Leon Edel offers useful guidelines in his preface to the Letters of Henry James.
"Among scholars the discussion is interminable: how should letters be edited? Some seem to believe that modern letters should be reproduced almost as if they were photographs of the original. Is this valid in an age of photography? It seems to me when letters are translated from handwriting to print, they should be edited to be read as one reads books: with an avoidance of brackets and an economy of footnotes. The & should certainly read "and," and all abbreviations and shortcuts of hasty writing deserved to be spelled out. Simon Nowell Smith, in a charming lecture on "Authors, Editors and Publishers," raised his voice rightly think against the bracketed sic when used immoderately, or the reproduction of obvious spelling mistakes anyone might make when writing in a hurry. Modern scholarship has perhaps been rigid in believing that what applied to ancient manuscripts may be applied to the modern. I have made silent corrections when they were obviously called for; but where there has been a significant slip of the pen I have indicated it in footnotes or kept it in the text... As for the footnotes, I have preferred to be simply informative, with a strong feeling that if one carried footnotes to the extreme one could end up writing a history of all civilization. I see no need to give full names and dates for every name in the letters. ...Such footnotes as I have included are bibliographical or historical; identifications are made when they involved persons we meet repeatedly. I have tried to offer an answer wherever a reader might ask a questions. "
Joys of Research
My first job out of college was as a fact checker and picture researcher (at the Franklin Mint, outside Philadelphia PA). I hadn't known such jobs existed, and I'd never read so much from American Heritage. I eventually went to library school in Chapel Hill NC, knowing I wanted to work in some sort of specialized library or research setting. The following books and websites have been sources of inspiration and information as I've learned more about the 19th century and EJ Phillips' world.
In the spring of 1992 I poked around a little in the Research collection of Boston Public Library in Copley Square and found American Theatre Companies 1749-1887 which mentions John Nickinson (and daughter Charlotte Nickinson) as "lesser known guest stars" in the section on the "Providence Museum Company", organized in 1848 in Rhode Island "Better known performers" included Junius Brutus Booth (and son Edwin) and Lola Montez). However EJ Phillips was noted as a valued member of two outstanding stock companies of her day -- the Union Square Theatre Stock Company and Madison Square Theatre Stock Company, both organized and managed by AM Palmer. Other surces of interest requred more digging -- bound volumes of Harpers Weekly
I also went to the Harvard Theatre Collection and found picture of and references to John and Charlotte Nickinson. But it took me years to find EJ Phillips' autobiography written for her manager AM Palmer in the Harvard Theatre Collection, after it moved to Houghton LIbrary.
Visits to the LIbrary of Congress have also been fruitful, particularly when Linda Osborne and Sara Day were working in the Publishing Office. One of the most exciting finds came through the LC catalog. John T. Nagle (1842-1919) seems to be the author of “Table showing the total number of stillbirths and deaths (with an enumeration of some of the most prominent causes) which occurred in the city of New York during the ninety- one years ending Dec. 31, 1894” [n.p.] 1896 [LC Library of Congress] and “The status of acting assistant surgeons of the United States Army, who served in the late Civil War, being a reply to the ruling of the War Department” New York, M. B. Brown, printer, 1893 [LC] and An appeal to President Roosevelt for justice to a class of acting assistant surgeons of the United States Army who served in the Civil War [New York : M.B. Brown Press, 1908. [College Physicians & Surgeons, Philadelphia]. The Library of Congress provided several publications of Dr. Nagle, one of which included these photographs. However this took some time, since they were originally Not on Shelf and required the intervention of Linda to eventually obtain them.
It is difficult to know how much more might be unearthed, and I've been surprised by how much I can find using Google Books and online electronic newspapers. But I'm one of the few people who read beyond the first few pages of Google results. I look forward to making return and first visits to the following collections.
The Harvard Theatre Collection has "clippings, playbills, scrapbooks, and so on" from the Madison Square Theatre Company, AM Palmer's correspondence, clippings, and manuscript "History of the Union Square Theatre" with clippings and scrapbooks.
The Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center (New York) has Madison Square "scrapbooks, clippings, playbills and so on", Union Square "scrapbooks, clippings, playbills, photographs and so on", [and a clipping folder on the Olympic Theatre, as does the Museum of the City of New York]
Museum of the City of New
York Collections prints,
photographs and drawings http://collections.mcny.org/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=Home
Billy Rose Theater Collection, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgdivisionbrowseresult.cfm?div_id=pt
The Walter Hampden-Edwin Booth Theatre Collection and Library at the Player's Club (New York) has AM Palmer's "inlaid, voluminous Record of the Union Square Theatre, including autobiographies, playbills, clippings, and so on".
The William Seymour Theatre Collection, Princeton NJ has a fragment of the Union Square Daybook and Notebook, and Palmer's Theatre comes up in the William Seymour correspondence.
William Seymour Collection, Princeton University Library Chronicle, June 1941 http://libweb5.princeton.edu/visual_materials/pulc/pulc_v_2_n_4.pdf
William Seymour Family Papers, Princeton Univ. http://findingaids.princeton.edu/collections/TC011
The Philadelphia Free Library (Logan Square) has a Philadelphia Theatre Collection with a Chestnut Street Theatre File, Chestnut Street Theatre Programs File and Philadelphia Theatre Index, as well as files on many of the Chestnut Street Theatre performers.
Books I can recommend
Alison, Extravaganza King: Robert Barnet and Boston Musical Theater,
Northeastern University Press, 2004
Belfer, Lauren, City of
Light, Island Books, 2000 [Random House 1999]
Author interview http://www.randomhouse.com/boldtype/0599/belfer/essay.html "a hundred years ago, Buffalo was one of the centers of America, the commercial gateway between East and West, a place of incredible wealth, sophistication, and innovation, the Silicon Valley of its day."
Bowen, Catherine Drinker, Adventures of a
Biographer, Little Brown & Co, 1946, 1959
Edel, Leon, Writing Lives: Principia Biographica WW Norton, 1959, 1984 https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Lives-Biographica-Leon-Edel/dp/0393303829
Hershey Felder, George Gershwin Alone, Production Diary, Hershey Felder
I never expected to find descriptions of someone doing research at the Library of Congress sound so glamorous -- and a wonderful performer as well.
Fraser, Antonia: The Weaker Vessel: Women in 17th century England, New York, Knopf, 1984. Recommended by Flora Fraser.
Fraser, Flora, Princesses: The six daughters of George III, New York: Knopf, 2005
Hamilton, Nigel, How to do Biography: A Primer, Harvard University Press, 2008 https://www.amazon.com/How-Do-Biography-Nigel-Hamilton/dp/0674066154
Hamilton, Nigel and Hans Renders, ABC of Modern Biography, Amsterdam University Press, 2018 https://www.amazon.com/ABC-Modern-Biography-Nigel-Hamilton/dp/9462988714
Michael Holroyd, Works on Paper: The Craft of Autobiography and Biography Writing, Counterpoint Press, 2002
Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer , Viking Penguin
I learned from this book from a Jean Strouse interview on the web and love Holmes' story of bouncing a cheque -- because he dated it 1776 instead of 1976.
Sidetracks: Explorations of a Romantic Biographer, Pantheon Books 2000 https://www.amazon.com/This-Long-Pursuit-Reflections-Biographer/dp/030737968X
This Long Pursuit: Reflections of a Romantic Biographer, Pantheon Books, 2016 https://www.amazon.com/This-Long-Pursuit-Reflections-Biographer/dp/030737968X
Keith Newlin, Editing Hamlin Garland, Keith Newlin http://people.uncw.edu/newlink/garland/editing.htm
Merritt Lee Nickinson Schatz, Kiss the Children for Father: Letters from a Civil War Prisoner at Fort Pickens, Pensacola Historical Society I'm not the first in my family to edit a collection of letters, though this is from another branch of my family. http://www.amazon.com/Kiss-Children-Father-Pensacola-Historical/dp/B0006CMC26/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1291008826&sr=1-11
director of Burnt Over by Dorothy Fortenberry, New York, March 2005
A play with a plot revolving around 1840's family letters. Mary Glen and Osbornes in New York
Linda Osborne and Casey King, Oh, Freedom, Kids talk about the civil rights movement with the people who made it happen Knopf, 1997
Renders, Hans, Binne De Haan and Jonne Harmsma, The Biographical Turn, Lives in History, Routledge 2012 https://www.amazon.com/Biographical-Turn-Lives-history/dp/1138939714 Thanks to Wayne Soini for alerting me to and lending me this book.
Rose, Phyllis, Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages, Vintage Books, 1984 https://www.amazon.com/Parallel-Lives-Five-Victorian-Marriages/dp/0394725808
Jean Strouse, Alice James: A Biography Harvard University Press, 1999. I heard Jean Strouse speak at a New England PEN meeting in Cambridge. She told of visiting Alice James grave in the Cambridge Cemetery family plot and finding herself feeling terribly sorry for Alice -- and realized she was duplicating James family experiences.
Jean Strousem JP Morgan , 2003 http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/au-strouse-jean.asp
AJA Symonds, The Quest for Corvo: An Experiment in Biography,
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on her diary 1785-1812, Knopf, 1990
Assassination Vacation, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005
http://www.barclayagency.com/vowell.html Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley and
various travels to trace their histories.
Vowell, Sarah, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Simon & Schuster, 2002 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743223527/104-6441822-4095967?v=glance&n=283155
Nothing Daunted: The Expected Education of Two Society Girls in the West, 2011
Dorothy Wickenden is an editor at the New Yorker.
Dorothy Wickenden on Nothing Daunted http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2011/06/the-exchange-dorothy-wickenden-on-nothing-daunted-1.html
Roughing it June 2009 http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/04/20/090420fa_fact_wickenden
Ragan, Robert, Deciphering old handwriting http://www.amberskyline.com/treasuremaps/oldhand.html from a course taught by Sabina Murray
Many thanks to Christine Kuta for introducing me to Melinda Ponder of the Boston Biographers' Group https://www.facebook.com/Boston-Biographers-Group-215846895158022/ which I joined in December 2017 and have enjoyed ever since. Also joined Biographers' International Organization https://biographersinternational.org/ and hope to attend the May 2019 conference.
Last updated Dec. 15 2018
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