Friday, February 5, 2010

Mount Vesuvius - March 12, 1850

A handwritten letter.In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  In a letter to her mother dated March 12, 1850, Caroline Crane Marsh describes a contemporary eruption of Mount Vesuvius earlier in that year.  She first relates her impressions of the city itself "...visited the old cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum... wandered through the streets and houses of these once buried cities with strange and even overwhelming feelings... many a beautiful fountain and many a rich mosaic floor still bear witness to the taste and wealth of the former proprietors."

Caroline then writes of the eruption.  "On our return from Paestum we found Vesuvius throwing out more smoke and flame than usual and a day or two after we were told that a current of lava had burst forth from the side of the mountain...." She describes the ash fall as "like snow upon our carriage" and the lava flow as "a wall of fire from 10 to 20 feet in height moving slowly onward laying low in it's stately march the smiling vineyards and the stately trees."  Caroline sums up her experience with the conclusion "Never again do I expect to witness anything so awfully sublime."

Caroline was the wife of George Perkins Marsh (Dartmouth College Class of 1820 and envoy to Turkey, 1849-1853).  This letter forms part of a small collection which details her travels while in Europe and the Middle East.  Ask for Mss 001009 to read the rest of her account.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

The cover for "Gentleman Prefer Blondes," featuring a simple illustration of a smiling young woman between two well-dressed men.Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Intimate Diary of a Professional Lady was a publishing sensation in the 1920s. Penned by the experienced screenwriter Anita Loos, it chronicles the absurd life of a naive and dim-witted flapper as she rises through society. It has been reported that Loos was inspired to write the novel after watching a young woman of less-than-stellar intellect woo the great curmudgeon of the 1920s, H. L. Mencken.

Rauner Library is fortunate to have not only the first edition of this comic masterpiece but also Anita Loos' typescript copy of the 1926 Broadway staging.  It was scripted anew in 1953 for Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe.

"... kissing your hand may make you feel very very good but a diamond and safire bracelet lasts forever."

Come to Rauner and see it yourself by asking for Rare Book PS3523.O557 G4 1925.