Friday, May 14, 2021

In Celebration of Nonsense

This past Wednesday was Edward Lear's birthday! Although the 19th-century English author is probably best known nowadays for his nonsense song "The Owl and the Pussycat," he was also an artist, illustrator, and musician(!). We have a wonderful selection of Lear's numerous books of nonsense rhymes and verses here at Rauner, including The Pelican Chorus, which was illustrated by L. Leslie Brooke.⁠

To explore Lear's works from our collection, start by searching the library catalog online to find the ones that interest you most. Then, come to Rauner and ask to see such wonderfully nonsensical titles like The Pelican Chorus (Sine Illus B764pel) or the work that started it all for Lear, A Book of Nonsense (Illus L477b).

Friday, May 7, 2021

A Case Against Fraternity Desegregation

Page one of White's letter
On November 9, 1950, Dartmouth alumnus W. Lee White wrote a letter expressing his displeasure with a proposal enacted by Dartmouth's undergraduate council. The effect of the proposal was grand: initiating action to eliminate the discriminatory membership clauses in a number of the college's fraternities. He addressed the letter to his undergraduate brothers of Dartmouth's Kappa Sigma fraternity chapter. White himself was a member of Kappa Sigma as an undergraduate, graduating from Dartmouth in 1912. Though the letter was primarily sent to Kappa Sigma, White CCed John Sloane Dickey, the president of Dartmouth at the time, and his words were clearly intended for the ears of Dickey and Dartmouth's administration. White wrote the letter after receiving correspondence from Kappa Sigma on October 28, informing him of a proposal to be adopted by the undergraduate council as the result of a student referendum on the issue of fraternity discrimination. This referendum was held on March 1, 1950, and received votes from 90% of the student population. The majority vote led the undergraduate council to enact the following proposal: "The Interfraternity Council would withdraw recognition of any fraternity at the end of a given year if they had not made every possible effort short of disaffiliation from their national organization to eliminate discriminatory clauses."

The referendum was staged due to the desire of students to eliminate discriminatory clauses held in the constitutions of some of Dartmouth’s fraternities at the time. These clauses were established by the fraternities to prevent membership from men belonging to various groups of "race, religion, and national origin," and were most often found in chapters with national affiliation. These national fraternities were widely prejudiced, generally restricting membership to "white, Christian born males."

In his letter, White voices his opinions on the matter of racial and religious discrimination, referring to both the fraternity system and the greater United States. He utilizes his perspective and personal anecdotes in an attempt to argue that the enactment of the proposal by the undergraduate council would be unwise for the college and its students. One of his points of disapproval in the adoption of the proposal was his belief that Dartmouth's administration, through direct or indirect means, was forcing the fraternities to conform to the college's wishes and remove their discriminatory clauses. White's argument, however, was based on a misconception of the true driving force behind the fraternity desegregation movement. 

Page Two of White's letter
Though Dartmouth’s administration acknowledged the issue of fraternity discrimination on campus as early as 1945, the acknowledgment was internal. Formal action on Dartmouth’s campus to desegregate its fraternity system was initiated entirely by students. Following the 1950 referendum, the investigations into each fraternity - to assess their progress towards the elimination of their discriminatory clauses - were led by a Discrimination Council composed of undergraduates appointed by the Interfraternity Council and the Undergraduate Council. The fraternity desegregation movement remained student-led, with approval from some faculty and administrative members, until May 6, 1954. The college enacted no official policy on fraternity discrimination until this date, and the policy resulted from a second student referendum and recommendation given to the Board of Trustees by the undergraduate council. You can find further information on the second referendum in the "Going Local: Desegregating Dartmouth's Fraternities" article here on Rauner's blog site. 

Dickey's presidential records have significantly aided my research during the Historical Accountability Student Research Program Fellowship, in which I am researching diversity and inclusion in Dartmouth's fraternities throughout the 20th century. As President of Dartmouth throughout the fraternity desegregation movement, Dickey's records contain an abundance of correspondence with college officers, students, alumni, and national fraternity representatives over the matter. W. Lee White’s letter is held in Dickey's files. Furthermore, Dickey played a major role in eliminating discriminatory clauses from fraternity chapters after the second referendum. He personally presented the results of the second student referendum to the Board of Trustees, spearheading the Board's decision to make the referendum's recommendation official college policy. 

While Dickey received many letters from alumni in support of fraternities disaffiliating from their national chapters and removing their discriminatory clauses, W. Lee White's words parallel those of many national fraternity representatives and other alumni who wrote Dickey with disdain for the movement to eliminate the discriminatory clauses. Pro-discrimination letters like W. Lee White's provide evidence of the strong opposition Dickey and the college received during the fraternity desegregation period, and they document the severe divide in attitude over the issue by members of the Dartmouth community—all of which the college was able to overcome after more than a decade of conflict. 

I invite anyone further interested in fraternity desegregation to consult Rauner’s extensive collection of records.

Posted for Christian Dawkins '22, recipient of a Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowship for the 2021 Spring term. The Historical Accountability Student Research Program provides funding for Dartmouth students to conduct research with primary sources on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in the college's past. For more information, visit the program's website.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Tempestuous Beauty

A woodland scene with numerous fairies by Rackham from The TempestArthur Rackham is widely known as one of the most important illustrators from the "Golden Age" of British book illustration, which spanned from 1890 until almost 1920. Rackham's work often appeared in children's books, especially his images of fantastical fairies. He usually began his illustrations with a pen or India ink drawing, followed by layers of watercolors that created a subtle and pleasing melding of colors.

A scene from Rackham's The TempestHis popularity began to decline in Great Britain roughly around the same time as the close of the aforementioned Golden Age, and Rackham decided to capitalize on his growing fame in the United States. To that end, he created a gorgeous series of both line drawings and ink-and-watercolor images for a special limited edition of what is generally accepted to be Shakespeare's play, The Tempest. Although ostensibly for an adult audience and made to represent the work of a Western literary icon, Rackham's unique style is so quickly identifiable that it's hard to think about the Shakespearean characters he represents; instead, we find ourselves envisioning his previous illustrations and not Prospero or Caliban.

There were only 520 copies of this book made for sale: numbers 1-260 were sold in England and the rest in the US. Rauner Library is fortunate to have number 299. To see our copy, ask for Illus R115sh.

Friday, April 16, 2021

"Whan that Aprille..."

Think fast! What language is this story written in? If you guessed, "English," you're right. If you guessed, "Middle English," then we're really impressed! Middle English was a form of the English language that was spoken from the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 until the late 1400s. It eventually morphed into Early Modern English, which is what Shakespeare and his ilk spoke.⁠

The arrival of a Norman ruling class in England in 1066 meant that Old Norman, a dialect of Old French, quickly became the preferred language of the island's elite. It wasn't until the late 1300s, when Geoffrey Chaucer began writing in Middle English instead of Old French or Anglo-Norman, that the English language regained some measure of respectability as a vehicle for intellectual and artistic expression⁠

Tomorrow is National Chaucer Day, which celebrates the anniversary of the first time that Geoffrey Chaucer read his Canterbury Tales aloud to the Court of King Richard II in 1371. To celebrate we're sharing an image of a page from the first printed edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The book was printed in London in the 1470s by William Caxton, who is reputed to be the first person to introduce the printing press to England. ⁠

To see our single leaf of this landmark work of book history, ask for Hickmott 201.

Friday, April 9, 2021

All Snow and No Skiing

photo of Malcolm McLane in military uniformHave you all ever heard of Malcolm McLane? He was a New Hampshire boy, a member of Dartmouth's class of 1946, and a skiing enthusiast. He was also an aviator during World War II who was shot down over Europe and spent months in a German POW camp until he and others were liberated by the Russian Army in 1945. Today, for National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, we honor his memory and those of many other Dartmouth alums who served their country faithfully and endured bleak conditions as captives in a strange land.

Born in 1924 in Manchester, New Hampshire, McLane attended high school at St. Paul's School in Concord before coming to Hanover for his college education. While at Dartmouth, he was captain of the Dartmouth College Ski Team and continued his dedication to the sport for the rest of his life; in 1960, he served as an international alpine ski official at the Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, California, and was eventually inducted into the Ski Hall of Fame in Ishpeming, Michigan.

Despite this lifelong pursuit of skiing, McLane's access to the pastime was disrupted in the fall of 1942, when he was sworn into the United States Air Force as an aviation cadet. After flying 73 combat missions in P-47 fighter planes over France and Germany, his plane was shot down on December 23rd, 1944, near Trier, Germany, during the Battle of the Bulge. He was freed on the evening of April 30th after over four months of confinement in Stalag Luft I, a German prisoner-of-war camp near Barth, Germany.

McLane sent several postcards to his mother in Manchester during his imprisonment, most of them only a sentence or two in length. In those messages, he chose not to describe the harsh conditions of the camp
(probably to alleviate his mother's worry) and instead sighed over the fact that, despite the preponderance of snow in January, he wasn't able to go skiing in it. This observation was likely equal parts truth and a desire to protect those he loved.

Even if you haven't ever heard of Malcolm McLane before, you've probably heard of his daughter, who is an ardent advocate for the rights of US war veterans, both nationally and in her home state: Ann McLane Kuster, a member of Dartmouth's class of 1978, currently serves as the U.S. Representative for New Hampshire's 2nd congressional district (and has since 2013).

To explore Malcolm McLane's papers at Dartmouth College, come to Rauner and ask for MS-1051.

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Clingy Duckling?

Title page for A Christmas GreetingToday is Hans Christian Andersen's birthday! The famous Danish author-poet-playwright was born in Odense, Denmark, in 1805 and is probably best remembered in the US for his fairy tales, such as "The Little Mermaid" or "The Ugly Duckling." When he published his first children's stories in the late 1830s, critics took issue with Andersen's tone because they felt that he wasn't preachy enough. Children's lit was meant for instruction and edification, not for wild flights of fancy.

Despite Danish scholarly criticism, Andersen's stories were very successful across the Channel. The first English translation of his fairy tales was published in 1846 and, in the summer of 1847, Andersen made his first trip to England. He slayed socially; the Countess of Blessington, Marguerite Gardiner, helped him make connections with the intellectual and cultural elite of England. Among the who's who was an author who had name recognition beyond the British Isles: Charles Dickens.

Unbeknownst to Dickens at the time, Andersen was what in today's parlance might be called a Dickens "fanboi." The two men took a stroll together on Blessington's veranda and chatted briefly about their mutual respect for each other's work, and that was that. For Dickens, it was another random encounter; for Andersen, it was a mountaintop experience with his literary hero. Several months later, he published a new gathering of stories, titled A Christmas Greeting. The book contains a letter of dedication to Charles Dickens, in which Andersen mentions their meeting and says that the English author has "taken root forever in [his] heart."

That one moment in the summer of 1847 started nearly a decade's worth of correspondence between the two men, with a reluctant Dickens struggling to keep Andersen at arm's length. Their "relationship" culminated in a visit by Andersen to Dickens's home in 1857, where he extended a short stay into a five-week encampment. He fawned over Dickens while acting entitled and imperious at every social gathering he attended with his host. By the end of Andersen's visit, Dickens and his entire family had concluded that they had experienced a lifetime's worth of Andersen. After the Danish author finally left, Dickens began tapering off his correspondence and relationship with Andersen until he had squeezed him out of his life.

To see a copy of A Christmas Greeting, ask for 1926 Collection A51c.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Birthday Brevity

Robert Frost sitting at his house in Ripton petting Gillie the dog.Today is Robert Frost's birthday and the arguably most well-known of Dartmouth College's alumni (to the 20th century, at least) would have been 147 years old. Although Frost was only here briefly as a member of the class of 1896, his legacy at Dartmouth lives on in many ways, including the largest collection in the world of papers related to the poet and numerous busts and statues around campus. Given that it is his birthday today, and that next month is National Poetry Month, it seemed only right to celebrate his work.

However, we also learned today that April is not only National Poetry Month; it is also National Canine Fitness Month. With that in mind, we quickly settled upon a proper subject for today's blog: Robert Frost and his dog Gillie. Frost welcomed Gillie into his life in the spring of 1940, only a few years after the death of his wife Elinor. The poet had just turned 66 years of age but had already outlived three of his children. A fourth child, and his last living son, Carol died only months after Gillie had arrived. We can only imagine the grief that Frost must have experienced and the comfort that his dog must have been to him during those difficult times.

Many years after Gillie had passed, Frost published a poem titled "One More Brevity" in a book of poetry titled In The Clearing (1962). In that poem, he mentions a brief encounter with a strange dog who stays only a night in his home before leaving the house the following morning, never to return. Reflecting on the experience, Frost says, "I was to taste in little the grief / That comes of dogs' lives being so brief." We can't help but think that Gillie was on his mind and heart while penning those lines that would appear in the poet's last poetry publication before his death in early 1963.

To see our photograph of Robert Frost with Gillie, ask for MS-1178, Box 28, Folder 19.