Sunday, May 30, 2010

Samuel Hall: Printer-Patriot [part 1]

Several months ago I made the decision to begin focusing my collecting efforts. Many book-collectors center their efforts upon an individual author or illustrator; because of my interest in the material history of the book (as well as its content, of course), I’ve decided to use this opportunity to explore how the specific context of a book’s manufacture influences its appearance (and hence reception). To accomplish this, I have set myself the goal of gathering all of the imprints – books, pamphlets, almanacs, newspapers, forms, and other ephemera – of a single printer. The printer I’ve selected (for rather nostalgic reasons) is the firm of Samuel and Ebenezer Hall, the first print shop in Salem, MA (my hometown), which operated from 1768 to 1775 and after the war from 1781 to 1785. The Halls’ shop has the distinction of being the third printing press in the colony of Massachusetts – making their imprints important pieces of early American history and also, unfortunately, rather rare. Like all truly worthwhile collecting goals, it is likely never to be fully realized – a fact with which I am at peace; for the hungry book-collector, the pursuit is, after all, just as rewarding as the possession.

This week’s book is a recent addition to my Hall collection -- a birthday gift from my fiancée. The full title is A Sermon, Preached May 11, 1785, at the Ordination of the Reverend Joseph McKeen, to the Pastoral Office Over the First Church of Christ in Beverly. The sermon was written and delivered by Joseph Willard, A.M., “President of the University in Cambridge” (that is, Harvard). The printer’s imprint simply states: “Massachusetts: Printed by Samuel Hall, in Salem. mdcclxxxv.” The date -- 1785 -- puts this book at the very end of Hall’s second tenure in Salem (more on this below) and suggests that it was one of the last jobs to issue from his Salem shop (at least three more Hall imprints -- none of which are in my collection [yet] -- are dated later in 1785). Willard’s sermon was never again reprinted. It is possible that the holograph manuscript copy of the sermon is extant in Harvard’s “Papers of Joseph Willard, 1768-1804” archive, but I have not had the opportunity to investigate this further.

The book is a slim volume comprised of a half-title, full-title with imprint, 54 pages of content, and a blank flyleaf at the back. The pages measure 13cm x 20cm and are of a fairly well-made stock bearing 2.75cm chain-lines (no watermark). It may be expressed collationally as 4o: [A4]-G4:: $1. Occasional footnotes are marked, as was the custom at the time, with the following non-alphabetic symbols: * ¶ † § ‡. There may be a clue as to how the book was printed in the appearance of two sets of footnotes on pages 24 and 25 -- facing across the E4/D1 opening (see above). None of the citation symbols are used across the two sets of footnotes; this may have simply been an effort to make referencing the notes easier for the reader and to avoid confusion across the two pages, but it may also suggest that the two sheets (E and D) were in their formes at the same time and so the type from the one was not available for use in the other. If this latter scenario is true, it hints at the expedient and efficient nature of Hall’s operations (rather than stopping the printing process to break up a forme and distribute the type back to the case, his compositors were able to stay ahead of the press by, at the very least, one-sheet’s worth of labor).

Decorative borders appear above and below the half-title text, above the start of the contents, and at the end; the fact that this final length of border is markedly shorter (see above) suggests the border was actually assembled by the compositor from component pieces of decorative type (a fact confirmed by the appearance of pieces of the border in another Hall imprint in my collection also dating from his second Salem tenure). Running pagination appears centered at the top of the page, with Arabic numerals set off in square brackets (a common feature in all of Hall’s works, though some earlier book use curved brackets). Having earlier books of his to which I might compare this text has proven instructive: the setting of the type in Willard’s sermon, the ample spacing of the lines, clean elegance of the layout, and remarkably few typographic errors or problems with casting-off all speak to the advanced professionalism typical of Hall’s work at this late stage of his career. The only immediately evident error I can spot appears in the catchword on p. 10 (B1v): the catchword reads “prisoned;”, but the first word on p. 11 (B2r) is “soned;”, being a continuation of the last word on p. 10 (“impri-”) (see below).

Towards the middle of the spine there are three equidistant stab-marks (see below), hinting

that the text was originally stitched together as a pamphlet when first sold. It was apparently later bound (possibly in paper) but then subsequently disbound; some traces of the binding glue and cords are still evident on the edge of the spine.

There is some very slight foxing on the outer sheets; there is no marginalia, with the exception of a modern hand that has penciled the date (“1785”) on the half-title, an erased pencil note in the top outside corner of the title-page (probably a bookseller’s price mark), and a tiny inked check-mark just after the name “McKeen” on the title-page (possibly a mistaken cataloger’s mark?).

Willard (1738-1804), a native of Maine, served as President of Harvard from December 19, 1781 to his death on September 25, 1804. His life was marked by numerous vocations, including as a sailor, mathematician and astronomer, Greek tutor, and, for a good while, minister. From November 25, 1772 up to his appointment at Harvard on December 19, 1781, Willard served as the pastor of the First Church in Beverly; his tenure was, of course, marked most notably by the Revolutionary War, during which he was an outspoken patriot (later a member of the Federalist Party) and outspoken advocate for the principle of religious faith as a matter of personal choice, rather than state mandate. During the war, in 1781 (the year of Yorktown), he delivered a sermon titled The Duty of the Good and Faithful Soldier and in 1800 he delivered a noted Latin oration in commemoration of George Washington. Beside a number of sermons from both his time as a minister and his time at Harvard, Willard did not publish much -- only some official materials for Harvard, a book on spherical geometry, trigonometry, and astronomy, and, while still a student, an astronomy almanac in 1766. He also prepared materials for a Greek grammar which was never published but which -- had it been published -- would have had the distinction of being the first such book in America.

McKeen (1757-1807) -- about whom I can find little information prior to his installation in Beverly -- remained at the First Church until 1802, when he and his family moved to Brunswick, ME where he took office as the first president of the newly-founded Bowdoin College.

As befits the ordination of a new minister, Willard’s sermon strikes a balance between hopefulness and caution. He takes for his text 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” This final charge -- “a sound mind” -- is particularly important to Willard as his refrain becomes a meditation upon the positive results felt by a minister when he “experiences the genuine influences of the gospel upon his mind”. Willard expands upon this at length, citing the many benefits to the minister and the congregation to be derived from following with rigor the words of the gospels. He then moves into a meditation on the second charge -- “love” -- and itemizes all of the qualities of love a minister must feel toward God, Christ, his congregation, and mankind, and the ensuing effects of that love on the behavior of other Christians. Finally, he shifts into a caution against “superstition”, “gloom”, and “austerity”. The goal, he proclaims, is to become “a rational Minister of the gospel”, to avoid “enthusiasm”, but to also “strictly guard against being cold and lifeless in religion.” The last part of the sermon is directly addressed to McKeen (“I now turn myself to the person, at whose request I stand in the desk, at this time”) and it ends with Willard quoting from his own earlier address to the First Church at the time of their decision to embark upon the project of finding a new minister.

Following Willard’s sermon there appears “The Charge” (that is, the formal commission) delivered by “the Reverend Mr. Swain of Wenham” (about whom I can find no further information). This runs from pp. 48-50. On pp. 51-54 there appears a brief oration, “The Right Hand of Fellowship”, by Reverend Barnard of Salem. This digression, only loosely relevant to the installation of McKeen, offers a topically relevant argument on the nature of freedom of religion and the equality of all (Christian) denominations before both God and the law of the new country: “In those countries where universal toleration is enjoyed, without invidious distinctions, the various sects live together like brethren, and exhibit in their conduct towards each other, the fairest examples of moderation and good will.” Barnard quotes approvingly from the third article of the Declaration of Rights appended to the 1780 Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (which, along with the Virginia Constitution, was largely the model for the 1789 federal Bill of Rights amendments to the U. S. Constitution) -- “No subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by LAW!” -- and cites this as the reason the members of the congregation enjoy the privilege “of thinking for yourselves and expressing your sentiments, unawed by Penal Statutes”.

It seems fitting that the book concludes with this gesture of praise toward a founding principle for the governance of the new American nation, particularly given the important role the book’s printer -- Samuel Hall (1740-1807) -- played in making that nation possible.

The following account of Hall’s venture appears in Isaiah Thomas’s indispensable The History of Printing in America, With a Biography of Printers & an Account of Newspapers (Weathervane Books edition, 1970). Thomas’s hefty tome first appeared in 1810, making him a contemporary of many of the men and women about whom he writes (including Hall); Thomas himself had been active in the late colonial/early American printing industry, operating the first press in Newburyport (opened 1773), which suggests that many of his remarks about both the history of the printers and their personalities and dispositions bear credible attention:

He was born in Medford, Massachusetts, served an apprenticeship with his uncle, Daniel Fowle, of Portsmouth, and first began business in Newport, in 1763, in company with Anne Franklin, whose daughter he married.

He left Newport in March, 1768, opened a printing a house in Salem in April following, and began publication of The Essex Gazette in August of that year. In three or four years after he settled in this town, he admitted his brother, Ebenezer Hall, as a partner. Their firm was Samuel & Ebenezer Hall. They remained in Salem until 1775. Soon after the commencement of the war, to accommodate the state convention and the army, they removed to Cambridge, and printed in Stoughton Hall, one of the building belonging to Harvard University.

In February, 1776, Ebenezer Hall died, aged twenty-seven years. He was an amiable young man, and a good printer. He was born in Medford, and was taught the art of printing by his brother.

In 1776, on the evacuation of Boston by the British troops, Samuel Hall removed into that town, and remained there until 1781, when he returned to Salem. He continued in Salem until November, 1785; at which time he again went to Boston, and opened a printing house, and a book and stationery store, in Cornhill.

In April, 1789, he began printing, in the French language, a newspaper, entitled Courier de Boston. This was a weekly paper, printed on a sheet of crown in quarto, for J. Nancrede, a Frenchman, who then taught the language of his nation at the university, and was afterward a bookseller in Boston; but his name did not appear in the imprint of the paper. Courier de Boston was published only six months.

After Hall relinquished the publication of a newspaper, he printed a few octavo and duodecimo volumes, a variety of small books with cuts, for children, and many pamphlets, particularly sermons. He was a correct printer, and judicious editor; industrious, faithful to his engagements, a respectable citizen, and a firm friend to his country. He died October 30, 1807, aged sixty-seven years. (176-8)

Hall’s book and pamphlet-printing operations were certainly lucrative, but it was the publication of almanacs and, most of all, newspapers that (as with most printers in the period) kept his business above water. In his section on “Newspapers in Salem”, Thomas writes:

The Essex Gazette was the first newspaper printed in Salem. No. 1 was published August 2, 1768; and it was continued weekly, on Tuesday, crown size, folio, from small pica and brevier types. In the centre of the title was a cut, of which the design was taken from the official seal of the county. The principal figure a bird with its wings extended, and holding a sprig in its bill; perhaps intended to represent Noah’s dove; and this device was far from being ill adapted to the state of our forefathers, who having been inhabitants of Europe, an old world, were becoming residents in America, to them a new one. Above the bird a fish, which seems to have been intended as a crest, emblematical of the codfishery, formerly the principal dependence of the county of Essex, of which Salem is a shire town. The whole supported by two aborigines, each holding a tomahawk, or battle axe. Imprint, ‘Salem: Printed by Samuel Hall, near the Town-House, Price 6s. 8d. per annum.’

It was afterwards ‘printed by Samuel and Ebenezer Hall.’ The Gazette was well conducted, and ably supported the cause of the country. (274)

When Hall returned to Salem in 1781 he began publication of the weekly Salem Gazette on October 18; the last issue (vol. 5, no. 215) appeared on November 22, 1785. In December, Hall returned to Boston and continued the newspaper under the new title The Massachusetts Gazette.

In 1927, Harriet Silvester Tapley published a monumental study derived from many years investigating the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society, the Salem Athenaeum, and the Essex Institute’s library. The book, Salem Imprints 1768-1825 provides the most comprehensive bibliography of Salem imprints, along with biographical and historical accounts of the bookshops, booksellers, printers, publishers, bookbinders, libraries, and newspapers of the city; I use Tapley’s bibliography as my check-list for collecting Hall imprints. Of course, because he is the founding figure of Salem printing, Hall receives a great deal of attention in Tapley’s research. Here are some of the choice extracts from his biography, which fill out a bit some of Thomas’s general comments:

When young Samuel Hall announced the opening of a printing office in Salem, in April, 1768, the event was of more than ordinary interest. Fascination of the types which has allured mankind since printing was invented, must have thrilled very many in the town of Salem when the ‘art preservative of all arts’ was set up in their midst, crude as was Hall’s outfit at the beginning. He was then twenty-eight years of age, a native of Medford, and a practical printer qualified by experience. He had learned the trade in the printing office of his uncle, Daniel Fowle of Boston, who became the first printer in New Hampshire, having established the New Hampshire Gazette at Portsmouth in 1756. He was now coming directly from a connection in business with the Franklins of Newport, R.I., as unusual as had ever befallen an eighteenth century master of the types.

James Franklin, brother of Benjamin Franklin, had married Anne Smith in his native Boston, and, in 1732, after a serious conflict with the authorities in Massachusetts Bay Colony, established in Newport the Rhode Island Gazette. He died in 1735, and the business was successfully carried on for years by his widow under the imprint of ‘The Widow Franklin,’ or until her son James was old enough to be of assistance. The son learned his trade at his uncle Benjamin’s office in Philadelphia. He returned to Newport as a partner with his mother, and in 1758 established the Newport Mercury, but death took him in 1762, at the age of thirty-five, and again the mother was left to carry on the business alone. Just here Samuel Hall appears, at the age of twenty-two, to have become a partner of the widow Franklin, and the newspaper was published under the proprietorship of Franklin and Hall from August, 1762 to April, 1763. Again death intervened, taking the senior partner, Anne Franklin, on April 19, 1763, at the age of sixty-eight years, and according to the issue of the Mercury, April 25, Samuel Hall assumed full ownership of the printing plant, even before the estate was entered for probate.

Thus, at the age of twenty-three, Hall had a chance to test his capacity for business, and that he was equal to the responsibility involved, the success of the Mercury amply testifies. Rev. Anson Titus, who has given the subject of the Franklin family much study, write: ‘Samuel Hall may be regarded as the spiritual heir of James Franklin. He stood by the failing form of son and widow, and was not distant from the daughters, who drooped and faded in young womanhood.’ There is an air of mystery in the life of Samuel Hall, which is suggested by Isaiah Thomas [see above] when he wrote in his ‘History of Printing’ that Hall married a daughter of the widow Franklin. No record of such marriage can be found, but Thomas’s statement is corroborated by a clause in

Hall’s will, making a bequest to Mr. Thomas Barnes of Brookfield and his wife Elizabeth Barnes, ‘she being next of kin to Samuel Hall.’ Mr. Titus finds that Elizabeth Hall married Thomas Barnes in 1784 and died May 11, 1831, aged seventy-six years, which would place her birth in 1755. Added credence is given Thomas’s statement from the fact that he [Thomas] knew Hall well and was intimately associated with the Fowles, having lived in their family when a young man.

The Franklin daughters assisted in the printing business at Newport. They were said to be correct and quick compositors at the case, having been instructed by their father when children. Thomas, in 1810, states: ‘A gentleman who was acquainted with Anne Franklin and her family informed me that he had often seen her daughters at work in the printing house, and that they were sensible and amiable women.’ However, two years before Hall located in Salem, on June 9, 1766, he was married to Miss Mary Hurd of Boston, by the Rev. Charles Chauncey, D.D., pastor of the First Church, Boston. During the remaining years of his residence in Newport, Hall made a place for himself in the community that the publisher of a newspaper would naturally command. In 1765, he as admitted to the Redwood Library Company, ‘on account of his late service to the amount of £100, old tenor.’

Hall was thus well qualified to become a pioneer in the establishment of a newspaper in the town of Salem, growing as it was in population and importance. It has been stated by Mr. Matthew A. Stickney in his ‘Almanacs and Their Authors,’ published in the Historical Collections of the Essex Institute in 1866, that Hall was persuaded by Capt. Richard Derby to remove to Salem.... The young man embraced the opportunity thus presented, appreciating the advantage to be derived from a newspaper pledged to the interests of the Colony in a seaport town like Salem. Moreover, Hall was a staunch patriot, and the excitement over the Stamp Act, followed by the tax on tea which had been imposed the year before his arrival, no doubt were factors in determining his course. He had the whole of the old County of Essex for a field. There twere then six newspapers in Boston, but none elsewhere in the entire Province of Massachusetts Bay. (5-7)

Indeed, Hall enjoyed the Salem market entirely to himself up until the arrival in 1774 of his first competitor -- the Tory monarchist Ezekiel Russell (perhaps because of his political views, “Russell’s business was never flourishing”, as Tapley remarks [37]).

Tapley locates Hall’s shop on Main Street (today’s Essex Street), a few doors up from the Town House (today the headquarters of the bank Salem Five). The shop was the ground-floor of a house built in 1726 by Nathaniel Ropes; Hall lived on the second-floor. From this spot he published newspapers, books, pamphlets, and almanacs, sponsored two mail lines, and operated a stationery business with forms, blanks, ledgers, and other paperwork. After 1771 he expanded to sell other books, imported goods such as ink chests, quills and pens, paper, playing cards, slates. In 1774, the building -- and nearly all of Hall’s equipment (£60 worth of material) -- were destroyed in the (first) great Salem fire. Hall gives the following account in his newspaper (issued the week after the fire only because of “the kind assistance of our Friends and Brother Printers from Boston”): the Fire on Thursday last we had only a few minutes’ time to save Part of our Printing Materials from the Flames, which were carried and thrown into the street in utmost confusion.

Following this, another house was built on the spot (it was since moved to Barton Square). Hall, however, moved his operation to “Mr. Blaney’s Brick Building, where the Custom House was sometime since kept”; this building was a two-story structure located near the corner of what is today Washington Street and Norman Street. The next year he relocated to Cambridge.

Tapley provides a detailed analysis of both the content of Hall’s publications and his business operations; she also notes his personal life in Salem (he attended the Third Church, for example, and in 1773 held the office of “collector of pew taxes”) and his involvement in both local and national politics during those turbulent years. Hall’s brother, Ebenezer, moved to Salem from Medford in 1772 and went into business jointly with Samuel. While in Salem, Ebenezer married into the wealthy Orne family, wedding Mary, the daughter of Captain Josiah Orne. As noted above, Ebenezer died on February 14, 1776 during the firm’s first year in Cambridge.

During his first seven years in Salem, Hall was responsible for approximately 45 pamphlets, mostly religious or political, though some were scientific (Andrew Oliver’s influential Essay on Comets in 1772) and others civic (Rules for Regulating the Salem Hospital, 1773). Most were around 50 pages or less, though 4 were over 100 pages; the longest was the 1775 Easy Plan of Discipline for the Militia, by Timothy Pickering (169 pages and 14 plates), which was also Hall’s most significant contribution to the military-side of the war effort. As Tapley notes, “Samuel Hall’s removal from Salem was greatly regretted” (35).

When he returned from Boston in 1781, Hall was again free of competition; Russell had closed shop in 1780 and a short-lived operation run by Mary Crouch closed one week before Hall re-opened in Salem. Hall purchased Crouch’s equipment and moved them briefly to a location “near the Court House”; by the end of 1782 he had moved again to a new location in Salem “two doors above where it now is kept to a new building opposite the store of Messrs. Appleton & Ropes.” From this, his fourth shop in Salem, Hall continued to expand the scope of his business, also retailing small household goods and groceries. It was also from this location that Willard’s Sermon would have been printed, published, and sold. During this time his output included over 20 titles, in addition to broadsides and his newspaper. Eventually, his business buckled: exponentially rising taxes, meant to help pay off the debt incurred by the war, could not keep pace with the subscription levels he realized in Salem and he resolved to return to Boston for good. He left Salem with a stirring and rather emotional valedictory in his paper, recollecting the many friends and favors the town had given him and pledging that he would “always endeavor to promote the interests and reputation of the town of Salem.” He was considered by his contemporaries, Tapley notes, “one of the most successful printers of his time.... He became known universally as an industrious, accurate and enterprising master of the art, a judicious editor and an excellent man.... In his mature newspaper work he advocated liberal opinions with firmness and discretion, and always commanded the confidence and respect of the best men in the community.” (64) In 1799 the Salem Gazette, under new management, described Hall as “a printer well known not only for the neatness and accuracy of his editions, but for the liberality and integrity of his mind.”

Hall died in Boston on October 30, 1807; his wife, Mary, died in Boston in February, 1817. The Columbian Centinel, on the day after Hall’s death, described him as one of the oldest and most correct printers in Massachusetts and ran the following obituary:

He edited a truly republican newspaper from the commencement to the termination of the war. Incorruptible integrity and extraordinary equanimity of mind were prominent traits of his character. He advocated undeviatingly the rights of the colonies as opposed to the unjust claims of the mother country; and while he admired, he uniformly supported those patriotic characters who formed our national constitution, and whose administration produced the highest happiness to their constituents and will render their names immortal.... The country had no firmer friend, in the gloomiest period of its history, as well as in the days of its young and increasing prosperity, than Samuel Hall.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Arrivals and Departures

No post this week as Tarquin celebrates the thrilling arrival of his new beautiful niece Aurelia (arrived on a Tuesday, for those of you who have read my last post) and bids a sad farewell to the too-early departure of his beloved tabby Marlowe.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Board Books and Prophesying Nursery Rhymes

As the arrival of my new niece or nephew approaches, it seems the family guessing game has shifted slightly from what sex the baby will be to on what day will it arrive? We’ve also begun thinking about what we can do to make the child’s life as bright and rich in opportunities as possible. For many in our family, of course, a large part of that has been about gathering books the child might come to love and learn from.

This week’s posting is a look back at a mid-twentieth century children’s “board books”, a special type of children’s book explicitly designed for toddlers and infants. Board books are manufactured in a very particular binding format, using chunky leafs of pressed paperboard for the covers and pages (at least 2-ply thickness, often more). Usually they are brilliantly colorful, easily read (minimal amount of text), and hinged with an extremely sturdy spine or with the pressed paperboard leafs folded and glued. The first board books appeared in the late 1900s and grew in popularity throughout the century. Today they are a staple feature of any bookstore’s children’s section.

The book in question is The Year Around Book, published by McGraw-Hill’s Education Games & Aids Division in 1965 and intended for children ages 2 to 4. The text was written by Helen Jill Fletcher, author of numerous children’s books from 1948 through the early 1990s, and the illustrations are by 2010’s Caldecott winner Jerry Pinkney, legendary children’s book artist and recipient of numerous awards. The Year Around Book was Pinkney’s third children’s book -- very early in his career -- and looking at how much his work has changed over the decades is a clear demonstration of how much the artistic style of children’s book illustrations have evolved since the mid-1960s.

Apparently The Year Around Book was only issued in one edition (rather peculiar for a children’s book), making my copy of the 1965 printing a first. It is not, however, a true first: on the final page, inside the back cover, a printer’s code runs “4 5 6 7 8 9”, indicating that this copy belongs to the fourth printing of the edition.

The pages are made of white 2-ply pressed paperboard and measure 18.25cm x 31.5cm. The binding is a white plastic comb of twelve teeth. There is some modest bumping and splitting of the paperboard -- especially beneath the comb binding -- but nothing very extreme; there are no owner’s marks. For a 45 year-old children’s book it is in rather fine condition.

The book is organized around the months of the year. Each page presents a brightly colored scene in a slightly cartoonish style depicting each successive month. A brief prose passage highlighting the main points of each month accompanies the illustrations. Tying the book together is the motif of a large, circular object above the scene; in each illustration, the object is different (for example, a giant sunflower in April, fireworks in July, a witch flying past the moon in October, etc.).

These circular motifs fill a space on the oblong boards that is used, on the cover, for a representation of the sun; the smiling face of the sun includes five holes cut into the board, allowing the smiling face of a balloon in the first scene (children celebrating New Years in January) to show through. On some pages, the black ink of the text is regrettably hard to read against the dark illustration beneath it -- a simple design flaw that suggests the text and artwork were developed separately by the writer and artist -- or at the very least that the designer did not confer adequately with either after the proof was prepared.

There is a particularly strong emphasis on patriotic events and holidays in the various months (even Election Day makes an appearance in November). The book manages to steer clear of explicit religious content (Easter in April and Christmas in December are presented in their primarily secular forms -- the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus presiding) until you turn to the back cover.

The text on the back is given to “Days of the Week” and presents a variation on the traditional fortune-telling nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child”, meant to suggest what a child’s personality will be like based on the day on which they are born (see last image below). This tradition of reductive predictions relating one’s day of birth to one’s character can be traced back at least to the writer Thomas Nashe in the 1570s, but this particular rhyme’s first appearance in approximately its modern form was recorded by A. E. Bray in his 1838 Traditions of Devonshire.

Throughout the 1800s it went through various permutations, with the version appearing in the September 17, 1887 Harper’s Weekly becoming perhaps the most prevalent. This is the version given in I. and P. Opie’s Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (second edition, 1997) and it speaks particularly well (I think) to the social mores and cultural priorities of nineteenth-century England in the raising of children (that is, it emphasizes those qualities the English considered both ideal and undesirable in its youth):

Monday's child is fair of face,

Tuesday's child is full of grace,

Wednesday's child is full of woe,

Thursday's child has far to go,

Friday's child is loving and giving,

Saturday's child works hard for a living,

But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day

Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

Obviously the fortune for Wednesday’s child (the source, according to pop culture legend, for the name of Wednesday Addams) and the negative connotations for Thursday’s child were inappropriate for a children’s book in the 1960s, so the poem was changed for The Year Around Book. What was not changed, however, was the reference to the religious alter ego of Sunday:

Monday’s child is kind and sweet

Tuesday’s child is clean and neat

Wednesday’s child is tall and fair

Thursday’s child will take a dare

Friday’s child is wise and frank

Saturday’s child will play a prank

But the child that’s born on the Sabbath day,

Is good and loving, blithe and gay.

So, to return to the initial premise of this post, on what day of the week will my niece or nephew arrive? And will The Year Around Book be correct? We can only wait and see...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"What a woman knows is comparatively of little importance to what a woman is."

My readers may have noticed that last weekend I didn’t post an update to the blog. I’m pleased to announce that Tarquin was on hiatus that week for more important matters: proposing! That’s right, my partner and I are now engaged and excitedly looking forward to a beautiful autumn wedding.

For no related reason (I’m sure) and not at all because it is Mother’s Day, my fiancée has suggested that I write this week’s blog posting on Elizabeth Sandford’s Woman, in Her Social and Domestic Character. Part of a long tradition of social conduct manuals designed for women -- married and single -- Sandford’s book combines religious admonition with instructions in etiquette and advice both “psychological” and “domestic” into a study of practical and proper muliebrity. The result is a rather conservative treatise prescribing what the “correct” behavior for women in the first half of the nineteenth century. Unsurprisingly, that behavior is exceedingly deferential to either Protestant teachings, the needs of men, or both.

My copy was published in 1840 by Otis, Broaders & Company of Boston and is the fifth American edition (clearly, this was a popular book); the book was printed in stereotype by George A. & J. Curtis’s Type and Stereotype Foundry, also in Boston. The first edition appeared in London in 1831 and the second in 1832; both were published by Longman et al. In these edition the text was aimed primarily at English women, but by the third edition (Longman, 1833) it was carried across the Atlantic and the publishing firm Leonard C. Bowles, of Boston, issued the first American edition (though the American copyright was issued to the publisher T. H. Carter, also of Boston -- because of a typographic error in the copyright notice, however, the final digit of the date is missing and I can’t tell when in the 1830s this copyright was issued; oddly, this missing digit recurred into at least the fourth American edition, released by Otis, Broaders & Co. in 1842).

This second edition added two new chapters to the book and a brief “Advertisement” by the “authoress” (as she terms herself), which was continued into subsequent editions. The first American edition also offered a publisher’s comment that highlighted the social and cultural divide so prevalent between England and the United States in the early nineteenth century:

The writer is unknown to those who have taken an interest in bringing the book before American readers. It is believed that it will do good, and therefore has been reprinted. The English copy has been followed without the slightest alteration. Some of the remarks are evidently designed for a class of society that can hardly be said to exist among us, but they cannot lessen the value of the work to any one. The freedom from extravagance, the practical wisdom, the religious sentiment, and the elegance of style which mark its pages recommend it to perusal. That elegance has sometimes been sought at the expense of simplicity, or that many important topics are passed in silence, need not prevent its affording pleasure and instruction. (5-6)

Beside the subtle nationalism and the peculiar hint that Sandford did not, in fact, authorize the first American edition (“The writer is unknown...”), a number of the topics touched on this notice speak to some of the qualities of the book that subsequent critics chose to address (see below). I find it odd -- in our own era of vapidly hyperbolic publisher’s rhetoric when promoting a new book -- that Bowles leaves the reader with such an ambivalent sense of the book’s style (“ the expense of simplicity”) and shortcomings (“many important topics are passed in silence”). Again, these are critiques that anticipate what some of the critics who responded to the book would say (below).

The book went through many later editions, both on its own and in tandem with other publications. For example, in 1838 and again in 1843 and 1844, Otis, Broaders & Company issued the text of the fifth London edition (1837) in conjunction (though with separate pagination, indicating that the sheets were merely bound together) with Hubbard Winslow’s sermons-turned-articles Woman as She Should Be (again, the copyright notice is the same as that of the first American edition of Woman, in Her Social and Domestic Character -- the same missing digit in “183 ” and the same text and layout; perhaps the printer was merely recycling the stereotype plate over many years and rather ineptly never caught the glaring error). The fourth London edition appeared in 1834, as noted above, the fifth in 1837, sixth in 1839, and seventh in 1842.

My copy is bound in dark brown cloth with a gilded title on the cover; the edges of the boards and the spine are bumped and in places a bit torn from use. The pages measure 10.5cm x 17cm and are of a machined stock that has foxed a great deal throughout the text-block. It was printed in duodecimo and bears alphabetic signatures on every eighth leaf and a numeric sequence signed on every first and third leaf of each gathering. The contents include the title page and copyright, the “Advertisement” (blank verso), and then the book proper, with the following chapters: Chapter 1, “Causes of Female Influence”, first part ([5]-14); Chapter 2, “Causes of Female Influence”, second part ([15]-22); Chapter 3, “The Value of Letters to Woman” ([23]-34); Chapter 4, “Importance of Religion to Woman” ([35]-45); Chapter 5, “Christianity the Source of Female Excellence” ([46]-63); Chapter 6, “Scripture Illustrative of Female Character” ([64]-77); Chapter 7, “Female Influence on Religion” ([78]-89); Chapter 8, “Female Defects”, first part ([90]-103); Chapter 9, “Female Defects”, second part ([104]-110); Chapter 10, “On Female Romance”, first part ([111]-124); Chapter 11, “On Female Romance”, second part ([125]-133); Chapter 12, “Female Education” ([134]-151); Chapter 13, “Female Duties” ([152]-175). There is no table of contents and there are no flyleaves.

An owner’s inscription -- originally in pencil but then penned over in brown ink -- adorns the title page: “Priscilla B Robinson”. Another name, in much poorer handwriting, is scrawled in pencil on the front pastedown (“Parker Gail”?). Also penciled on the pastedown is “Price 75 cents”, which suggests a second-hand resale of the book at some point early in its life. Some pages have been dog-eared at the corners, suggesting a careful read-through. Also, a scrupulous reader has jotted occasional crosses, x-marks, brackets, and vertical lines next to passages of particular interest or importance (often dealing explicitly with religious matters and conduct in accordance with the Christian faith). Most of the photos in this posting are of some of these marked passages; I encourage my readers to examine the text in these images, however, for some of Sandford’s more choice observations about the “Social and Domestic Character” of women.

Elizabeth Sandford (1797/8-1853) was the niece of Thomas Poole, a friend of Coleridge (it is worth noting that, while other poets are mentioned in passing, Coleridge is the only poet from whom Sandford quotes in her book [p. 81]) and spent much of her adult life living at Chillingham with her husband John Sandford, an Anglican vicar (on the title page of her book, Sandford identifies herself only as “Mrs. John Sandford” -- this disappearing act, in which the woman writer has vanished beneath the name of the husband non-writer, has resulted in some confusion amongst the less astute dealers and catalogers out there, a number of whom erroneously list the book as belonging to John Sandford). The most thorough biographical description of her life is Rosemary Mitchell’s brief write-up for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which also offers some useful insight into the nature of the book’s contents:

Sandford [née Poole], Elizabeth (1797/8–1853), domestic moralist, was the daughter of Richard Poole. In the early 1820s she married John Sandford (1801–1873), who became archdeacon of Coventry in 1851. They had at least five sons, the eldest of whom was Henry Ryder Poole Sandford (1826–1883), an inspector of schools. Elizabeth Sandford died on 15 September 1853 at the rectory at Dunchurch, near Rugby, where her husband was then vicar.

In 1831 Sandford published Woman in her Social and Domestic Character, an advice book ‘written exclusively for her own sex’ (Woman, advertisement). Believing that ‘domestic comfort’ was the chief source of female influence, Sandford argued that women, inferior by nature to men, should devote themselves to the duties of the domestic sphere, fortifying themselves with religion and the cultivation of an elegant mind. The book was reviewed in the London Evangelical Magazine and the Christian Examiner and sold well, reaching a sixth edition by 1839. Her next work, Female Worthies (1833), was intended to be the first of a series of volumes containing biographies of virtuous women from English history who exemplified Sandford's ideal of womanhood. However, only the first volume, which contained the lives of Lady Jane Grey and Lucy Hutchinson, ever appeared. Female Improvement (1836), another advice book, was an expanded version of her first work: Sandford not only included chapters on subjects such as temper, taste, and study but also reflections on stages in women's domestic lives, including courtship, early marriage, and motherhood. The critic of The Spectator viewed the work with cool approbation, commenting that Sandford's observations appeared to be ‘the result of experience and mature reflection, and [were] distinguished by amiability and good sense, pervaded by strong religious feeling’ (The Spectator, 636). Elizabeth Sandford's advocacy of a primarily domestic role for women and her support for the ideology of the separate spheres makes her a significant precursor of Sarah Stickney Ellis and other female writers of advice works in the 1830s and 1840s.

I’ve linked to the review in the Christian Examiner above, but some of the more choice observations from the reviews of this book -- those didactic works of misogynistic religio-cultural proselytization -- bear noting. Often reading reviews of books, in addition to the books themselves, can teach volumes about their reception in the cultural context in which they appeared. It can also be edifying to see which publications bothered to review certain books; for example, the unusually long critique of Woman, in Her Social and Domestic Character in volume 7 of The Phrenological Journal (410-27) suggests that some in that bizarre pseudo-science saw numerous resonances between their own field and Sanford’s book.

From the Christian Examiner: “If there any ladies, therefore, who are determined to find their chief happiness, or any very large proportion of it, elsewhere than at home, they had better not read this book, for it cannot please them; -- or rather let them read it, and its soft words may win their way into their hearts, and prevail on them to change their determination” (167). I find it particularly striking (but not at all surprising) that the anonymous reviewer (a man, no doubt) seems to use a completely different set of critical standards and criteria for judging Sandford’s writing as is used for some of the male writers in the same magazine; often, these standards speak more to the reviewer’s assumptions about how a woman “should” write, rather than how a writer should write. For example, “Mrs. Sandford’s style is studied, and, though never pedantic or turgid, is, perhaps, a little too ambitious” (167). The first part of this pedantic and turgid sentence could no doubt be used in a critique of any writer and, indeed, the same exact terms turn up in other reviews in the publication (though not this issue); the only time the accusation of excessive ambition in a writer’s style appears in any issue of the Christian Examiner that I can access, however, is in this review of a noted “authoress”. (In fact, in this same issue, another writer observes that “no space is too large for man’s ambition” [317].)

Some critics link both style and content in praising Sandford’s book; for example, John James, in his Female Piety (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853) lauds Woman, in Her Social and Domestic Character as “a work so judicious, so Christian, and so elegant, that it can not be too strongly recommended” (148). This praise of Sandford’s style was not shared unanimously with other critics. For example, in its review of the first American edition, The American Monthly Review (Vol. 3), complained: “It is, indeed, often elegant and often ambitiously fine and learned; but it has not in general that ease and gracefulness, and that winning simplicity, which are qualities most attractive in a female writer, and most to be expected. It is too often stiff, antithetical, monotonous; and we cannot recommend it to our accomplished country women as a safe model” (167, emphasis added). First, this reviewer clearly broadcasts the fact that he is working from a double standard for reviewing (hence my italics). I find it amusing that he singles out for praise the “ambitiously fine and learned” nature of the book -- that term, “ambition”, once again haunting the reviewer of the female writer, though this time in a positive sense. Instead, however, this reviewer conflates those qualities considered at the time desirable in female conduct with how female writing should sound (“ease...gracefulness...simplicity”); the critic for the Edinburgh Review (Vol. 73) likewise charges Sandford for lacking the “felicity of style” (189). What seems clear, particularly in the final part of the quotation from The American Monthly, is that the critic (like many others, in fact) is reviewing the book not just as a book written by a woman, but more explicitly as a book written by an English woman; as such, these critics often juxtapose what they presume to be the proper conduct of women in old-fashioned England (as defined by Sandford) with that of women in America (as defined by these [male] critics).

The American Monthly Review critic makes another comment that bears noting:

Many ladies and some of the other sex, will doubtless think that the author has not done justice to female intellect; that she has too readily given up its claims to equality with the intellectual rank of that part of the species, which performs the higher functions in the social state; but we shall not be so uncourteous as to dispute this point with the accomplished author of the work before us. (167)

The rhetorical moves in this passage are typical of patriarchal discourse (in any period) that appropriates the words of women into the service of the further objectification of women while disingenuously proclaiming its own innocence in the act. The unsubtle privileging of men’s “utility” (“the higher functions in the social state”) is reinforced by the deferential description of Sandford as “the accomplished author”. I’m also fascinated by the way in which this reviewer has managed to write about male privilege without ever actually using the words “men” or “males” -- instead, the privileged sex of the reviewer becomes “the other sex”, “that part of the species”, and, through the conventions of review-writing typical at the time, “we” and “us”. The sense created is one of coded writing: the (male) critic writes to “us”, the (male) magazine-readers, with a wink about the “tolerable” book written by the (female) author.

Other reviews speak to the divided nature of public perception of Sandford’s topic. For example, the anonymous critic who reviewed the book for the Scottish arts and fashion journal The Day (1832, Vol. 1, p. 48) effusively praises both its style (“pure”, “precious”, “elegant”) and the practical usefulness of its contents for mothers, daughters, and wives of all ages.

The (male) reviewer for The Athenaeum (5 May 1832) vociferously disagreed, however, and deployed his critique of Woman... (a critique that makes no effort to conceal the fact that it judges Sandford explicitly as a woman writer) as part of his publication’s ongoing efforts to relegate women writers as a whole to a default literary rank inferior to men writers. This is a long passage, but it bears quoting in full because it registers so remarkably clearly the intense anxiety so many men of the period felt about women expressing themselves in print (even women who, like Sandford, were expressing the view that women must be obedient and submissive to men):

The perusal of this little volume has deepened our conviction in the truth of a remark made in a former Athenaeum, that, in books, women rarely make good Mentors to women. Any real insight into the heart and opinions of the sex -- any high estimate of their duties must not be sought in the ethical writings of women. Even those who have the power, seldom go lower than the surface of their subject, and admitting that they see, they rarely expound the whole truth: and why? because they indite moralities concerning themselves, under a paralyzing fear of man; because all that they decry, and all that they inculcate, is subservient to the opinions and tastes of man.... We must re-assert, that, whatever else they can do, they hardly ever advise the sex in print, without injuring the great and holy cause of female improvement. They are timid, and temporize from complaisance; or they have not the comprehensive minds, and temporize from weakness; or they sigh under the conventionalities that environ them, and temporize from policy: but in all cases they temporize. (282)

This vein continues for several more paragraphs. As with the reviewer from The American Monthly, a pose of progressivism is adopted by denigrating the (woman) writer for writing an anti-feminist (though that term did not exist then) tract. But that pose is itself couched in misogynistic generalizations about women “in print” and their failure to rationally understand their subject because they are the subject. Of course, one wonders if this critic would also suggest that books about men could only be written by women -- the logical result of his flailing argument.

Conversely, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, editor of The Lady’s Book (which reviewed Woman... in a single sentence: “some good sense, much mawkish sentiment, and a little really excellent advice” [Jan. 1838, 191]), in her book Woman’s Record (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1858) slammed Sandford from the other direction:

Mrs. Sandford keeps religion constantly in view, and thus inculcates moral goodness as the cardinal quality of worth for the sex. So far, her work is excellent; but she falls into the grave error which every English writer has done in making reason and physical power superior to moral goodness. She constantly describes woman as inferior to man. While such is the tone of the British writers their works will do little for the cause of Christianity. That the Saviour’s precepts are more generally and perfectly obeyed by women than by men, no person will question; if to be a Christian and do good is the highest glory of humanity, above physical strength, which is held in common with animals, above mental power, which, without this moral goodness, is used in the service of devils, then women’s nature is the superior; and those who teach otherwise are really promoting the kingdom of darkness -- the reign of licentiousness and infidelity. (849)

Hale’s conclusion -- essentially charging Sandford of promoting “licentiousness and infidelity” -- is a tremendous leap away from the anemic review-writing I’ve pointed out thus far. By one-upping Sandford’s claims to the Christian faith, Hale effectively argues that women are superior to men but in a way that still locks them into traditional social roles and stereotypes: they are superior because of their “moral goodness”, but they cannot equate with men for “physical power” or “reason”. It can be hard to tell -- from our perspective way out here in the twenty-first century -- if this is really progress at all, but in its day it was a slap in the faces of the winking chauvinists writing reviews at The American Monthly Review, Athenaeum, and Christian Examiner. Finally, it is worth noting once again the reviewer’s passing mention of nationality as an issue coloring Sandford’s depiction of the ideal of woman; Hale (an American) generalizes “every English writer” as being guilty of Sandford’s anti-women (and hence anti-Christian) sins. This trans-Atlantic wrestling match over proper feminine conduct was actually part of a larger struggle in the early nineteenth century as America attempted to create a distinctive social and cultural character and environment that could not only be differentiated from the often over-bearing cultural empire of its former colonial motherland but that actually stood in stark contrast to it.

To wrap-up this lengthy excursion into the world of early nineteenth-century women’s domestic moralism and its discontents, I’ll let Sandford herself have the last word. And since marriage and mothers are both on my mind, let’s take a look at two of her thoughts on those specific subjects -- both of which are passages that speak particularly well to some of the reviews (both positive and negative) noted above.

On marriage:

Obedience is a very small part of conjugal duty, and in most cases easily performed. Women have, indeed, not much cause to complain of their subjection.... Much of the comfort of married life depends upon the lady; a great deal more, perhaps, than she is aware of....

To acquire and retain such influence, she must, however, make her conjugal duties her first object. She must not think that any thing will do for her husband, that any room is good enough for her husband, that it is not worth while to be agreeable when there is only her husband, that she may close her piano, or lay aside her brush, for why should she play or paint merely to amuse her husband? No: she must consider all these little arts of pleasing chiefly valuable on his account, -- as means of perpetuating her attractions and giving permanence to his affection. (166-7)

This is then followed by a section on the importance of women keeping a clean and orderly house and of the necessity of excelling in “the culinary department”. Again -- all in the service of pleasing the husband and sustaining his interest.

On mothers:

The most anxious, however, if not the most important duty of married life, is that which is due to children, and which in their early years principally devolves [!] upon the mother. None can supply her place, none can feel her interest; and as in infancy a mother is the best nurse, so in childhood she is the best guardian and instructress. Let her take what help she may, nothing can supersede her own exertions. She must give the tone to character; she must infuse the principle; she must communicate those first lessons which are never forgotten, and which bring forth fruit, good or evil, according as the seed may be....

And well is her care repaid. On whom does the infant smile so sweetly as on its mother? To whom do the little boy and girl fly so naturally for sympathy as to their mother? And often, in after-life, does not youth repose its confidence securely on a mother, and seek the counsel of a mother’s faithful heart, and hide its griefs in a mother’s tender bosom? It is a delightful relationship; and if mothers would secure the love and respect of their children, they must not grudge their attentions to them in their earliest years. They must be willing to sacrifice a little amusement, or a little company, or a little repose, for the sake of nursing their infants, or teaching their children, or fulfilling themselves offices which too frequently they devolve on servants.

To accomplish, however, these duties, a woman must be domestic. Her heart must be at home. She must not be on the look-out for excitement of any kind, but must find her pleasure as well as her occupation in the sphere which is assigned to her. (171-3)

To Sandford, as she makes clear throughout her book, that sphere, of course, was always and exclusively the domestic.