Coleridge reworks several poems in his 1796 notebook

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1796 notebook contains eight of his poems.

The opening lines of Coleridge’s “Lines on a Friend Who Died of a Frenzy Fever Induced by Calumnious Reports.” This is one of four extant manuscripts of the poem.

Extensive revisions and corrections throughout show that this was a working notebook, and Ernest Hartley Coleridge, the poet’s grandson, refers to it as the “MS quarto copy-book” in his 1912 The Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The first portion of the copy-book contains two fragments and six complete poems, including “Songs of the Pixies,” “Lines to a Beautiful Spring in a Village,” and “Lines on a Friend Who Died of a Frenzy Fever Induced by Calumnious Reports.”

Marie Antoinette wishes to be back in the good graces of the French people

In this letter, dated September 28, 1791, Marie Antoinette writes to the Austrian diplomat Florimond Claude, comte de Mercy-Argenteau, about the need for the royal family to regain the trust of the French people. The comte de Mercy-Argenteau was instrumental in arranging the 1770 marriage of the young Marie Antoinette, then Archduchess of Austria, and Louis-Auguste, the Dauphin of France. When Louis became King Louis XVI in 1774, the comte de Mercy-Argenteau assumed a prominent role in the French court, and he was a frequent recipient of letters from Marie Antoinette.

Some terrible investment advice from Alexander Pope -- "Buy of South Sea Stock"

The South Sea Bubble of 1720 is one of the most memorable economic bubbles in Britain. Founded in 1711, the South Sea Company was a British joint-stock company that had exclusive trading rights in Spanish South America. Rumors about the potential value of its South American trade stoked rampant speculation, with shares in the company -- offered at just over £100 in January 1720 -- rising to more than £1000 by August. However by the end of September the bubble had popped. Shares fell to £150 and thousands of people were ruined.

"Nevermore – ah, nevermore!"

This letter contains the earliest surviving portion of "The Raven" in Edgar Allan Poe's hand, and it is the only surviving manuscript of the poem made for use of a printer.

"The Raven" was first published under the pseudonym Quarles in the New York Evening Mirror on 29 January 1845. Less than a week later, it appeared with significant changes in Horace Greeley’s New-York Daily Tribune -- amid advertisements for "cheap table cutlery" and "sheet rubber overshoes."

"The wreck of talent, the ruin of promise..."

In 1848-49, three of the four famous Brontë siblings died within an eight month period. Branwell, the only brother, was the first to die, succumbing to chronic bronchitis on Sept. 24, 1848 at the age of 31. Branwell’s health was also depleted by years of alcohol and opiate abuse. Emily and Anne both died of pulmonary tuberculosis (in December 1848 and May 1849, respectively).

In this letter, dated Oct. 2, 1848, Charlotte Brontë writes to her London publisher, W.S. Williams, about her brother's death. She is more upset about the "emptiness" of Branwell’s life than about his untimely death, which she refers to as a "mercy [rather] than a chastisement."

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."