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Carolyn Vega

Blog Entries by Carolyn Vega

Letters From Laurence Sterne to His "Dear Kitty"

0 Comments | Posted March 23, 2012 | 4:04 PM

If you're going to write a love letter, you should probably get the name on the address panel correct. At least, if I was a fashionable young singer in the 18th century, I would probably pause a bit when opening a letter from an admirer (who had a reputation), which...

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When Did Sir Philip Sidney Write This Letter?

0 Comments | Posted March 12, 2012 | 1:37 PM

Letter-writers are not always consistent about dating their correspondence, especially quick casual notes. In order to determine when something was written, we often have to consult postmarks or notes made by the recipient. But, much to the chagrin of researchers and librarians everywhere, sometimes the only clues lie in the...

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"Never a Man Loved a Wife More"

0 Comments | Posted February 14, 2012 | 4:01 PM

This charming love letter was written by the 17th-century English courtier Endymion Porter to his wife Olive. Penned in a clear italic hand, Porter professes his adoration and wishes he could leave court and come to her "for I never desired it more in my life." The letter is undated,...

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Percy Bysshe Shelley "On Life"

0 Comments | Posted January 9, 2012 | 4:31 PM


Life, & the world, or whatever we call that which we are & feel, is an astonishing thing. The mist of familiarity obscures from us the wonder of our being ... Life, the great miracle, we admire not, because it is...

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A Christmas Gift for Pierpont Morgan

0 Comments | Posted December 30, 2011 | 2:59 PM


What do you get for the dad who has everything? Something more personal than a sweater or tie, for sure. Books tend to be a good choice, but if he has already built a stunning three-tiered library and study to house his growing...

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"Punchification" Keeps Richard Doyle From His "Christmas Things"

0 Comments | Posted December 22, 2011 | 12:14 PM

Just a week before Christmas in 1843, the 19-year-old artist Richard Doyle wrote this illustrated letter to his father, playfully but apologetically putting off work that he had promised to finish before Christmas. He is in the midst of preparing his first contributions to the magazine Punch and wants to...

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John Ruskin's Puppet Show

0 Comments | Posted December 19, 2011 | 1:54 PM

John Ruskin was just ten years old when he wrote and illustrated The Puppet Show: Or, Amusing Characters for Children. The little book is filled with twenty-nine short poems, each of which is accompanied by two pen-and-ink drawings. The poems, as far as I can determine, are Ruskin's own, although...

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Quicksilver Bob Invents the "Highest Blessing of the Water"

0 Comments | Posted November 2, 2011 | 5:51 PM

Robert Fulton's steamboat first chugged up the Hudson River in August, 1807. The flat-bottomed boat, which was only 12 feet wide, was fitted with side wheels and powered by a coal-fired steam engine. It clocked an impressive four to five miles per hour against the current and made the 150-mile...

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King John's 1205 Charter

0 Comments | Posted October 18, 2011 | 4:56 PM

King John, oh King John. Best remembered for signing the Magna Carta (after being forced by his barons to do so), losing most of England's territory on the continent (in a war triggered partially by his marriage to Isabelle of Angoulâme), and trying to seize the crown from his elder...

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The ABCs of an Unknown Duchemin

0 Comments | Posted October 5, 2011 | 5:20 PM

This little book is something of a mystery. The fifty-eight pages are sewn in a single gathering and bound with a sheet of old vellum, which is now partially discolored from use. From this first opening (shown below), we know that it was completed by the priest Aegidius (or Gilles)...

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Coleridge Varies His "Inscription on a Time-piece"

0 Comments | Posted September 20, 2011 | 11:43 AM

Sometime probably in the late 1890s, an unknown dealer or private collector assembled about 200 letters that were bound into volumes and titled Sir Walter Scott: Letters of his Friends and Contemporaries. The letters aren't to, from, or even necessarily about Scott, but they provide an artifactual record of both...

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Anonymous Scott

0 Comments | Posted September 15, 2011 | 1:52 PM

Ivanhoe (detail from binding)

Sir Walter Scott, arguably the most successful writer of his day, was the first English-language novelist to be represented by a literary agent. In the last 20 years of his life, he published 23 works of fiction -- all...

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Photographing the Granddaddy of Detective Fiction

0 Comments | Posted July 22, 2011 | 5:47 PM

Wilkie Collins, who is not as well known today as his contemporary and collaborator Charles Dickens, was one of the major literary celebrities of the Victorian age. He is perhaps best remembered now as the author of The Moonstone, which T. S. Eliot described as the first and greatest English...

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An Elizabethan Armorial

0 Comments | Posted July 8, 2011 | 10:55 PM

This armorial was compiled in England around 1597, and in over four hundred entries it chronicles the coats of arms of British royals and nobles up to the reign of Elizabeth I.


Each entry begins in the left margin, with shield painted with...

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Lewis Carroll Turns an Albatross Into a Postage Stamp

0 Comments | Posted June 7, 2011 | 5:07 PM

Lewis Carroll's original sketch for "The Mad Gardener's Song" in Sylvie and Bruno

"The Mad Gardener's Song"

He thought he saw an Albatross
That fluttered round the lamp:
He looked again, and...

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Charlotte Brontë's Teenage "Catalogue of Books"

1 Comments | Posted May 31, 2011 | 5:33 PM

Charlotte Brontë was only 10 years old when she penned her earliest known work, and she was barely a teenager when she began writing in earnest -- at her own count she had written over 20 complete works by the time she was 14.

One list, which she has headed...

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A Nine-Year-Old Cartographer and Historian

0 Comments | Posted May 13, 2011 | 2:29 PM

Education was something else in the 18th century. W. B. Sandys was just nine years old when he penned a volume titled Ancient Maps and Universal History. Measuring only a little over four inches high, this little book has the feel of being a very well-executed assignment. It contains four...

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John Ruskin's "Great Horse-Controversy"

0 Comments | Posted May 9, 2011 | 11:07 AM

The Falling Knight, by John Ruskin (1829)

"Give a horse a nut," says John Ruskin, "and see if he can hold it as a squirrel can."

The great English critic was, in the fall of 1857, apparently in the midst...

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Mary Lamb's Not-So-Gentle Madness

0 Comments | Posted April 21, 2011 | 6:08 PM

2011-04-21-lamb_mary_and_charles_by_cary1834.jpgThe Romantic essayist William Hazlitt described Mary Lamb as the most "reasonable woman" he ever knew. This choice of adjective -- reasonable -- is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Mary Lamb. Interesting, perhaps, or articulate, or even brilliant,...

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Before Chickamauga

0 Comments | Posted April 13, 2011 | 3:58 PM

2011-04-12-image-ma_1305_48_lookout_mtn_photo.jpgThe first shots of the American Civil War were fired 150 years ago today from Fort Sumter, South Carolina, and the two-day bombardment ended in the surrender of the fort to Confederate General Beauregard. There were no casualties in this initial engagement, but in the...

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