Historiography

Early-edition Histories, Historiographic Interventions, and Published Correspondence produced within Avant-Garde and marginal communities. 
Other relevant books are cataloged under "Biographies & Monographs," "Bibliographies & Catalogs," and "Illustration and Editing".

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Hector Berlioz, Les Grotesques de la musique (The Grotesques of Music). Undated (1871). 2nd Ed? Calmann-Lévy: Paris. Hardcover, Rebound with original spine and boards incorporated. Sextodecimo, 311 pp.



Hector Berlioz was among the most fervent, militant and radical Romanticist musicians, and one of the principal representatives of its avant-garde Frenetic subcurrent, through his wildly experimental, narratively-driven gothic pieces such as the Fantastic Symphony and Faust (based on the Bouzingo poet Nerval's translation of Goethe's text). He was also a gifted and lively writer, whose criticism and satire contributed substantially to the development not only of Romanticist musical theory but also to Romanticist satire. His prose-style – with its colourful but sardonic tone, jarring combination of informal flippancy with complex syntax, rare and archaic words, neologisms, mania for obscure, off-hand intellectual references, and an elliptical, disconnected discourse often marked off or disrupted by ironic subtitles, strings of punctuation, and interjections – connect his writing strongly to that of the Jeunes-France group and the Romanticist avant-garde generally. The word 'Grotesque' is a key term in French Romanticist theory (particularly important to the avant-garde elements of the movement), denoting that in literature which is unique, surprising, exceptional rather than typical, which flaunts convention and accepted norms, combining humour, horror, idealism and cynicism.

This work in particular is explicitly inspired by the Jeunes-France co-founder Théophile Gautier's seminal 1834-35 work of avant-garde historiography, The Grotesques. (see the Historiography tab for this archive's later edition) In it, Gautier had sought out obscure or vilified writers and artists proscribed by the Classicist establishment, often out of print for nearly two centuries, and from them identified and brought together a subversive tradition upon which to build a subversive, pre-Romanticist arsenal of literary techniques. In this book, Berlioz extends Gautier's search for the grotesque into the realm of music, though in a less focused and more wide-ranging way that brings to light all kinds of obscure musical figures, practices, new instruments (including the saxophone and other, less durable innovations), and oddities both of the past and his own day. It is interspersed with scraps of libretti and popular songs and snippets of staff music.

This (probably second) edition includes a letter of protest from the professional singers of Paris, who are mercilessly skewered throughout the book, then Berlioz's drippingly sarcastic "apology". The copy was thoroughly read by an early reader (presumably its first), after which its binding subsequently damaged or decayed, and it was nicely rebound in the twentieth century with its original boards intact and much of the spine re-incorporated.

Though this work has not been translated (look for translations of some of the articles in future editions of Rêvenance, etc.), Jacques Barzun's translation of his somewhat similar, though less heterogeneous, Evenings With the Orchestra offers a look at Berlioz's fun, lively style.

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 Jules Bertaut, Visages romantiques. 1947. L'histoire et la vie series, Éditions J. Ferenczi & Fils: Paris. Hard-bound Sextodecimo, 294 pp.
  
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René Bray, Chronologie du Romantisme (1804–1830). 1963. Librairie Nizet: Paris. Softcover Octavo, uncut at purchase.


This detailed blow-by-blow history of French Romanticism from its first glimmerings up to the Battle of Hernani is essential for any detailed, nuanced research into the development of French Romanticism and the first avant-gardes (and surprisingly affordable, for you fellow researchers). Bray's meticulous collation of the precise dates of publications, journals, theatrical premiers, important articles and reviews, the composition and timespans of various salons, and other detailed information corrects the too-often anecdotal and discontinuous historiography of the movement. His coverage of Romanticist events in the realms of visual art and music, while present, are unfortunately given much less attention.

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Champfleury, Histoire de la caricature sous la République, l'Empire et la Restauration. 1877. First Edition? Dentu, Paris. 

 

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Jules Claretie, Histoire de la Révolution de 1870-71. (1872/ 1874) Two Volumes, First Edition. Bureaux du Journal l'Éclipse, Paris. Inscribed by Robert Burton Gilson in Paris on 24th July, 1945. With packing slip issued by U.S. Army.

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Read Vol. II Online

It is not hard to see why the Romanticist historian, activist, and playwright Jules Claretie (see also "Personal Artifacts") has been almost entirely written out of 'literary history': our conception of the relationship between avant-garde literature and politics in the 19th Century might be vastly different today if Claretie had been canonised. Claretie was heavily involved in the left-wing resistance against the Napoléon III's totalitarian regime, through his journalism in various censored and subversive journals and through his work as a historian of the French Revolution. After the fall of both the Empire and the Paris Commune, toward which he appears to have been ambivalent, he escorted Victor Hugo back to France after his 20-year voluntary exile. In 1885, Claretie became director of the Théâtre Français and worked to produce avant-garde plays by the Decadents and Symbolists.
 
It is vital to note that Claretie is not only an important historian of revolutionary movements from 1789 onward, but was also one of the most key historians of politicised, avant-garde Romanticism. Among his many historiographic studies of early Romanticism, he was the first biographer of Petrus Borel, co-organizer of the Bouzingo. His History of the Revolution of 1870-71, or History of the Paris Commune, was published the year after the fall of the Commune, and incorporates a huge number of primary documents--correspondence, public announcements, legislation, transcripts of official debates and government sessions--along with hundreds of illustrations by various left-wing engravers and journalistic artists. It was published by the radical republican journal l'Éclipse, which had survived numerous proscriptions and threats during a decade of resistance to the Third Empire.


(U.S. Army Packing Slip)
(back of packing slip)

This copy was purchased in the wake of another disaster in Paris, by Pvt. Robert Burton Gilson of the 201st General Hospital, U.S. Army, on 24th July, 1945, two weeks after the final surrender of Germany in the Second World War. The packing slip, exempting it from import taxes as a gift from a serviceman, remains in the copy as a bookmark.

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Jules Claretie, Camille Desmoulins / Lucile Desmoulins: Étude sur les Dantonistes (Study on the Dantonists). 1875. First Edition. E. Plon & Cie., Paris.


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Published the year after Claratie's voluminous history of the Paris Commune (see above), this volume examines the Dantonist network during the French Revolution, and its extermination during the Reign of Terror. Like the former book, it publishes a large amount of primary material that had not been previously available. This Claretie's emphasis on History as a practical exercise with orientation toward the future, it should be noted that the focus of the book is on Desmoulins who, like Claretie himself, had exerted his political engagement through his activities as a publisher and journalist. It should also be noted that his wife, Lucile (who was implicated in a plot to free him from prison and was executed at the guillotine shortly after her husband) is also given enough credit for her own activities to share the title of the book, not an insubstantial fact in 1875.

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Lewis & Milton Clarke, Narratives of the Sufferings of Lewis & Milton Clarke, Sons of a Soldier of the Revolution, Among the Slaveholders of Kentucky, One of the So Called Christian States of America; dictated by themselves. 1846. Bela Marsh: Boston.


The publication of slave narratives, either written by ex-slaves when fully literate or transcribed and paraphrased for them, were among the most popular and effective vehicles for the abolitionist movement, and played an important role in the development of American literature as well. This book contains the stories of two light-skinned brothers (made even lighter in the book's portraits) enslaved on a Kentucky plantation, both meeting again years later having escaped separately and followed the underground railroad through Oberlin, Ohio (which remains a bastion of progressive thought and activism in the Midwest to this day). Both of the brothers later toured the country extensively, giving talks at abolitionist societies and public meetings.
 
 
This tome was intensely personalized by the Dow family who originally owned it, and shows how integrally abolitionist literature was incorporated into the family lives of those who were heavily committed to it. The Dow family worked a small farm in Caledonia County near South Walden, Vermont, and represent the rank-and-file of the abolitionist movement – not intellectuals, but part-time activists who made progressive causes a part of their daily lives through reading and, presumably, more material means of support. The book's dense topography of inscriptions, drawings, and educational exercises show how it was passed around among several generations of the family in the curse of their routine lives.
 

The genealogy is unclear. The oldest member of the household was probably James S. Durant, who must have been born before or around 1800. His daughter Sophia Durant Dow had at least one son, Roswell. Jeremiah W. Dow may have been her husband (Roswell's father), or may have been her step-father (in which case, her husband's identity, if living, remains a mystery). Another member of the household, David Durant Dow, was (depending on the identity of Jeremiah) either Sophia's son or her brother.

The child, Roswell, has left the greatest mark on this book – literally. The book's initial inscription lists all of the above family members in a flowing, confident hand, while most of the copies many remaining marks are clearly made by one or more children – including Roswell at the least – over several years as they grew and matured. 

 
At least one child (probably Roswell) used flyleaves as a scratchpad for penmanship and mathematics. The names of the family – especially of Roswell himself – and the names of the town and county (South Walden, Caledonia County) are repeated many times, almost obsessively, as they attempted to master the flowing penmanship required in the 19th Century, along with simple marks simply practicing the pressure and angle of the pen in making lines and flourishes. There are also several mathematical problems, which are likely but not necessarily schoolwork.
 
Some of the markings are more closely related to the text; a passage from the end of the book about the hypocrisy of slaveholders is lightly copied out in pencil. Finally, a child has drawn a couple wearing clothing of the late 1840s or early 1850s – possibly characters from the book, or possibly members of Roswell's family.
  

The family's story was tragic. In September of the year this book was published, Sophia was committed, for unknown causes, to the Vermont Asylum for the Insane, where she would remain the rest of her life. Two other Dows, who were probably related to her, were interred there around the same time: James G. Dow and Hannah Dow from Walden. Her child Roswell has inscribed the name of South Walden several times in the book, implying that he spent at least part of his time living with that branch of the family.

The family took abolition seriously, and later Roswell put his life on the line for that cause, enlisting in the 2nd Sharpshooter Regiment to fight in the American Civil War. He survived the war, but his release from the army coincided with his own unspecified struggles with mental illness, and in late 1866, he was committed to the same hospital as his mother and other relatives, though in different compounds, where they must rarely if ever have seen each other. Sophia died in the asylum four years later in 1872; Roswell was still there in 1910, listed as an indigent ward of the state.

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Francis Dumont, ed. Les petits romantiques français. Essays by Tristan Tzara, Robert Desnos, Raymond Queneau, et. al. 1949. Cahiers du Sud, Marseilles. Sextodecimo Paperback, 300 pp. Inscription, marginalia, and tipped-in page of research notes (most on Aloysius Bertrand) by W. Kessel Bealer.
 

The periodical Cahiers de Sud published many fringe and ex-Surrealists. This issue focuses on avant-garde Romanticism, including (among many fascinating essays) the Oulipian and Pataphysician Raymond Queneau (see "Literature") writing on the ultra-obscure frenetic novelist Defontenay, Surrealist Robert Desnos writing on the socialist-occultist Alphonse Esquiros (whom Desnos counts as a member of the Bouzingo), and Dada co-founder Tristan Tzara writing on "The Bousingos as Social Phenomenon", in which he claims that:
"La tradition des Bousingos est restée vivante à... a vu une sorte de couronnement dans Dada et la surreálisme de la premier epoch. [ . . . ] Ils ont contribué à diriger la révolte du poète sur la voie de cette liberté que quelque-uns reconnaissant aujourd'hui, pleinement réalisable, dans les buts de l'avant-garde révolutionaire, sur la terrain de l'action practique et dans la practique de l'action."
           Very roughly translated: 

"The tradition of the Bousingos remained alive through Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Jarry and Apollinaire, and saw a kind of crowning moment in Dada and surrealism in its initial stage. . . .  One sees there, moreover, pushed to the extreme and in negative, so to speak, the very image of the class of power reflected by the warning signs of its own negation. . . . They helped to guide the poet’s revolt onto the the road of that liberty which some recognise today, fully achievable, into the goals of the revolutionary avant-garde, onto the terrain of practical action and into the practice of action."
This copy was used by W. Kessel Bealer for research apparently centred on Aloysius Bertrand (no other information on him has come to light), and contains his marginalia and two tipped-in sheets of handwritten notes:


Another copy of this book exists in the archive, listed under 'Periodicals'.
 
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Alphonse Esquiros, Histoire des martyrs de la liberté (History of the Martyrs for Liberty). 1851. First Edition. J. Bray Ainé, Paris. Illust. Célestin Nanteuil, David, e. al.
  



The radical activity of Alphonse Esquiros spanned many underground networks. He was a leading figure in the Romanticist avant-garde, publishing poetry and fiction in anthologies and journals, and collaborated with the Jeunes-France / Bouzingo group; initially headed for ordination, he broke with the church under the influence of Lammenais and became a notoriousanti-clericalist, denounced by the Church in 1840 after publishing a book presenting Jesus as a social reformer and proponant of democracy; furthermore, he played an important role in the french occult revival of the 19th Century, and was involved with the feminist-mystical Evadamist group led by the Mapah Ganneau, where he worked with the young Eliphas Lévi, as well as the feminist union-organiser Flora Tristan; and the self-declared Jacobin was very active in various socialist circles, both as an organiser and as an historian of revolution. After the 1848 Revolution, this heretical occultist experimental poet was, remarkably, elected to the National Assembly in 1850. He was expelled from France after Napoleon III's coup-d'etat the following year, and lived in Belgium, Holland and England for nearly two decades. Finally returning to France, he was again elected to the National Assembly after the emperor's abdication, and remained committed throughout his life to the far left.

In this historical work, published less than a year before Napoleon III's coup, Esquiros assembles biographies of people throughout history who had died in defense of  progressive movements. It is written for a popular audience, studded with pictures by popular illustrators including ex-Bouzingo Célestin Nanteuil, and clearly published in response to his fears of impending counter-revolution, which came true almost immediately upon printing; indeed, it must have contributed to his expulsion as an enemy of the regime. 
   
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Théophile Gautier, Les Grotesques. 1861. Second Edition. Michel Lévy Frères: Paris. with ex-libris of Lucien Puteaux.



One of the foundational projects for the nascent avant-garde was historiographic: to identify and delineate a cultural tradition counter to the official histories and canons of French literature espoused by the Academy. In their place, the French Romanticists sought out obscure or villified writers and artists proscribed by the Classicist establishment, often out of print for nearly two centuries, and from them identified and brought together a subversive tradition upon which to build their own sense of collective purpose and their own arsenal of literary, artistic, and intellectual perspectives and techniques. One of the most influential projects on the avant-garde of Romanticism was a series of critical biographies of hitherto forgotten experimental writers of the Middle Ages and Renaissance published in serial by the young co-founder of the Jeunes-France group, Théophile Gautier, who went on to become arguably the most influential figure in the 19th Century avant-garde.

The articles were written and first published in 1834–35, soon after the dissolution of the Jeunes-France/Bouzingo and the formation of the Bohême-Doyenné group, centred in Gautier's own flat. The collection was published in 1843; the title 'Grotesque' is a key term in French Romanticist theory, denoting that in literature which is unique, surprising, exceptional rather than typical, which flaunts convention and accepted norms, combining humour, horror, idealism and cynicism. This mostly-disbound copy of the Second Edition belonged to Lucien Puteaux, a writer of erotic historical fiction under the pseudonym Victor Perceval with close connections to the avant-garde community, including Realist circles and Gautier's friend Alexandre Dumas. The Revenant Archive also contains another book owned by Puteaux, Le Déesse Raison by Gautier's old comrade Alphonse Brot, another Bouzingo-cofounder and first self-declared member of the "avant-garde" (see above).
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Théophile Gautier, Histoire de Romantisme, suivi de notices Romantiques et d'une Étude sur la poésie française 1830-1868. (History of Romanticism, with Romanticist notices and a study on French poetry 1830-1868). 1874. Second Edition. Charpentier, Paris. With bookplate & light marginalia by anthropologist Gustave Le Bon.

 

 
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Théophile Gautier, Histoire de Romantisme, suivi de notices Romantiques et d'une Étude sur la poésie française 1830-1868. (History of Romanticism, with Romanticist notices and a study on French poetry 1830-1868). (1874) Second Edition. Charpentier, Paris. (2 copies in archive)

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Dictionnaire des pseudonymes (Dictionary of Pseudonyms). ed. Georges d'Heylli. Nouvelle édition. 1887. Dentu / Libraires de la Société des gens de lettres: Paris. Clothbound Sextodecimo, 559 pp.



Along with Champfleury and his friend and collaborator Jules Claretie, Georges d'Heylli was one of the most active historians of the avant-garde, and of 19th Century French literature generally, during the second half of the century. He was the editor of the long-running historiographic journal Gazette Anecdotique, of which the Revenant Archive holds 54 issues. His Dictionary of Pseudonyms is still regularly consulted in scholarly works today, and contains biographical and bibliographic information on many writers now nearly forgotten. His preface to the work compares the relatively banal use of pseudonyms as proper names in his own day (the 1860s, when the book first appeared) to its use by the previous Romanticist generation, who often employed them creatively, using shared heteronyms and ludic bibliographical jokes.

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Alphonse Lamartine, Histoire de la Révolution de 1848. 1849. Volume II of II. First edition. Meline, Cans et Cie, Brussels. Bookplate & Stamp: Wetenschappelyke / Bibliotheek Mariënhage Eindhoven.   
 
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Anonymous [Charles Whitehead], Lives and Exploits of the Most Noted Highwaymen, Robbers and Murderers, of All Nations, Drawn From the Most Authentic Sources and Brought Down to the Present Time. (Undated, c. 1850) Silas Andrus & Son: Hartford. Cloth-bound Sextodecimo, 287 pp. Inscribed "Thos. England / Lowell / [?????] / 18?9" & stamped "Thomas England".


A historiography of the oppressed will always, in part, be a history of crime. Since time immemorial, people who have felt disenfranchised from their dominant culture economically, culturally, or intellectually have enjoyed tales of outlaws, robbers, pirates, and other criminals outwitting the avatars of power; examples include the cunning thievery of Odysseus, the voyages of Sinbad, the adventures of Robin Hood, the exploits of privateers and pirates, Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde, gangster rap, and on and on.
  

As literacy spread over the course of the 17th and 18th Centuries, popular outlets for this folklore took the form of lurid pamphlets reporting the details of sensationalised murder, banditry and piracy trials; these spawned hundreds of chapbooks presenting embroidered biographies of famous criminals, collected in books such as Defoe's influential General History of the Pyrates, and eventually evolved into the famous Victorian "penny dreadfuls".

 
This anthology of biographies of famous British outlaws is a testament of this tradition, complete with the rather rough wood-cuts that adorned the ephemeral press of the day. It also highlights the strange mass-psychology through which this pride in the a-moral underdog becomes enmeshed with a sense of nationalist superiority: though the title proudly announces as its subject the most noted criminals "of All Nations" and all time, in fact all but one entry describe English criminals of the prevous century or two, and the  opening of the one french criminal includes an apology to the reader for seeming to imply that a single one of the greatest criminals in history might not be English, then goes onto "claim" him for the English since most of his crimes were committed in the British Isles. Though unsigned, a pencil annotation in the copy in the University of California Library (linked to above) attributes the text to the writer Charles Whitehead.


Appropriately enough, this book was itself an illegal pirate edition printed in the US from a British (obviously) original; in fact the publisher, Silas Andrus, began as a bookbinder but built his career on pirated European literature. The copy belonged to Thomas England of Lowell, Massachusetts, about whom little is known except that he served as a Sergeant in the 30th Massachusetts Infantry during the entire span of the Civil War and died in New Hampshire.

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Charles Malo, Le Mérite des femmes (The Merit of Women). Undated [1816]. Louis Janet, Paris. Inscribed to Olivier Clifsoy[?] with 8 lines of prose on inside back cover, in 19th Century hand. Paperback.
 


 
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Auguste Maquet & Alboize du Pujol, Le Donjon de Vincennes. (The Dungeon of Vincennes) 1869. First Edition. V. Bunel, Paris.
  
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 Jules Marsan, Bohême romantique (Documents Inédits). [Romanticist Bohemia (Unpublished Documents). 1929. Limited Ed., No. 393 of 830. Éditions des Cahiers libres, Paris. Softcover, Sextodecimo, 171 p.


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Catulle Mendès, La Légende du Parnasse Contemporain (The Lengend of the Parnasse Contemporain). 1884. Third Edition. Auguste Brancart, Brussels. 
 

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Alexandre Privat d'Anglemont, Paris inconnu; Précédé d'une Étude sur sa vie par M. Alfred Delvau (Unknown Paris: Preceded by a Study on his Life by Alfred Delvau). 1875. First Edition. Adolphe Delahays: Paris. Hard-bound 18-mo, 311 pp.

The illegitimate son of a mulatto women, Privat d'Anglemont came to Paris from Guadaloupe and became close to the post-Romanticist group formed around the ex-bouzingo Théophile Gautier, including Baudelaire and Banville, all three of whom wrote collaboratively and often borrowed from each other's poems in their youth. He was obsessed with Paris, particularly its eccentric and marginalized people, places, and subcultures, and along with Henry Murger, became one of the main chroniclers of the Bohemian subculture that developed in the 1840s out of underground Romanticism. But whereas Murger's version of Bohemia (as passed down in his novel & play Vie du Bohême and the Verdi opera based on it) is ultimately sentimental, innocuous, and apolitical, Privat d'Anglemont recorded a more gritty, heterogeneous Bohemia in which artists and writers were inexorably mixed with street performers, activists, buskers, criminals, hucksters, beggars, and other people marginalised by the progress of industrialized capitalism. He wrote an entire series on "unknown jobs" worked or invented by people of the very lowest urban class.

This book, his most popular, contains many of these eyewitness studies, initially published in various journals and newspapers. It includes a biographical study by avant-garde historian Alfred Delvau, who probably knew Privat personally. This copy was owned by Maurice Privat, who may have been one of Privat's descendants. If so, he did not live up to his radical inheritance: he was an advisor to Pierre Laval, Prime Minister of France in the Nazi-controlled Vichy government.

The best English account of Privat and his work is Jerrold Seigel's Bohemian Paris, which contains a thorough study of his life and work in Chapter 5.

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Horace Walpole, Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, to Sir Horace Mann, Vol. II. 1844. Philadelphia, Lee & Blanchard. 

Horace Walpole was more responsible than any other in the development and propagation of Gothic subculture in the mid- to late-18th Century--in part as author of one of the very first Gothic novels, The Castle of Otranto, a semi-automatic text which established most of the conventions of Gothic Horror literature for the next century, such as that developed by Matthew Lewis (see "Literature"); and in part as the most ostentatious and well-known proponent of neo-Gothic architecture and interior design. His estate at Strawberry Hill was a legendary live-in archive, every inch of which was adorned with original or reproduction artifacts and architectural elements gathered from throughout Europe, and reassembled into a fantastic residential phantasmagoria, more Gothic than the actual Gothic. A prolific correspondent, his published letters comprise many volumes; this volume is largely given over, as the title indicates, to his correspondence with the British diplomat Horace Mann; both, as it happens, had been implicated at various times in their life in scandals involving probable homosexuality. The second part of the book is particularly interesting: a room-by-room description of every item held in Walpole's museum-home at Strawberry Hill. At the very end are 40 pages of adverts of other publications, an interesting glimpse into the mainstream publishing culture in the early U.S.

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