Poetry


‘Mutterings of Pent-up Wrath’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The July release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes examinations of slavery and the slave trade by a poet, an abolitionist society, and a Methodist minister.


 

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The Works of Hannah More (1835)

By Hannah More

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Hannah More (1745-1833) was a poet, playwright, and philanthropist. She was born in Bristol, England and became involved with the literary elite of London as her writing career progressed. More wrote primarily on moral and religious subjects and campaigned against the slave trade. This two-volume anthology of More’s writings begins with a note from the publisher:

When the veil of mortality descends upon splendid genius, that has been long devoted to the instruction and best interests of mankind, the noblest monument that can be erected to commemorate its worth and perpetuate its usefulness, is the collection of those productions which, when separately published, delighted and edified the world.

No writer of the past or present age has equaled HANNAH MORE in the application of great talents to the improvement of society, through all its distinctions, from the humblest to the most exalted station in life.

More’s poem The Slave Trade evidences such praise is well deserved. She writes:

‘Mutterings of Pent-up Wrath’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘Imagination! Who can sing thy force?’—Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Arch_Street_Ferry 2.jpgThe January release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes:

♦ a description of the first major yellow fever epidemic in the United States

♦ a collection of verse by an African slave who became a leading American poet 

♦ and W.E.B. Du Bois' first scholarly book—a history of the slave trade based on his Harvard University doctoral dissertation.


Jones Title Page.jpgA Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, During the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia, in the Year 1793 (1794)

By Absalom Jones and Richard Allen

Absalom Jones (1746-1818) and Richard Allen (1760-1831) were both born into slavery and through various transactions were subsequently separated from their families. They were also both clergymen; Jones, in 1804, became the first African American ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church of the United States, and Allen, in 1794, founded the first independent black denomination in the United States, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In this jointly-written narrative they describe the 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic and respond to criticisms of African Americans who assisted in caring for the sick.

They write:

‘Imagination! Who can sing thy force?’—Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“The Savage Mob”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The June release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a collection of letters by an Englishman about his stay in the Antebellum United States, a compilation of poems about religion, slavery and drinking, as well as an anthology of murders and confessions. 


 

Men and Things in America: Being the Experience of a Year’s Residence in the United States, in a Series of Letters to a Friend (1838) 

By Andrew Bell 

In 1835 English historian and author Andrew Bell travelled to the United States. During his yearlong stay in America he took copious notes of his experiences and upon his return compiled them as a series of letters written under the pseudonym, A. Thomson. Bell discusses many topics including the opinions of Americans toward the Irish and that of the Irish toward Americans, the “pretended absence of poverty in America,” and the conditions of African Americans. 

After writing about both the Shakers and the Quakers, Bell describes the relationship of the latter with African Americans. 

“The Savage Mob”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“Thy Chains Are Broken, Africa, Be Free!”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The April release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a collection of observations on tropical medicine, an anthology of poems by James Montgomery, and an assemblage of laws pertaining to the British West Indies. 


Medical and Miscellaneous Observations, Relative to the West India Islands (1817) 

By John Williamson, M.D.  

Dr. John Williamson was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, and had served as a surgeon for the Caithness Highlanders, a regiment of the Highland Fencible Corps.

In 1798 Williamson traveled to Jamaica where he remained for over a decade. Williamson writes about encountering specific ailments: “The yaws have been long a loathsome and disgusting disease, as well as an immense source of loss to proprietors.” And describes the need for reforming the administration of the island’s health services: “The hospital management of negroes being defective, improvements are suggested, to place these establishments on a foundation consistent with the comfort and welfare of mutual interests.” 

“Thy Chains Are Broken, Africa, Be Free!”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

“Skin-Deep Democracy”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

The June release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes the portents of a West Indian astrologer, a scholar’s escape from being tarred and feathered, and the poems of James Madison Bell.


The O.B. or, West Indian Astrologer's Whole Secret Art and System of Prediction, by Planetary Influence, Laid Open (1823)

By Ignatius Lewis, the Jamaica Seer of Color

To his secret art and system of prediction, Ignatius Lewis added “charms, spells, and incantations; love presents, bewitching secrets, and fortune telling, by cards, dice, tea, coffee, &c. with good or ill fortune; the days, weeks, or months, of abstaining from, or embarking in, any engagement of importance, particularly marriage.”

On a lunar table showing “the moon’s influence over the female sex” are these potential experiences: “Loss of Reputation, Treachery, and Tears.” And, “What you save in trifles you will squander largely, and do no good with it.” And, “You will soon see one whom you will wish far distant but you cannot avoid the meeting.”

The influence of Diana may signify that: “You will never marry; or if you should, by some unexpected chance or turn of fate, embrace wedlock, you will not be happy, so be cautious.”

Another table offers these mostly frightful possibilities:


A. You will be run away with against your own consent.

B. You will elope with your own free will.

C. You will have many lovers, even in old age.

D. A duel will take place on your account.

E. You will place your affections on a very amorous youth, who will deceive you, and cloud your future days with sorrow.

“Skin-Deep Democracy”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“My soul has drifted down the stream”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

This month we focus on three heavily illustrated works found in the April release of American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society.


The New York and Brooklyn Bridge Illustrated (1883)

Interspersed with many illustrations, this pamphlet describes the Brooklyn Bridge from its first conception, to its construction, to its opening in May of 1883. There is no doubt that its creation was an astonishing achievement, and the writer, using superlatives generously, returns to this fact often as he recounts the history. He writes, “The details of constructing the towers have been performed under the eyes of all Brooklyn people. Since the tower of Babel and the great pyramid of Egypt, there have been no more massive structures.”

The construction took its toll, especially on the workers. Caissons—large, bottomless wooden boxes into which compressed air was pumped to keep out water—were dangerous places for the laborers who dug out mud and bedrock until they had a solid footing into which concrete was poured:

In the New York caisson the pressure of air at the last was equal to 35 pounds to the square inch. Breathing was a labor, and labor extremely exhausting. Yet brave men subjected themselves to physical suffering of this sort day after day, that the great work might go on, until in many cases nervous disease and paralysis would follow.

The writer refers to the illustrations as “photographs [that] were redrawn by careful, trained artists, and their drawings reproduced and reduced to the present size by photo engraving.” Here are several examples:

“My soul has drifted down the stream”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

Just published—The Readex Report: February 2014

IN THIS ISSUE: A stirring look at an iconic abolitionist, the triumphant return of a renowned revolutionary, and a dead poet transmits verses via a mendacious medium.

The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass in Anacostia (Washington, D.C.) as told in the Washington Evening Star
By John Muller, author of Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia

Just published—The Readex Report: February 2014

Walt Whitman's "America": As First Published in The New York Herald

Walt Whitman's poem "America" was first published in The New York Herald on February 11, 1888. This short but significant work appeared on page four in the middle of a column-long article headlined "Personal Intelligence,” almost as "filler."

From a surviving 19th-century wax-cylinder recording, you can listen today to a remarkable reading of "America," widely believed to be spoken by Whitman himself, as captured by Edison circa 1890.

Walt Whitman's "America": As First Published in The New York Herald

Researching Nat Turner's Slave Revolt in American (and African American) Newspapers

Nat Turner preaches religion. Image Credit: The Granger Collection, New York

Whites throughout the American South were traumatized in the summer of 1831 by a bloody slave revolt led by Nat Turner, a man his fellow slaves called “The Prophet.” By all accounts, Turner was an intelligent but peculiar man. Although education for slaves was widely outlawed, he taught himself to read as a young child and pored over the Bible. He often avoided people and spent much time fasting, praying, and preaching to other slaves. Turner believed he received visions from God—one vision instructed him to be an instrument of revenge against whites for their wicked ways.

The Capture of Nat Turner (1800-1831) by Benjamin Phipps on 30 October 1831

Researching Nat Turner's Slave Revolt in American (and African American) Newspapers

Bismarck's Birthday Verses: The Chicago Latin Version

From America's Historical Newspapers

When one thinks of Prince Otto von Bismarck, 19th-century Germany’s Iron Chancellor, birthday cakes and greetings do not first come to mind. But they did — at least the birthday greetings — in perhaps an unexpected place and certainly in a most unusual way in a Chicago newspaper in 1874. On April 1, 1874, Bismarck — still not fully recovered from a serious illness contracted the year before (not nervous exhaustion from overwork in redesigning the European continent but rather a case of gout) — celebrated his 60th birthday in Berlin amid much adulation from the new Germany, his enthusiastic nationalist supporters, and foreign dignitaries. Just a little more than a month later, the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper published on May 2, 1874 a macaronic poem [i.e. a poem, usually in Latin, interspersed with vernacular words or phrases] celebrating Bismarck’s birthday. It is, I think, a poem which raises at least a couple of questions.
“SALUTES NATALICIAE AD BISMARCKIUM PRINCIPEM

Tot mitto Tibi salutes,

Quot ruras Gallia cutes,

Quot Roma habet clamores,

Bismarck's Birthday Verses: The Chicago Latin Version

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