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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Victorian Era or Error?

It's true "To err is human, but it takes a computer to really screw things up!", 

but when the human who's erring is using a computer, LOOK OUT!

If you received a postcard from me and went to the whited out address of Christmas and found supposedly no articles exist, please don't blame the computer.  There are articles here on Victorian Christmas.

Here's "the rest of the story"

I saw the horribly long address of and thought I'd made a mistake.  (Not yet, but . . . ) I checked by going to what was the current article and saw on my address line: Christmas.
YIKES! I thought and whited out that awful  "%20".  While I was at it I also whited out that I had "2" articles on Victorian Christmas, because by then I had reviewed my Victorian Christmas resources and decided to write more, a lot more.

The address line didn't show all the computer language needed to get to my Victorian Christmas articles, but it was needed.  Computers don't read an address that has a space.  Just because it shows a space on the address line doesn't mean it is what the computer is reading.  Yes, I should and do know that, but didn't think about it when I had a bottle of correction fluid in hand.

So don't blame the computer.  Don't even blame the Victorians.  They knew how to take Christmas and make it into something far more complicated, but interesting, than it had been in earlier times.  The "steampunk" genre mixes modern technology with an anachronistic Victorian era.  Just think how people in the 19th century could really screw things up if they had a computer and were like me!

Thank heavens storytelling is low tech...most of the time.

With all of this, my series, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" continues to take a break.  It's only published "on Saturdays unless that week I have other research articles."  The Victorian Christmas articles look ahead to December.  I hope to return to "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" during December.  At least October 17th's Scary Ghost Stories for October, December, or Whenever provided several Public Domain Christmas stories from the Victorian era and that's no error.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Scary Ghost Stories for October, December, or Whenever

  The Christmas song, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" has a line about "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago."
File:Marley's Ghost John Leech, 1843.jpg
I've been talking here about Victorian Christmas customs and a 2010 article in the Deseret News of Utah gives a good look at the practice of "scary ghost stories" for Christmas.  I particularly like this quote:
 “Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” wrote British humorist Jerome K. Jerome as part of his introduction to an anthology of Christmas ghost stories titled “Told After Supper“ in 1891. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about specters.”

The article's title is "Telling Ghost Stories Is a Lost Tradition on Christmas Eve."  WELL!  As I write this, it's October, a month when scary ghost stories are especially popular.  If you need a bit of advance preparation for Christmas and a Victorian Christmas, too, here are some resources for you. 

As you can faintly read, Marley's Ghost, from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is my illustration.  Certainly that ghost story pops readily into the minds of most people thinking of Christmas Ghost Stories.  Did you know Dickens did an earlier version in his The Pickwick Papers when a character tells of the conversion of a Scrooge-like sexton after goblins show him the past and future?

While the book had troubles initially, A Christmas Carol finally was a success.  Since Dickens liked its moral message, he wrote annual versions of the story in 1844, 1845, 1846, and 1848, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life (the only one with neither religious nor supernatural element), and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain.  Later Dickens wrote a short story, The Signal-Man,  as part of the Mugby Junction collection in the 1866 Christmas edition of All the Year Round which also might qualify.

Dickens may have popularised the Christmas ghost story, but the tradition precedes the Victorian era.  Washington Irving's book, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. published in 1819, describes a traditional English Christmas with the Squire's guests listening to the parson tell of "strange accounts of popular superstitions and legends of the surrounding country" and some even point to Elizabethan England and Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale" containing the line "A sad tale's best for winter: I have one of sprites and goblins..." as Prince Mamillius offers to tell a story.  Similarly his predecessor, Christopher Marlowe's play, The Jew of Malta, has a character say, "Now I remember those old women's words, who in my wealth would tell me winter's tales, and speak of spirits and ghosts that glide by night..."

A Christmas legend involves that famous ghost of the Tower of London turned Anniversary ghost, Anne Boleyn.  At Christmas she appears at her childhood home of Hever Castle.  Anniversary ghosts are a type of ghost returning on days important to the ghost.  Why is Christmas important for her there?  It must go back to her childhood before she married Henry VIII.

Here are three Victorian ghost stories available online.  "Susie's Story" in Winnie and Walter's Christmas Stories by Increase Niles Tarbox from 1860.   From "Ainsworth's Magazine", volume XI, published in 1847 is "Tom Punder - A Ghost Story for Christmas" by Dudley Costello.  The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall by John Kendrick Bangs, written in 1894.  On the My Merry Christmas network I posted this spooky ballad from 1830, The Mistletoe Bough, based on various traditional legends.

If these stories chill you, you may find it interesting to know when Dickens was a child, Britain had a "mini Ice Age" so his stories carry that setting.  This Is Horror attempts to look at the psychology behind Christmas Stories.  It also looks at M.R.James, who was a child in Victorian England.  His many ghost stories didn't start to be published until 1904, but this academic born in 1862 carried the genre into the 20th century.  Publishing just a few years before the end of the Victorian era in 1898 is that other James, Henry James, whose well-known The Turn of the Screw  opens with people sitting around telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve.  That's as close as the story comes to being a Christmas story, but it does make a brief nod to the tradition.  Since it's a novel, it really goes beyond the scope of this article, butI just couldn't resist the link to let you read it.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Another look below the surface at what happened in Victorian Christmas ghost stories is in a 2012 dissertation by Brandon Chitwood at Marquette University.  A Victorian Christmas in Hell: Yuletide Ghosts and Necessary Pleasures in the Age of Capital looks at how capitalism and literary development influenced the genre.  The dissertation particularly gets Freudian discussing women authors of the genre precisely because of Victorian roles for women.  Chitwood names Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Braddon, Rhoda Broughton, Margaret Oliphant, and Ellen Wood as best-selling authors of "popular, and often subversive, domestic novels."  Unfortunately they wrote these short stories for magazines, like Charles Dickens' "Household Words."  Elizabeth Gaskell's "The Old Nurse's Story" appeared in the Christmas edition of the weekly journal by Dickens, that edition was called A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire.  It's interesting Dickens doesn't list any of the authors, leaving the impression of writing it himself!  Chitwood describes the invisibility of Victorian women as being ghostlike.  Margaret Oliphant's novella, The Open Door, is re-printed in the 1918 book, Great Ghost Stories, but she died in 1897, so it originally appeared earlier.  While some of the novels by these authors are available, tracing their shorter works online is difficult...especially when they are anonymous. 

Victorian Christmas and its ghost stories are all public domain, so it leads well back into this blog's series, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" which return next week.  In the meantime, happy scary reading!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Victorian Christmas Is Still With Us

At the risk of rushing the season, it's not too soon to plan Christmas.  

Victoriana, a celebration of the Victorian era, is at its height at Christmas.

Even people who don't realize their traditions date back to the 19th continue ideas started under the longest reigning British  monarch.  The most obvious of these traditions is the Christmas tree.  The first Christmas trees came to Britain sometime in the early 1800s. They became very popular in 1841, when Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's German husband) had a Christmas Tree set up in Windsor Castle. In 1848 a drawing of "The Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle" was published in the Illustrated London News. The drawing was republished in Godey's Lady's Book, Philadelphia, in December 1850 (but they removed the Queen's crown and Prince Albert's moustache to make it look 'American'!).

Look at these two illustrations and decide where they were published.

The publication of the drawing helped Christmas Trees become popular in the UK and USA.

Prior to this in Great Britain, Oliver Cromwell and other Puritan rulers had banned Christmas and even the Restoration period didn't succeed in making it a popular holiday.  Here in the U.S. the Puritan disapproval kept it unpopular in their areas.  After the American Revolution it was unpopular throughout most of the country as it was considered an "English custom."  Germans kept Christmas alive, however, and so the young Princess Victoria had a tree as a child because her German grandmother, the Hanoverian wife of King George III, brought the custom to England.  When Victoria married her German cousin, Prince Albert, their family focus for the holiday helped change opinions.  Here are some good summaries of the essential elements of a Victorian Christmas at The Complete Victorian and at Cape with information from their New Jersey area's Queen Victoria Bed and Breakfast.  Back in 2010 I sent readers to Victoriana Magazine's view of Victorian Christmas.  It's still there and today's link is more tied to the specifics of the holiday, but it's not easy to tell what parts of the celebration became popular here in North America since the view is strongly British.

Less pretentious, more streamlined, but definitely not just Victorian is Why Christmas.  I went there for their information on wassailing.  Checking the article on Christmas Pudding, I'm fairly sure it originates in the U.K., but it's still possible to filter out a bit more easily what's for the U.S.  Using the site's search feature for "Victorian" produces 17 articles, but skip the one on Christingles as it isn't Victorian.  The article on the history of Christmas trees gives some fascinating U.S. facts including about lighting and fires and was my source about removal of Prince Albert's moustache and Queen Victoria's crown.

Teacher curriculum ideas on Victorian Christmas are at Teachers First.   As of this writing there are eight possibilities offered, including one that specifically traces the way attitudes changed in the U.S. from 1830 to 1860.

Christmas carols are such an important part of Christmas and the custom's history shows it was revived then by William Sandys and Davies Gilbert publishing their carol collections.
Here is a list of some of the most popular (and public domain) songs, both religious and secular, I was able to verify were of the period although not necessarily British:
Specifically religious
Angels from the Realms of Glory
Angels We Have Heard on High
Away in a Manger
Christ Was Born on Christmas Day
The First Noel
Go Tell It on the Mountain (an African American spiritual dating back to at least 1865)
God Rest You Merry Gentlemen
Good King Wenceslas
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
The Holly and the Ivy 
I Saw Three Ships 
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
Joy to the World
O Holy Night
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Silent Night
We Three Kings of Orient Are
What Child Is This?
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night

More secular
Deck the Halls
Here We Come a Wassailing (the switch from Wassailing to Caroling is not traditional)
Jingle Bells
Jolly Old St. Nicholas
O Christmas Tree
'Twas the Night Before Christmas
Twelve Days of Christmas
Up on the Housetop
We Wish You a Merry Christmas

This look at Victorian Christmas is getting long, but next I really must take a look at those "Scary Ghost Stories" which became a part of the Victorian Christmas tradition.  It will fit in so well with my Keeping the Public in Public Domain series which will resume here after that article. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Christmas Should Also Include the Public Domain

Is it Christmas yet?

I'm already getting excited!  My Victorian Christmas with the Hired Girl program is already starting to get booked and, while reviewing what I want to do, I found a great outlet for Public Domain stories of the period.

My Merry Christmas has been around for well over a decade.  It began online in 1999, with an offline tracing of Santa by fax machine dating even earlier to 1991.  With such a long history it has become a large source of Christmas resources I'm just beginning to discover.  Lover of old stories that I am and, searching for Victorian stories in particular, I came to it when trying to find an online copy of "Christmas Every Day."  It's there and is a great old story from 1892 by W.D. Howells.  While there I discovered lots of Christmas forums (that part started in 2004), an e-newsletter, a year-round Christmas radio station and enough resources to make you think Santa left his bag of presents there just for you!  It's definitely more than just looking at the Victorian era, but if you go to their sidebar you'll find it has a library.  I've already posted three Public Domain stories.  I've long loved telling Helen Hunt Jackson's unusual memory of "A Christmas Tree for Cats", so that was the first thing I posted.  There's a sidebar that says Christmas Library, but like everything on the site, it overflows with way more than you would expect.  This link gets you directly to the list of posts in The Christmas Library at My Merry Christmas.  It won't be just stories, or even the poetry and Christmas items from the beloved old magazine, "St. Nicholas."  Like everything about MMC, you will find much more.  There's even a legend  touching Michigan, the wreck of The Christmas Tree Ship, the Rouse Simmons. On November 22, 1912 it went down with all on board and almost 5000 Christmas trees on Lake Michigan, en route from Michigan to Chicago.  As you can tell, I think this is a great spot for story lovers, so I plan to add other Christmas Public Domain stories there.  When I mentioned adding three stories, the third is actually a poem as I couldn't wait to add a spooky ballad I love to tell as a story, The Mistletoe Bough.  Remember Christmas tradition also includes "scary ghost stories" along with the necessary reminder of "Christmases long, long ago", and definitely including the first Christmas.

 By the way, My Merry Christmas obviously has its focus on Christmas, but it's also done some expanding into other holidays.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, and other holidays are worth checking there, too.

This isn't one of my usual Keeping the Public in Public Domain posts.  As I said in my updated explanation of that series, I'm interrupting the current flow of stories.  Next I definitely will look at giving even more Victorian Christmas resources.  If you scan down the sidebar here you can click on Victorian Christmas to find my first article from back in 2010, "Queen Victoria Still Reigns!"  That's still worth checking out for Victorian Christmas, but I'm eager to add so much more I've found on the topic.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cooper - Chinese Fables - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

In today's Part III of An Argosy of Fables, the Oriental Fables section looks at Chinese Fables.  I found today's tales, plus two I omit, particularly moving.  (Yes, later I'll tell a bit about the two I omit.)  I'm a sucker for Fox tales, so here is

Here's a second haunting story I must include.

I also said I would explain about the two I omitted.  China's diversity includes 55 ethnic minorities in addition to the Han Chinese majority.  Cooper doesn't  tell if his selections come from them or not. Since those minorities currently are less than 10% of the total population of China, I presume the fables Cooper includes are from the majority, but his sources are impossible for me to trace with one exception.  A major source is the journal called "China Review", which no longer exists although a similar title began in 1994. Two others seem to be translated by Cooper from the French.  Only Dennys's The Folklore of China can be found online so I skipped his fables, but the two in Argosy, "The Crows and the Owls" and "The Folly of Avarice" still resonate in the 21st century.  Dennys only devotes the final 10 pages of his 156 page book to fables.  If you bother to prowl the book, you see Cooper took the discussion of fables by Dennys and did readers the service of just presenting them as stories.

Next time we'll see the final section of "Oriental  Fables", Armenian and Turkish Fables.
This is part of a series of weekly posting of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  I will post on Saturdays in the series unless that week I have other research articles.  I hope this will satisfy all who have found these stories worthwhile.  I include myself in that audience.  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, I'm returning to involvement in projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cooper - Persian Fables - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

If fables are proverbs teaching wisdom, today I've chosen two with lessons still needed centuries after being devised.

Frederic Taber Cooper's An Argosy of Fables continues Book Two, Oriental Fables, with three sources of Persian Fables.  Present day Iran was once called Persia.
  1. The Sufi poet known as Jami wrote the Baharistan for his only surviving son.  
  2. Saadi, another Persian poet, wrote anecdotes in his Bostan (Cooper calls him Sadi and his work, The Burstan).  Those very brief anecdotes or fables are anonymously translated into English at Bostan e Saadi, so I would suggest reading it there.  
  3. The final source in this section is Anvar-i-Suhayli, which means The Lights of Canopus.  This is a 15th century Persian version of The Fables of Bidpai or it's called the Panchatantra, which you may remember was part of the previous section in Book Two.  (Bidpai is also known as Pilpai or Pilpay.)  Those Indian fables not only centuries later went to Persia, but also there's an Arabic version, which, among other things, changes the frame story, introduction, some of the animals, and instead calls the Brahmin a hermit.
Most of Jami's fables are quite brief, but this filled a page.

Moving from wisdom spoken by a tortoise is another reptile's story I've heard in various versions.

Whether it's the abbreviated version where someone gives a venomous snake a ride and is killed by the snake who says "You knew I was dangerous when you picked me up" to warn of the dangers of drugs or this look at violent enemies, these fables still contain wisdom.
This is part of a series of weekly posting of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  I will post on Saturdays in the series unless that week I have other research articles.  I hope this will satisfy all who have found these stories worthwhile.  I include myself in that audience.  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, I'm returning to involvement in projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.