Life, & the world, or whatever we call that which we are & feel, is an astonishing thing. The mist of familiarity obscures from us the wonder of our being ... Life, the great miracle, we admire not, because it is so miraculous. It is well that we are thus shielded by the familiarity of what is at once so certain and so unfathomable, from an astonishment which would otherwise absorb and overawe the function of that which is its object.
The House that Jack Built: A Diverting Story for Children of All Ages. To Which is Added, Some Account of Jack Jingle. Shewing by Which Means he Acquired his Learning, and in Consequence Thereof Got Rich and Built Himself a House. With a Collection of Riddles Written by Him. The Whole Adorned with a Variety of Cuts by Master Collett. London: Printed and sold by John Marshall, at No. 4, Aldermary Church-Yard in Bow-Lane; and no. 17, Queen-Street, Cheapside, [between 1787 and 1798]. Purchased on the Elisabeth Ball Fund, 2011.
What do you get for the dad who has everything? Something more personal than a sweater or tie, for sure. Books tend to be a good choice, but if he has already built a stunning three-tiered library and study to house his growing collection of books and manuscripts, the latest bestseller just won't do. One year, J.P. Morgan, Jr. (known as Jack) found a perfect little gift for his father. In 1906 and 1907, Pierpont Morgan had acquired some manuscripts of the American writer Bret Harte. Largely forgotten today, Harte was one of America's most popular (and well-paid) writers of the late 19th century. Jack built on this interest of his father's by giving him, for Christmas in 1909, the manuscript of Harte's short story How Santa Claus came to Simpson's Bar.
Even the prolific Dickens struggled with writer’s block.
Just a week before Christmas in 1843, the 19-year-old artist Richard Doyle wrote this illustrated letter to his father, playfully, but apologetically, putting off work that he had promised to finish before Christmas. He is in the midst of preparing his first contributions to the magazine Punch and wants to let his father know that "the nearer it becomes to Christmas the more awful does my situation, with regard to certain annual productions called "Christmas things" appear." Punch is seen here, somewhat maniacally bursting through the page.
John Ruskin was just ten years old when he wrote and illustrated The Puppet Show: Or, Amusing Characters for Children. The little book is filled with twenty-nine short poems, each of which is accompanied by two pen-and-ink drawings. The poems, as far as I can determine, are Ruskin's own, although some of the illustrations are copied from George Cruikshank's vignettes in Grimm's German Popular Stories, which was first published in London in 1823.
Can you help decipher a page of Dickens’s shorthand?
Why does Dickens continue to prove such an elusive subject for biographers? Curator Declan Kiely takes a look at one particularly revealing letter.
This blog features letters from Charles Dickens drawn from the Morgan's collection, which includes over 1,500 of his letters. The Morgan has the largest collection of Dickens's letters in the United States, surpassed in number only by the Dickens House Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London. Posts will include images of Dickens letters with a complete transcription, and a brief commentary on content and context. A Letter from Charles Dickens will allow readers of the blog to discover for the first time—or renew their acquaintance with—Dickens's notable letters.
Jean Chenel, sieur de La Chappronnaye (fl. 1614-1617). Les revelations de l’hermite solitaire sur l’estat de la France. Paris: Toussaincts du Braÿ, 1617. Purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2011.