Why did Dickens have a personal postbox?

_79613790_studyIn the 19th Century, when the postal service was in its infancy, Charles Dickens lobbied for his own personal letterbox, writes Kathryn Westcott.
It’s Christmas 1869 and Charles Dickens, prolific letter writer, is hurriedly finishing off a correspondence. “The postman is waiting at the gate to tramp through the snow to Rochester and is unlawfully drinking a glass of gin while I write this,” Dickens reveals to his friend Charles Kent.
The postman was a familiar sight at Dickens’s Georgian home, Gad’s Hill Place in Higham, Kent.
A postbox, installed by the postal service at the author’s request, was one of the earliest wall-boxes to be introduced in Britain, following the introduction of the pillar box across the nation by fellow writer Anthony Trollope in 1852.
Dickens had personally lobbied for that postbox in 1859.
Perhaps acting on a tip-off by friend and writer Edmund Yates, who worked in the Postmaster General’s office, he replies to a correspondence from Yates stating:
“I think that no one seeing the place can well doubt that my house at Gad’s Hill is the place for the letter-box. The wall is accessible by all sorts and conditions of men, on the bold high road, and the house altogether is the great landmark of the whole neighbourhood. Captain Goldsmith’s house is up a lane considerably off the high road; but he has a garden wall abutting on the road itself…”
Continue article via BBC News – Why did Charles Dickens have a personal postbox?

John Steinbeck.

c1f7e715c890be088c0c3736874John Steinbeck III (February 27, 1902—December 20, 1968) was one of the best-known and most widely read American writers of the 20th century.
He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937.
In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories. In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley region of California, a culturally diverse place of rich migratory and immigrant history.
This upbringing imparted a regionalistic flavor to his writing, giving many of his works a distinct sense of place. Steinbeck moved briefly to New York City, but soon returned home to California to begin his career as a writer.
Most of his earlier work dealt with subjects familiar to him from his formative years. An exception was his first novel Cup of Gold which concerns the pirate Henry Morgan, whose adventures had captured Steinbeck’s imagination as a child.
In his subsequent novels, Steinbeck found a more authentic voice by drawing upon direct memories of his life in California. Later he used real historical conditions and events in the first half of 20th century America, which he had experienced first-hand as a reporter.
Steinbeck often populated his stories with struggling characters; his works examined the lives of the working class and migrant workers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.
Seventeen of his works, including The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Cannery Row (1945), The Pearl (1947), and East of Eden (1952), went on to become Hollywood films (some appeared multiple times, i.e., as remakes), and Steinbeck also achieved success as a Hollywood writer, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Story in 1944 for Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.
via Reference.com

Ernest Hemingway’s Reading List.

Hemingway-Reading-List-e1369330871727In 1934 Ernest Hemingway wrote down a list of two short stories and 14 books and handed it to a young out-of-work writer Arnold Samuelson (many of the texts you can find in the Open Culture collection of Free eBooks):
“The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane
“The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Dubliners by James Joyce
The Red and the Black by Stendhal
Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
Hail and Farewell by George Moore
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Oxford Book of English Verse
The Enormous Room by E.E. Cummings
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Far Away and Long Ago by W.H. Hudson
The American by Henry James
Read more of this great story via Ernest Hemingway Creates a Reading List for a Young Writer, 1934 – | Open Culture.

“The Raven.”


In this poem, one of the most famous American poems ever, Poe uses several symbols to take the poem to a higher level.
The most obvious symbol is, of course, the raven itself. When Poe had decided to use a refrain that repeated the word “nevermore,” he found that it would be most effective if he used a non-reasoning creature to utter the word.
It would make little sense to use a human, since the human could reason to answer the questions (Poe, 1850). In “The Raven” it is important that the answers to the questions are already known, to illustrate the self-torture to which the narrator exposes himself.
This way of interpreting signs that do not bear a real meaning, is “one of the most profound impulses of human nature” (Quinn, 1998:441).
Poe also considered a parrot as the bird instead of the raven; however, because of the melancholy tone, and the symbolism of ravens as birds of ill-omen, he found the raven more suitable for the mood in the poem (Poe, 1850). Quoth the Parrot, “Nevermore?”
Another obvious symbol is the bust of Pallas. Why did the raven decide to perch on the goddess of wisdom?
One reason could be, because it would lead the narrator to believe that the raven spoke from wisdom, and was not just repeating its only “stock and store,” and to signify the scholarship of the narrator. Another reason for using “Pallas” in the poem was, according to Poe himself, simply because of the “sonorousness of the word, Pallas, itself” (Poe, 1850).
A less obvious symbol, might be the use of “midnight” in the first verse, and “December” in the second verse. Both midnight and December, symbolize an end of something, and also the anticipation of something new, a change, to happen.
The midnight in December, might very well be New Year’s eve, a date most of us connect with change. This also seems to be what Viktor Rydberg believes when he is translating “The Raven” to Swedish, since he uses the phrase “årets sista natt var inne, ” (“The last night of the year had arrived”). Kenneth Silverman connected the use of December with the death of Edgar’s mother (Silverman, 1992:241), who died in that month; whether this is true or not is, however, not significant to its meaning in the poem.
The chamber in which the narrator is positioned, is used to signify the loneliness of the man, and the sorrow he feels for the loss of Lenore. The room is richly furnished, and reminds the narrator of his lost love, which helps to create an effect of beauty in the poem.
The tempest outside, is used to even more signify the isolation of this man, to show a sharp contrast between the calmness in the chamber and the tempestuous night.
The phrase “from out my heart,” Poe claims, is used, in combination with the answer “Nevermore,” to let the narrator realize that he should not try to seek a moral in what has been previously narrated (Poe, 1850).
Poe had an extensive vocabulary, which is obvious to the readers of both his poetry as well as his fiction.
Sometimes this meant introducing words that were not commonly used. In “The Raven,” the use of ancient and poetic language seems appropriate, since the poem is about a man spending most of his time with books of “forgotten lore.”
“Seraphim,” in the fourteenth verse, “perfumed by an unseen censer / Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled…” is used to illustrate the swift, invisible way a scent spreads in a room. A seraphim is one of the six-winged angels standing in the presence of God.
“Nepenthe,” from the same verse, is a potion, used by ancients to induce forgetfullnes of pain or sorrow.
“Balm in Gilead,” from the following verse, is a soothing ointment made in Gilead, a mountainous region of Palestine east of the Jordan river.
“Aidenn,” from the sixteenth verse, is an Arabic word for Eden or paradise.
“Plutonian,” characteristic of Pluto, the god of the underworld in Roman mythology.
Read more via The Poe Decoder – “The Raven”.

Australian Pulp Fiction,1940-50.

6077004-3x4-700x933Photos: Australian pulp fiction became popular in the 1940s and 1950s. (NSW State Library)
They were eye catching, provocative and Australians could not get enough of them.
A new exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales explores the history of Australian pulp fiction with work from the Frank Johnson publishing house.
Tales of tawdry affairs and crime dramas exploded in the 1930s and the local market was flooded with American imports.
Conservative forces wanted them banned, and forged an unlikely alliance with Australian publishers who wanted the market all to themselves.
Crime writer Peter Doyle who curated the Pulp Confidential exhibition said Australian publishers were on a mission.
“Why do we really need to buy this mental rubbish from America, we can produce perfectly good mental rubbish here in Australia, and once they got the chance, they did,” he said.
They got their chance because American imports were banned during the 1940s and 1950s.
It meant Australian publishers could fill the void, and they did, with often spectacular cover artwork that easily stood out at the news stands.
Bold, bright colours were in vogue, and women were always portrayed as stereotypes.
“Women were either the femme fatal and buxom and blonde and quite gorgeous,” according to Rachel Franks from the State Library of NSW.
via Pulp Confidential exhibition: NSW State library explores Australian pulp fiction of the 1940s and 50s – ABC News

The History of “Hansard”.

William Cobbett, Journalist who fought for the right to report on Parliament.
Hansard is the edited records of all parliamentary debates, votes, written ministerial statements and answers from Parliament in order that they might be easily accessed by any member of the public.
Member’s words are recorded by Hansard reporters and are edited to remove repetitions and obvious mistakes. The records and reports, however, must ensure that the members of Parliament leave ‘out nothing that adds to the meaning of the speech or illustrates the argument’.
The records of Hansard are protected. This freedom to print the words of Members without fear of libel was established in Britain in 1840, by the Parliament Papers Act (1840) which stipulated that all parliamentary publications were to be subject to the same legal protection as Members themselves.
This idea of parliamentary privilege, and the extent to which the proceedings of Parliament should be widely known, has undergone a revolution since Hansard’s inception at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Reports of debates before this time are difficult to locate or incomplete because of the contemporary belief that what was said inside the debating chambers should not be reported to the electorate or general population at large.
The belief was that Members would not act according to the best interests of the country, if they were under the pressure of public scrutiny.
The publication of anything said in the debating chambers was treated as a breach of parliamentary privilege and punished as such.
After the events of the English Civil War in the 1640s, and the increasingly influential role of propaganda, reports of parliamentary proceedings began to emerge as fictitious accounts of political clubs, such as the Report of the Senate of Lilliputia.
By 1771, and after extensive campaigning by the infamous John Wilkes, the suppression of parliamentary debates ended.
In that year, the then Lord Mayor of London, Brass Crosby, failed to stop the printing of details from the chamber.
He was called to report before the Houses of Parliament for his failure to stop what was an illegal publication, sent to the Tower of London, and put on trial. After a public outcry and a refusal on the part of the judges involved to try the Lord Mayor, Parliament ceased to punish those who published the proceedings of the Houses of Commons and Lords.
There followed numerous unofficial publications which documented the details of what Members said in the debating chambers. Initially William Cobbett proved to the most successful publisher of debates; he authored the History of Parliament from 1066 to 1802 and the Parliamentary Register, which saw the first concentrated effort to standardise the recording of debates.
(c) University of Southampton; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Photo (c) University of Southampton; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Cobbett granted the publishing rights of Debates to a publishing family company, run by Luke Hansard (See Above – Printer to the Government) and his three sons.
However, after being tried for seditious libel, Cobbett and one of Luke Hansard’s sons, Thomas Curson Hansard, were found guilty and imprisoned. Cobbett’s financial situation soon collapsed and he sold the rights to Debates to Thomas Curson Hansard.
Initially, the Hansard publications were created by gathering reports from various sources (including, for example, newspapers, diaries and letters). By the 1830s, the name ‘Hansard’ appeared on the title page of  It continued in this way throughout the nineteenth century.
This situation continued until 1909 when Britain decided – noting that many other countries, including Australia, Canada and the United States, had already standardised their records – to take control of the process of publication.
When the English Parliament initially assumed direct control of the publication, the name Hansard was removed as the publishing company was no longer to be involved.
This was changed in 1943, after the realisation that the name which had graced the title page for so long, and which had been copied in Canada and Australia, had not dropped out of usage and was the common, and popular, term for the documents.
Adapted from Parliamentary Discourse.