New resources: Emily Dickinson

From Kristin Doyle Hyland on C19: Spreading the word: a valuable resource for those teaching Emily Dickinson’s poetry (and especially those using the Norton Anthology of Poetry).

Mike Kelly at Amherst has compiled a linked list of their Dickinson manuscipt holdings (online images, freely available!!) for those poems that appear in the Norton Anthology of Poetry, 5th ed. Also includes links to manuscripts available from the Boston Public Library.

PDF version of list available on the above page as well.

Rare Mary Pickford IMP film found in New Hampshire has been restored

From an article by Susan King in the Los Angeles Times, which also has a clip from the film

Seven years ago, a contractor was commissioned to tear down a decaying barn in the small New Hampshire town of Nelson. Before destroying the building, he checked out the barn to make sure it was empty.

It wasn’t.

On the second floor were an old film projector and seven reels of highly volatile nitrate films that weren’t even stored in cans. Four of the films had been considered lost including the 1911 Mary Pickford short “Their First Misunderstanding,” a comedy-drama about a newlywed couple’s first argument.

The Library of Congress is funding the restoration of “Their First Misunderstanding,” which was the first movie “America’s Sweetheart” made for Carl Laemmle‘s IMP (Independent Moving Picture Co.). The Library has the largest collection of Pickford movies, including the Oscar-winning actress/producer’s personal collection.

“Their First Misunderstanding” marked the first time Pickford was credited by name in a movie. The 18-year-old Pickford also wrote the film’s scenario and co-stars with her first husband, Owen Moore, whom she had just married.  Legendary producer-director Thomas Ince, who is believed to have directed “Their First Misunderstanding,” also appears in the short.

[Read the rest at the link above] 

Identity of Hannah Crafts (The Bondswoman’s Narrative) Revealed

From this morning’s New York Times 

In 2002, a novel thought to be the first written by an African-American woman became a best seller, praised for its dramatic depiction of Southern life in the mid-1850s through the observant eyes of a refined and literate house servant.

Gregg Hecimovich and Reverend Joseph Cooper

John Wheeler lived on the plantation where Hannah Bond escaped slavery.

But one part of the story remained a tantalizing secret: the author’s identity.

That literary mystery may have been solved by a professor of English in South Carolina, who said this week that after years of research, he has discovered the novelist’s name: Hannah Bond, a slave on a North Carolina plantation owned by John Hill Wheeler, is the actual writer of “The Bondwoman’s Narrative,” the book signed by Hannah Crafts.

Beyond simply identifying the author, the professor’s research offers insight into one of the central mysteries of the novel, believed to be semi-autobiographical: how a house slave with limited access to education and books was heavily influenced by the great literature of her time, like “Bleak House” and “Jane Eyre,” and how she managed to pull off a daring escape from servitude, disguised as a man.

The professor, Gregg Hecimovich, the chairman of the English department at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., has uncovered previously unknown details about Bond’s life that have shed light on how the novel was possibly written. The heavy influences of Dickens, for instance, particularly from “Bleak House,” can be explained by Bond’s onetime servitude on a plantation that routinely kept boarders from a nearby girls’ school; the curriculum there required the girls to recite passages of “Bleak House” from memory. Bond, secretly forming her own novel, could have listened while they studied, or spirited away a copy to read.

Edith Wharton’s Berkshires Home, The Mount

DSCN0535Cross-posted from the new Edith Wharton Society ( site except for this photo of The Mount, which I took a year ago:

From NPR:

Gilding the Ages: Edith Wharton’s Berkshire Sanctuary

JARED BOWEN: Even today, Edith Wharton occupies a place as one of America’s leading literary ladies.  She was born into the upper crust of old New York in the mid-1800s—a member of high society who also exposed it through the prism of her pen. Wharton wrote more than 40 books in 40 years including “Ethan Frome” and “The Age of Innocence” for which she became the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Today she is also remembered for her home, The Mount.  And if ever a house could serve as an autobiography, The Mount is it. Situated on a hill overlooking a lake in Lenox, Massachusetts, it was conceived by Wharton from the ground up.  She dreamed its location, guided its aesthetic principles and designed her elaborate gardens. It was in a sense, her own “House of Mirth”—which she wrote while living here.

Continue reading: Video and transcript at

Mark Twain Gives Advice on Conference Presentations

These excerpts from the new Autobiography of Mark Twain address “a new and devilish invention–the thing called an Authors’ Reading”  rather than a conference presentation, but Twain has some great advice about what not to do. These are from pages 383-384 in the print version, but you can read it online as well.

Twain had been asked to speak and foresaw disaster: “The introducer would be ignorant, windy, eloquent, and willing to hear himself talk.  With nine introductions to make, added to his own opening speech–well, I could not go on with these harrowing calculations.”

1. It takes a long time to create a readable short paper.

“My reading was ten minutes long.  When I had selected it originally, it was twelve minutes long, and it had taken me a good hour to find ways of reducing it by two minutes without damaging it.”

2. Time your presentation. Even Howells didn’t know this.

“Howells was always a member of these traveling afflictions, and I was never able to teach him to rehearse his proposed reading by the help of a watch and cut it down to a proper length. He [page 384] couldn’t seem to learn it. He was a bright man in all other ways, but whenever he came to select a reading for one of these carousals his intellect decayed and fell to ruin. I arrived at his house in Cambridge the night before the Longfellow Memorial occasion, and I probably asked [him] to show me his selection. At any rate, he showed it to me—and I wish I may never attempt the truth again if it wasn’t seven thousand words. I made him set his eye on his watch and keep game while I should read a paragraph of it. This experiment proved that it would take me an hour and ten minutes to read the whole of it, and I said ‘And mind you, this is not allowing anything for such[interruptions] as applause—for the reason that after the first twelve minutes there wouldn’t be any.’”

3. Keep it short.

“He [Howells] had a time of it to find something short enough, and he kept saying that he never would find a short enough selection that would be good enough—that is to say, he never would be able to find one that would stand exposure before an audience.

I said ‘It’s no matter. Better that than a long one—because the audience could stand a bad short one, but couldn’t stand a good long one.'”

4. Conference rooms can be stuffy.

“It was in the afternoon, in the Globe Theatre and the place was packed, and the air would have been very bad only there wasn’t any. I can see that mass of people yet, opening and closing their mouths like fishes gasping for breath. It was intolerable.”

5. Don’t belabor the obvious.

“That graceful and competent speaker, Professor Norton, opened the game with a very handsome speech, but it was a good twenty minutes long. And a good ten minutes of it, I think, were devoted to the introduction of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, who hadn’t any more need of an introduction than the Milky Way.”

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

The great poet Seamus Heaney died recently, sparking an outpouring of well-deserved tributes.

The New York Times:

The Guardian:  and

The Paris Review:

I had the great privilege of interviewing Mr. Heaney many years ago  after writing about his work. Hearing him read in that beautifully sonorous voice and hearing him discuss other poets, especially his contemporaries, was unforgettable, as was his gracious manner.

His last words were “Noli timere”–“Do not be afraid”–and they were texted to his wife.