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It was a dark and stormy night... and Arbaces cogs his dice with pleasure

His novels were Victorian best-sellers, but Edward Bulwer Lytton is not one of those authors you could say has aged very well.

Admired by King George IV (who, it is rumored, kept a Lytton novel at all of his residences), his popularity was on the same scale as that of Charles Dickens. Now, however, his name is used as a "byword for aesthetic embarrassment and incompetence," and he is perhaps best remembered for the opening line to Paul Clifford : "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals..."

"... Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew / And I was unaware."

British poet and novelist Thomas Hardy stopped writing novels after Jude the Obscure (1895) and focused his attention on poetry. Shown below is a draft of one of his more famous poems, here entitled "By the Century's Deathbed" but better known as "The Darkling Thrush." In this draft, probably written ca. 1899-1900, Hardy's choice of words differs considerably from the final published version of the poem, especially in the first and third stanzas. For the text of the published poem, see this version from the Academy of American Poets.

Celebrating Banned Books Week with a look at Walt Whitman

Leaves of Grass has been described as "shocking," "too sensual," and "trashy, profane and obscene." Yale University President Noah Porter compared it to "walking naked through the streets," and an early British reviewer suggested that one "throw it immediately behind the fire." First published in 1855, it was effectively banned in Boston nearly 30 years later, when district attorney Oliver Stevens demanded that some poems (such as "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," and "To a Common Prostitute") be removed because of their pornographic nature. Whitman refused to alter his work and was forced to find a new publisher. When he did, the first printing of the new edition sold out in a single day.

"He ought to do better."

Before publishing The Ambassadors serially in The North American Review, Henry James submitted a summary of the novel to Harper & Brothers. This typed outline of The Ambassadors is the only surviving outline of any of James's novels (James burned many of his papers). In 90 typed pages James discusses how he got the idea for the novel, describes his characters, and lays out the novel's plot and themes. The first page and the last page of the outline are shown below – both are signed by James, and the final page is dated Sept. 1, 1900.

The Owl and the Pussey cat went to sea

Edward Lear, British landscape painter and writer, wrote many limericks and "nonsenses" (as he called them) for children. One of his most famous nonsense poems is "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat," shown here in his hand.

Lear ends this copy of his humorous poem with a note that he "meant to have illustrated it, but there ain't time."

Although The Morgan does not have Lear's illustration of his poem, we do have a sketch of the poem by Beatrix Potter. In an 1897 letter to a young boy named Noel Moore, Potter draws him a "picture of the owl and the pussy cat after they were married."

For all the math nerds out there...

Leonhard Euler was perhaps the foremost mathematician of the 18th century. He made major contributions to the fields of calculus, mechanics, fluid dynamics, optics, and astronomy. Born in Switzerland, he spent much of his life in Berlin and St. Petersburg. The Morgan holds a series of 99 letters he wrote to his colleague, the French mathematician Pierre Maupertuis, while they were both part of the Berlin Academy under Frederick the Great. In this letter, dated July 4, 1744, Euler is working on a problem in spherical geometry.

Ever moved your sheeprack on Sunday morning?

Ever moved your sheeprack on Sunday morning?

Now, it might not be a big deal. But if you were caught doing this in the 1500s, you could end up in an English church court.

The Morgan’s collection of 16th-century penances records the sentences imposed by such a court. From these documents, we learn that Henrie Barker was

Why nurses think the air of Kensington Gardens so wholesome

Imagine having a father who was friends with Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and other famous authors of the 19th century. Henry Bradbury, the son of William Bradbury (of the Victorian publisher Bradbury and Evans), used his father's connections to compile a scrapbook of letters, sketches, drawings, prints, photographs, and printed ephemera. Much of the material is related to Punch, the Victorian periodical printed and later purchased by Bradbury and Evans.

My chest of books divide among my friends

John Keats died with £800 in chancery, due to him from an inheritance. He knew nothing of this though, and was effectively penniless while he was dying of consumption. In a final attempt to recover his health, he set sail for Italy in the fall of 1820 with his close friend Joseph Severn. A month before his departure, he acknowledged the futility of this journey in a short letter to his publisher and friend John Taylor and noted that the upcoming trip "wakes me at daylight every morning and haunts me horribly."