas T. Solley Endowment for the Curator for Asian Art; and IU Art Museum’s Arc Fund. The exhibition was curated by: Judy Stubbs, The Pamela Buell Curator for Asian Art, organizing curator, and Professor Christiane Gruber, guest curator.

— Cherry Williams, Curator of Manuscripts

View a larger image of Allen mss 10.

Christmas Poems from the Madhouse

Haringer woodcut

This Expressionist portrait of Jakob Haringer (1898-1948) at age 22, by Emil Betzler, may well be a rare survival. It reached the Lilly together with five small groups of poems in manuscript, written on the back of old letters and scraps of paper, and hand-bound by Haringer as Christmas greetings to a few friends. Each copy is unique. On the copy shown here, Haringer has noted “written in prison and the madhouse.”

Following his early discharge from the military in WWI on medical grounds, Haringer took up the life of a vagabond. Accused of various petty crimes, including insulting officials, falsifying papers, and blasphemy, he spent most of the rest of his life on the streets, in hospitals, and in mental institutions. He lived largely by begging from friends. In 1936 the Nazis revoked his citizenship and he fled to Switzerland. From 1939 on he lived for a time in Paris, then, illegally, in Switzerland, where he was interned in various refugee camps during WWII. He died during a visit to Zurich in 1948. Arnold Schönberg set three poems by Haringer to music in 1933.

— Breon Mitchell, Director

View more images of the Haringer manuscripts

Grand Tour exhibition at IU Art Museum features Lilly Library books and journals

Thiebault travel journal

Ten items from the Lilly Library collections are part of the current special exhibition at the IU Art Museum, The Grand Tour: Art and Travel, 1740–1914, on view through December 21, 2008. (For more information, see the IU Art Museum web site). This exhibition considers the role of art and visual representation in the history of tourism. One of the great pleasures of researching the exhibition were the many hours I spent at the Lilly Library paging through rare eighteenth-century travel guides and hand-written, hand-drawn travel journals, some of which are still uncatalogued. Drawing was an important component of middle- and upper-class education during the period examined in the Grand Tour exhibition, and it is wonderful to see how the average traveler was able to put their drawing skills to use while on the road.

One of my favorite Lilly books in the exhibition is a two-volume journal (only volume one is in the exhibition) recording a walking tour in the north of Wales in September 1827, Voyage à pied dans le nord du Pays de Galles (Thiebault Family mss., uncatalogued). The journal was compiled by a French traveler, Adolphe Thiebault (1797–1875?), and is filled with his beautiful, precisely delineated ink and wash drawings of the landscapes he encountered in Wales. Each drawing is carefully pasted into the journal, and is accompanied by a descriptive caption and date. The page on view in the exhibition is particularly interesting, depicting a view of the Menai Suspension Bridge, a modern technological wonder in Thiebault’s day. Completed in 1826, the bridge was one of the world’s first iron suspension bridges. Linking mainland Wales to the island of Anglesey (previously accessible only by ferry), the bridge reduced travel time between London and Dublin from thirty-six hours to just nine. Thiebault drew the bridge on September 16, and on the facing page pasted a newspaper clipping with a story about the bridge.

Another book that provides great insight into the values and interests of its time is the very useful Gentleman’s Guide on his Tour Through Italy of 1791. If you ever wondered how long it took a Grand Tourist to travel from Rome to Naples in the late eighteenth century, this book will tell you: twenty-five hours, during which it was necessary to change horses at eighteen designated post-stations. Aside from providing detailed practical information regarding money, itineraries, and lodgings, the guidebook puts a strong emphasis on the art that English tourists wanted to see when they traveled to Italy. Lists of paintings in both private and public collections are included in the book, as is information about architecture and archaeological sites such as Pompeii, which had only been discovered a few decades earlier. Although unillustrated, the book includes a beautiful fold-out, colored map of Italy next to the title page. This book, with its map on display, is the first object visitors see when they enter the Grand Tour exhibition.

— Jenny McComas, Curator of Western Art after 1800, Indiana University Art Museum

View a larger image of a page from Adolphe Thiebault’s journal

Bound for the bottom of the sea

Signals to be used by the squadron,.. (binding)

One of the books in this summer’s exhibition in the Lilly Library Main Gallery, Blue at the Mizzen: Patrick O’Brian and the 19th Century Naval World, was a slim, but heavy volume entitled: Signals to be used by the squadron under command of [blank space]. This book, printed in Brooklyn by Thomas Kirk for use by Commander John Rodgers’ flotilla during the War of 1812, has a very unusual binding – it’s encased in lead. The heavy lead binding insured rapid disposal in the event of an emergency. By throwing the book overboard, the Captain could make sure that the signal book didn’t fall into enemy hands. The first page of the book contains hand-drawn colored signal flags, and the key or indicator to each of the signals is added in manuscript. Commander Rodgers was clear in his orders concerning the signal book. “It is directed, that the commanding officers of the flotilla will never suffer their signal books to be exposed either to the possibility of being lost, or to the inspection of any persons who duty does not require that they should be made acquainted with the signals. On the receipt of this signal book, the officer to whom it is delivered is desired to furnish me with all signals appertaining in any degree to these. Signed, John Rodgers.”

— Elizabeth Johnson, Head of Technical Services

View another image from Signals to be used by the squadron under command of [blank space]