Did Stephen Crane read Emily Dickinson? Better still, did W. D. Howells read Dickinson’s poetry to Crane?

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 10.58.18 AMDid Stephen Crane read Emily Dickinson? And was he inspired by her poetry?

Gregory Laski (@ProfL12) asked about it this morning, and I responded “Yes, Howells read to him from Dickinson. It’s somewhere in Hamlin Garland’s memoirs”  (or words to that effect) and also in Paul Sorrentino’s Stephen Crane: A Life of Fire.” (It’s  probably also in Stephen Crane Remembered, a copy of which I own but can’t find right now.)

This is what I’d always read and seen: one day in 1893, after Garland had introduced Crane to Howells, Crane visited Howells at home and Howells read to him from Emily Dickinson. It’s a pretty great story.

But what’s the source? Here’s one of those down-the-rabbit-hole searches that’s always more fun than whatever writing you’re doing at the time. Here are some of those paths, numbered so that you can see the process; if you’re not interested, skip to the end.

Mildly dead ends:

  1. Garland talks about meeting Crane in Roadside Meetings (1930), but he apparently didn’t discuss this. (I say “apparently” because I can’t find my copy of the book.)

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    Hamlin Garland

  2. Selected Letters of Hamlin Garland (ed. Keith Newlin & Joseph McCullough) doesn’t mention Dickinson and Crane except to say that Garland mistakenly thought he had met Dickinson (he met her niece).
  3. Hamlin Garland: A Life (Newlin) doesn’t mention Dickinson in the index but does state that Garland “had arranged an introduction to Howells in April 1893, hoping that the senior writer could help Crane place his poetry with Harper’s Monthly” (192).
  4. The Stephen Crane Encyclopedia (Stanley Wertheim) has no entry for Emily Dickinson.
  5. Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson’s William Dean Howells: A Writer’s Life does not repeat the WDH reading to SC episode, but it does report that Crane’s excursions into flophouses and breadlines were at the urging of Howells and Garland and includes this intriguing detail: “With Crane and other friends or by himself, Howells roamed New York’s ethnic neighborhoods” (342). Howells was about 60 at the time, but it’s a great image to think of him with Crane roaming the neighborhoods together, though WDH would probably not have gone at night when Theodore Roosevelt as police commissioner was checking up on the policemen on the beat.

Getting closer:

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    W. D. Howells. Source: Picture I scanned in 1997 that has since made its way around the web.

     

    Howells reading Dickinson’s poems to Crane is  in the Sorrentino biography: “Garland insisted that Crane show the poems to William Dean Howells, who already knew of Crane’s interest in poetry from their meeting a year earlier, when Crane had been impressed with Emily Dickinson’s creativity as Howells read her poetry to him” (130). The note references The Correspondence of Stephen Crane, p. 54

  2. On to the Correspondence (edited by Stanley Wertheim and Paul Sorrentino). Here’s what’s on p. 54 as a footnote to a letter from Howells to Crane dated April 8, 1893 that reads in part “Personally I know nothing of you except what you told me in our pleasant interview”: “Wearing a suit borrowed from his journalist friend John Northern Hilliard, Crane had tea or dinner with Howells in his home on what is now Central Park South one evening in the first week of April 1893. Howells read Crane some of Emily Dickinson’s verses at this time, and her terse, cryptic lines may have influenced the style of The Black Riders.” There’s no citation for this event, however.

Closer still:

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    Stephen Crane, from Stephen Crane Studies

    In The Crane Log: A Documentary Life of Stephen Crane 1871-1900, p. 90, there’s more detail: “Early April. Wearing a suit borrowed from his friend John Northern Hilliard, Crane visits Howells in his home at 40 West 59th Street, New York City. At this time, or perhaps on a later visit, Howells reads some of Emily Dickinson’s poems to him, and Crane is deeply impressed (Barry, 148).”

  2. The citation is to John D. Barry, “A Note on Stephen Crane.” Bookman 13 (April 1901): 148.  If you have access at the University of Virginia, or if you are time traveling in the year 2000 and looking this up prior to whenever they took all their public access stuff offline and hid it behind a firewall, you can get it here: https://search.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/u2739147.  <editorial rant> A great resource was lost to literary studies once UVA sealed up its collections. </editorial rant>

Here it is!

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 11.56.58 AMHere is the original passage *that apparently inspired the anecdote about Howells reading Dickinson to Stephen Crane: “One evening while receiving a visit from Mr. Crane, Mr. Howells took from his shelves a volume of Emily Dickinson’s verses and read some of these aloud. Mr. Crane was deeply impressed, and a short time afterward he showed me thirty poems in manuscript, written, as he explained, in three days” (148).

 

How credible is this source?

John D. Barry knew Crane, and according to The Stephen Crane Encyclopedia, “On 14 April 1894 Barry read some of the poems that would comprise The Black Riders in front of the Uncut Leaves Society at Sherry’s since Crane was averse to public speaking and refused to read them himself. Barry believed that Crane’s poetry had been inspired by Emily Dickinson, whose verses, Barry maintained, had been read to him by William Dean Howells” (20).  (bold for emphasis)

But look at Wertheim’s language here: “believed, maintained.” Wertheim has a point, which he emphasizes with this hedging language: All we really have is Barry’s word, not quite a year after Crane’s death on June 5, 1900, about Howells reading to Crane.

Should we believe it?

On one hand, Barry knew Crane and was quite severely critical of Maggie, calling it “morbid” and “unhealthful.” He believed in Crane’s poetry, however, and seems to have discussed it with him. It wouldn’t have been unusual for Howells to read aloud; to argue by analogy, Henry James and Edith Wharton did this all the time.  Howells’s kindness to young authors was legendary, and Barry was writing shortly after Crane’s death when memories were fresh.

On the other hand, Barry was a novelist, a playwright, and an instructor at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Perhaps the story was embellished because it would make more of an impression for the point he was trying to make in the article: that Stephen Crane should not be classed with the (French) symbolists because he was inspired by that most American of poets (aside from Whitman), Emily Dickinson.

Your thoughts? 

 

 

*With a little digging, you can find Bookman (not The Bookman, published in London and available at Hathi Trust) at archive.org here:

https://archive.org/stream/bookman54unkngoog#page/n240/mode/2up/search/stephen+crane

What made Aaron Burr AARON BURR? Edmund Wilson and Harriet Beecher Stowe have some answers.

burrWhat made Aaron Burr become Aaron Burr?  Not just in 1804, but before and after?  I can think of no historical figure for whom Milton’s phrase “sense of injur’d merit” applies more strongly–and yet Milton, in Paradise Lost, was talking about the motivation of Satan.

The Burr that emerges in Gore Vidal’s novel (Burr, 1973) is supremely cynical, which sounds close to the mark, as does the outraged, haughty, secretive, and slippery Burr that Ron Chernow describes in Alexander Hamilton. I haven’t come to sections dealing with Burr in Joanne Freeman’s Affairs of Honor  yet, or finished Nancy Isenberg’s Fallen Founder.  Since I’m not a historian, Burr remains for me a fascinating literary character, and a tragic one.

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A. Burr and his Memoirs.

Matthew Davis’s  Memoirs of Aaron Burr (1836, 1855) (free at Archive.org) includes a raft of letters portraying Burr as the brave young officer, something of a martinet but a rational one. Among the interesting pieces there is a letter from Gen. Charles Lee, who confirms a Hamilton lyric by writing to Burr in October 1778, after he had been sentenced at his court-martial:

“As I have no idea that a proper reparation will be made to my injured reputation, it is my intent, whether the sentence is reversed or not reversed, to resign my commission, retire to Virginia, and learn to hoe tobacco, which I find is the best school to form a consummate general” (135).

As Thomas A. Foster writes in Common-Place, however, Davis was not a sympathetic biographer, at least where Burr’s relationships with women were concerned; that would wait for the later biographer James Parton, perhaps better known to most 19th-century Americanists as the husband of Sara Willis Parton (Fanny Fern).

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Burr as an older man, behind a tissue mask in the frontispiece of The Private Journal of Aaron Burr.

But The Private Journal of Aaron Burr (1903; free at HathiTrust) already gives a less elevated picture of Burr, and in his own words. It’s a book that could be subtitled Down and Out in Paris, London, New York, &c.  It’s difficult to reconcile the man of such intellectual gifts and bravery during the siege of Quebec and the Revolution, who (maybe, kind of, sort of–but acquitted!) thought about establishing a Western empire, with the man we see in his daily life drinking a little too much and seeking out some cream of tartar punch for the hangover, visiting his tailor, ordering a chess set, and so on. The reader can only think about the waste of talents that this represents.

Which brings me back to the original question: why did you do these things, Burr? Chernow makes a good case about why the duel with Hamilton occurred, but so much of the rest seems inexplicable.

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Harriet Beecher Stowe explains it all, but she had a soft spot for bad boys like Burr, according to Wilson.

Fearless as always, Harriet Beecher Stowe enters the fray in The Minister’s Wooing  (1859) and Oldtown Folks, by presenting two fictional versions of Aaron Burr. In The Minister’s Wooing, Senator Burr is brought up short by the memory of his mother as his better nature struggles with his darker side:

Burr was practised in every act of gallantry; he had made womankind a study: he never saw a beautiful face and form without a sort of restless desire to experiment upon it, and try his power over the interior inhabitant. But just at this moment something streamed into his soul from those blue, earnest eyes, which brought back to his mind what pious people had so often told him of his mother—the beautiful and early-sainted Esther Burr.

In Oldtown Folks, Burr is “Ellery Davenport,” grandson, as Burr was, of Jonathan Edwards. Davenport challenges his grandfather’s doctrine of predestination and points to the sorry state of Christianity as it is practiced to support his point:

Taking the mass of human beings in the world at this hour, they are in such circumstances, that, so far from it ‘s being reasonable to expect the morals of Christianity of them, they are not within sight of ordinary human decencies. . . . That ‘s what I call visible election and reprobation, get rid of it as we may or can.”

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Edmund Wilson, who in person could be as terrifying as this picture.

As the critic Edmund Wilson sums up Stowe’s argument:

Her point is that Jonathan Edwards, in his overweening spiritual pride, had put the Calvinistic qualifications for Election and Salvation so high, at a level so unattainable by the ordinary man–this matter had been much on Harriet’s mind ever since her brother Charles had been driven to despair by reading the treatise by Jonathan Edwards–that Aaron Burr, also the son of a clergyman and brought up in his grandfather’s shadow, had from the start been discouraged with religion and led by a powerful intellect completely to discard morality in furthering his own career.  This picture of Aaron Burr is thus a part of Mrs. Stowe’s expose of the pernicious effects of Calvinism (Patriotic Gore 49).

Wilson adds, “The truth is that this sort of character–sophisticated, clever and fearless–rather piques and excites Mrs. Stowe” (49), as she was later to show in The True Story of Lady Byron (1869), where she shows sympathy for Lord Byron despite his misdeeds.

The complexities of human nature are such that no one thing can explain Burr. But Stowe’s (and Wilson’s explication of Stowe’s answer) give the reason for Burr’s behavior in logic that my students often point out when we study Edwards: if you’re already predestined not to be saved, why be good?

 

Murder on her Mind: Did Edith Wharton write about Lizzie Borden? (part 3 of 3)

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Charles Boyer and Bette Davis in All This and Heaven, Too (1940). Picture from TCM.

If Edith Wharton  was so enthusiastic about writing the Lizzie Borden story, why didn’t she finish the play Kate Spain? 

The key to this is what she told her sister-in-law and friend, Minnie Jones, in the letter dated March 9, 1935. At this point, she had written (but not published) “Confession,” and she had also written the first act of what she calls “the Lizzie Borden play.”

But Wharton also worried that “it was more than likely that it had already been used.” Her friend Edward Sheldon, the playwright, told her that it had been done, she claimed, and so she decided not to finish the play.

The story “Confession” was another matter;  as she told Minnie Jones, “I do not think the story will suffer much from its Borden origin, as you will have seen by this time that it is of no importance in my fable, and my young woman could quite as well have murdered an intolerable husband” (Letters 584). In “Confession,” the narrator wonders whether Kate could be “the murderess of her own father”  (Lewis, Collected Stories 2: 817), but the other details differ from the case.

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Lizzie Borden listens to testimony about the burning of the dress. From trial accounts of the time in The Lizzie Borden Sourcebook (at the link).

This helps to explain one mystery: why is Kate Spain so much more explicit about the murder than “Confession”? If Wharton intended the story to be a more general “fable” rather than a treatment exclusively of the Borden story, the ambiguity makes sense.

Kate Spain has many specific details, including a piece of stained calico burned around the edges and a deleted segment stating that the father had been killed while lying on the sofa. These references show Wharton’s familiarity with the case. If you’ve read any of the books about the case, for example, you’ll recall that Borden is supposed to have burned a calico dress in the stove. “I am going to burn this old thing up; it is covered with paint,”  she said, which apparently didn’t influence the jury’s decision.

allthis

Sheldon didn’t stop at telling Wharton that the Borden case had been overdone, however; he suggested instead that she use “the Praslin murder instead.”  The “Praslin murder” was a famous murder case involving the Duc de Choiseul-Praslin, whose wife, Fanny Sebastiani (by whom he had 10 children), was apparently passionately jealous of him and had recently fired the family’s governess, Henriette Deluzy-Desportes, due to her suspicions.  On 18 August 1847, the Duchesse was found bludgeoned and stabbed to death; the Duc maintained his innocence but, while awaiting trial, committed suicide.  The governess, Henriette Deluzy-Desportes, was briefly jailed in the murder but released. She became the wife of the minister Henry Martyn Field, brother of Cyrus Field (whose company laid the first Atlantic cable), and the couple later lived in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

In her letter to Minnie Jones, Wharton adds, tantalizingly, that she “began a novel on the Praslin case two or three years ago, which alas I did not finish; and last year I saw that some one else had used the subject, though probably quite differently, as I had intended the story to begin only after the governess arrives in Stockbridge” (Letters 584). In addition to being the setting for the real story, Stockbridge was a natural choice for Wharton: she had lived near there in Lenox at The Mount for ten years, and she had set Ethan Frome and Summer in the same region.

The editors of the letters, R.W.B. Lewis and Nancy Lewis, don’t give a title for this unfinished Praslin novel by Wharton. They do, however,  supply a name of the presumed other novel on the subject, implying that they thought this was the treatment to which she referred: Rachel Field’s All This and Heaven, Too, which was made into a movie starring Bette Davis and Charles Boyer in 1940. Rachel Field was the great-niece of Henriette Deluzy-Desportes, the governess at the center of the case. I’ve read the novel  (the source of the brief summary of the murder case above), and it is sympathetic–very–to her great-aunt’s position.

Here’s another mystery, though: All This and Heaven, Too was published in 1938, the year after Wharton’s death. Was this the version that Wharton referred to, and if so, how had she seen it by 1934, the “last year” when she mentioned seeing something else about the subject? If it was in French, she might have read it but wouldn’t have been deterred from writing about it, because she was looking at the American market for her works.

I’ll have to look more closely to see if there’s a serial version (haven’t found one yet), but another possibility is that someone at Macmillan, which was Wharton’s publisher and also Field’s, tipped her off about it.

That’s all for now, but the search continues for a lead on the Praslin novel that Wharton saw.

Murder on her Mind: Did Edith Wharton write about Lizzie Borden? (part 2 of 3)

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An older Edith Wharton, writing–could it be about Lizzie Borden?

Wharton obviously felt a connection to writing about the Lizzie Borden case.

At the time she wrote to Minnie Jones about her story “Confession” in March 1935, it had not yet been published. As mentioned in the previous post, it appeared in Storyteller 58 (March 1936): 64-85 under the title “Unconfessed Crime.”

But  Wharton was already “contemplating a play on the same subject, but I felt that it was more than likely that it had already been used” (Letters 584). In fact, she “became so absorbed in writing the first act of the Lizzie Borden play that I am not sorry to have done it.”

Wharton called the play “Kate Spain,” and it was never completed or published during her lifetime. It exists in the archives of the Beinecke Library’s YCAL MSS 42 Edith Wharton Collection, Box 20.

For those who can’t travel to New Haven, it fortunately also appears in a more accessible spot, Laura Rattray’s valuable collection Unpublished Writings of Edith Wharton, Vol. 1: Plays (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2009), pp. 137-158.

You can find a copy in a library near you in WorldCat by putting in your zip code at the link.

The play version takes place partly in “Cayuga (or some big town in the north part of the state of N.Y.)”–upstate, in other words. Wharton had no use for upstate New York; in “The Other Two,” Alice Varick Waythorn is “unearthed” from “somewhere  . . .  Pittsburg or Utica” (Lewis, Collected Stories 1: 381)Wharton, or her character Waythorn, obviously had only the haziest conception of upstate New York, a common affliction, and if she meant “Pittsburgh,” even less of a conception of  western Pennsylvania.

It’s as though she waved a graceful hand in a mildly northwestern direction from Manhattan and figured “close enough.” The only place she ridicules more thoroughly is  the Midwest. Undine Spragg’s hometown of  “Apex City” in The Custom of the Country doesn’t even exist in a particular state. But as a substitute for Fall River, Massachusetts, the site of the Borden murders, “Cayuga” is perfect: large enough (“big town”) for gossip, wealth, and an entrenched social structure, but alien enough to Wharton’s readers that they wouldn’t be looking for the nuanced social analysis she brought to “Old New York.”

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Lizzie Borden. See Wharton’s description of “Kate Spain” at left. 

Both versions feature a Lizzie Borden-type character and a menacing female companion; both have a mystery at the center. One features overt blackmail. Again, no spoilers, but in the story “Confession,” you never learn what happened. In the play version, you learn whether Lizzie Borden “took an axe” or not.

Here’s a description of the two women, from Rattray’s edition:

“Kate Spain is about thirty-two,” [note: Lizzie’s age at the time of the murders] “rather tall, very thin, with black hair and wide very pale gray eyes. Her mouth is beautiful, but the lips are white, and drawn into lines of misery. When she takes her hat off a grayish lock shows above her temples.”

“Cassie is stout, with a red mottled complexion, thin brown hair, rather prominent bold eyes, and a thick white throat with a crease in it. She carries a basket of provisions on one arm, a cheap vanity-bag on the other<,> and stands looking about her from the threshold.”

The character “Cassie” (though not necessarily her appearance or actions) is based on the Bordens’ housekeeper, Bridget Sullivan, whom the Bordens apparently called “Maggie.” She lived until 1948 (picture at the link). Her trial testimony is here. 

Why didn’t Wharton finish the play?

[To be continued tomorrow.]

 

Murder on her Mind: Did Edith Wharton write about Lizzie Borden? (part 1 of 3)

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Lizzie Borden, via Wikimedia Commons. Did she indeed “take an axe” and, well, you know?

At the Society for the Study of the American Short Story conference next week, I’m presenting a paper called “Edith Wharton’s Suspense Theater” that looks at her late short stories, including (if there’s room) “The Day of the Funeral,” “Confession,” “The Looking Glass,” and “Pomegranate Seed.”

But to answer the question that brought you here: why, yes, she did. In fact, Wharton wrote at least two pieces about the Lizzie Borden case.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Lizzie Borden, here’s the Wikipedia version. Shorter version: On the hot morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew, Lizzie’s father, and her stepmother, Abby, were murdered with an axe inside their home, which was locked from the inside. Lizzie was tried for and acquitted of the crime; after her acquittal, the murders remained unsolved. Lizzie Borden died in 1927.

Edith Wharton was fascinated by the case, and she fictionalized it twice.

The first is her story “Confession,” which, as she wrote to her sister-in-law Mary Cadwallader (“Minnie”) Jones on March 9, 1935, was “suggested by the Lizzie Borden case.”

“Confession” was first published in Storyteller 58 (March 1936): 64-85 (under title “Unconfessed Crime”) and then in The World Over, 1936. The story involves a mysterious “Mrs. Ingram” and her companion “Miss Wilpert” in Europe, but no spoilers here–you’ll have to read the story.

If you need to look up the original publication information on Wharton’s stories, I made a complete list here some years ago: https://edithwhartonsociety.wordpress.com/works/edith-whartons-short-stories-publication-information/

[To be continued tomorrow.]

Did Jack London set fire to Wolf House?

Jack London Ranch 2010 033In this month’s Valley of the Moon Magazine, Jonah Raskin says, well, maybe he did.

http://www.vommag.com/january-2016/

Background for this excerpt: Wolf House, the ruins of which still stand in Jack London State Park, was London’s dream home, designed with his input and built from California materials. After citing a 1995 forensic investigation that found oily rags and spontaneous combustion to be the cause, Raskin continues:

Still, not everyone was convinced, including Greg Hayes [Jack London State Park Ranger and London expert]. Even Robert Anderson [forensic investigator] wasn’t entirely convinced of his own argument, especially when I pointed out to him that Jack had written in an essay published before the fire, “It will be a happy house–or else I’ll burn it down.” Just what did Jack mean when he made that provocative remark? Just how unhappy was he in 1913 when his doctors told him that if he didn’t stop drinking, alcohol would kill him.

There was no investigation of the fire that year, not by London’s insurance company, not by law enforcement and not by the fire department, since there was no fire department in Sonoma County in 1913. . . .

Whatever the cause, one thing seems clear. It wasn’t one big happy family on Beauty Ranch. Jack’s second wife, Charmian Kittridge, whom he had married in 1905, typed his manuscripts, followed him most everywhere he went and put up with his philandering. Often depressed, he drove her crazy, and she continued to love him.
According to a witness who overheard an argument in Wolf House shortly before it burned, Charmian told Jack, “You’ll never live here.”

Raskin goes on to discuss other suspects, including jealous neighbors.

What to make of this evidence? A few thoughts:

  1. London’s “or else I’ll burn it down” sounds a lot like London being London to me. That melodramatic note is a fairly characteristic pattern in some of his writing, and holding him to it as a threat, which may work in a police procedural drama, probably means less than you’d think.
  2. “How unhappy was he in 1913”–London’s legion of biographers can sort that one out. He was devastated when Wolf House burned down, as numerous witnesses attest. A brutal letter to his daughter Joan upbraids her for not writing to him to sympathize with its loss.
  3. “You’ll never live here”–Again, in the heat of an argument, the participants say things for effect rather than as actual threats. 1913 was a fraught year for the Londons (see The Little Lady of the Big House), but the two months spent in New York City in 1912 rather than the events of 1913 were a low point in their relationship. If Charmian had to “put up with” a lot from London and his depressions, would she be inclined to burn down a house, knowing that it would send him into a further depth of despair and that, since she’d be there, she’d have to bear the brunt of it?

You can read the article on pp. 46-47 of the issue, which is online at the link above.

“No Irish need apply” a myth? No, it’s true.

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Brooklyn Eagle, May 1, 1863. From Patrick Young’s blog post (link below).

At Easily Distracted, Timothy Burke reports the remarkable story of Rebecca Fried, a high school student at Sidwell Friends, who has disproved Professor Richard Jensen’s contention that “No Irish Need Apply” was a feverish figment of the Irish-American imagination:

Fried’s essay is a refutation of a 2002 article by the historian Richard Jensen that claimed that “No Irish Need Apply” signs were rare to nonexistent in 19th Century America, that Irish-American collective memory of such signs (and the employment discrimination they documented) was largely an invented tradition tied to more recent ideological and intersubjective needs, and that the Know-Nothings were not really nativists who advocated employment (and other) discrimination against Irish (or other) immigrants. existence of signs and ads saying “No Irish need apply,” taken as a given in many history classes, was challenged.

Fried published her findings in “No Irish Need Deny: Evidence for the Historicity
of NINA Restrictions in Advertisements and Signs”, Journal of Social History, 10:1093, 2015.

Patrick Young, who reproduces excerpts from Fried’s article and some of the many supporting ads, also includes some of the back-and-forth between Jensen and a respectful but unintimidated Fried:

Yes there were NINA newspaper ads—I was the one who found the first one—but I argued they were very rare. If a man read every job want-ad in his newspaper every week for 40 years, he would have a 50-50 chance of coming across one NINA ad in his lifetime. That’s what I called very rare—& the student called very common. Richard Jensen

. . .

I also have to respectfully disagree with your numerical calculation. I explain why at page 25 of the article, which is a brief response to your points. Briefly, if the man in your example read the Sun newspaper, he would have read at least 15 male-directed NINA ads in a single year, plus any female-directed ones, plus any from other sources. Thanks again for this. I respect you and your work.
Rebecca Fried

Burke has a nuanced post that discusses the implications for historians, but on an individual (and non-historian) level, I’ll be using this in English 372 this fall not only to illustrate the issue of anti-Irish prejudice, which we discuss in a broader context of racism and xenophobia, but also to highlight the importance of questioning theories and returning to the evidence even when, or especially when, an idea is taken as given.