Drawing Room Plays

by david on 12 August 2018

Cover of “Drawing Room Plays”

Some works deserve to be forgotten, and Grace Luce Irwin’s Drawing Room Plays (1903) is one of these.

Grace Adelaide Luce (1877-1914) grew up in San Diego, and after two years at Stanford University she moved to San Francisco. There she met and married Wallace Irwin, author of Paul Elder’s perhaps best-selling book, Love Sonnets of a Hoodlum. They soon moved to New York City, where Wallace enjoyed success for some years. Grace also became a writer, mostly for magazines, but she also authored several books.

Why should you forget this book? At the turn of the 20th century it was acceptable in the American media to use overt racism in humor, especially towards the Chinese and Japanese. This is a common theme in Wallace Irwin’s work, and sadly, so it was in Grace Irwin’s writing as well. I will spare you the details.

Title page of “Drawing Room Plays”

Grace Irwin died on Long Island, New York in 1914 at the young age of 37. She is buried in San Diego.

The artwork is by an unidentified artist, initials “A. W.” It does not appear to be Audley B. Wells, whose signatures for other Elder works looks very different. I have been unable to conclusively decipher the curious vignette at the center of the title page, but the circular device may be a combination of the letters D R P G L I (Drawing Room Plays Grace Luce Irwin). I don’t know what the red background squiggle means.

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The Boers and the Uitlanders

by david on 5 July 2018

Cover of “The Boers and the Uitlanders”

Why did Elder & Shepard publish a book about a guerilla war in southern Africa?

In 1901 the southern tip of Africa was immersed in a conflict known as the Boer War. The belligerents were the Boers, pastoral farmers who were descendants of the original 17th- and 18th-century Cape Dutch settlers, and the British Empire. The Boers lived in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic, and the British controlled the Cape Colony. The Boer War was the culmination of more than a century of lesser conflict between the Boers and Britain, but the War’s immediate concern was who would control and benefit most from the lucrative gold mines in Witwatersrand, in the Transvaal. American engineer John Hays Hammond was plop in the middle of all this—along with his wife Natalie, the author of The Boers and the Uitlanders (1901).

Title page of “The Boers and the Uitlanders”

John Hays Hammond (1855-1936) was born in California, where his father had prospected in the Gold Rush. Perhaps this rubbed off on the young John Hammond, for he studied science at Yale, then mining in Freiburg, Germany, where he met and married Natalie Harris (1859-1931). He soon was a respected mining engineer, working for, among others, Senator George Hearst. In 1893 the Hammonds moved to southern Africa where John helped open new mines in Witwatersrand. The Boers were happy to reap profits from the gold mines, but resented the presence of the British and American prospectors, whom they called uitlanders (“foreigners”). By 1895 Hammond was managing Cecil Rhodes‘s gold mines and had become quite wealthy.

Natalie Harris Hammond, author of “The Boers and the Uitlanders” (courtesy Library of Congress)

It was then that history caught up with Hammond. Cecil Rhodes, Hammond, and others had formed the Johannesburg Reform Committee in the Transvaal in an attempt to secure basic rights for the uitlanders. The Committee was something of a sham, in that Rhodes knew President Paul Kruger would never accede to their demands, but his hope was that the British uitlander community would rise up against Kruger’s government. This did not happen, and after the botched Jamieson Raid of December 1895, most of the committee members, including Hammond, were arrested and thrown in jail. Hammond was one of four defendants who were sentenced to be hanged, but this was soon reduced to 15 years in prison, and later commuted entirely. Most of the ringleaders were shipped back to Britain, and the Hammonds returned to America in mid-1896.

The Boers and the Uitlanders, p3

Page 3 of “The Boers and the Uitlanders”

Five years later, on 9 January 1901, Natalie Harris Hammond gave a speech at the Century Club of California (a private women’s club in San Francisco), and the text appeared later that year under the Elder & Shepard imprint as a vanity publication. She begins with a short history of the Boers in the Transvaal and the subsequent tension as the uitlanders flooded in during the gold rush. Her villain is Transvaal president Paul Kruger, whose railroad monopolies charged the uitlanders outrageous fares, and whose taxes on uitlanders verged on extortion. But her views of the Boers themselves—as well as the displaced native peoples—borders on racist:

The natural disaffection of the Boer against any governing control became thus accentuated to a degree that brought open rupture, and the so-called “Great Trek” was the result. … With scant food and small supply of water, surrounded by hostile tribes, these dogged Vortrekkers pushed along through wasted of arid land, sweltering under a brazen sun by day, tented at night by a strange and silent sky. For more than twenty years they wandered on, in search of their land of Canaan, leaving solitary graves to mark their course; for privation, fever and native assegais [spears] claimed a heavy toll. …

In ceaseless fight against wild beasts and savages, the courage of the Trekkers became tinctured with cunning. Habits of cleanliness inherited from their Dutch forefathers, and the spirit of thrift which came from their French ancestry, were thrown aside as useless burdens on that long and painful march.

The Transvaal Boer of today was evolved, uncleanly, improvident, cruel to the weak, crafty with the strong, ignorant, superstitious, strong in family affection, but lacking attachment to any special locality. Honesty and truthfulness towards others were virtues unknown to him, for with others he had little or no dealings. …

Neither President Kruger nor his Boers had the education or experience which would enable them to work out the questions which arose when the Uitlanders came in. A very small percentage of the Boers could even read or write.

John Hays Hammond, Sr. (courtesy Library of Congress)

As one would expect, Hammond is hardly the impartial historian. The British and American uitlanders were there to extract immense wealth from the gold fields, and were not above treachery and warmongering to attain those ends: the riches they extracted was not going to stay in Transvaal to benefit the Boers. This was still the golden age of British imperialist colonialism, and Queen Victoria was still on the throne (she died 13 days after Hammond’s talk at the Century Club). And in fact, the Boers would eventually lose the Boer War in 1902, and with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging the Boer republics became part of the British Empire.

When John Hammond returned to the United States in 1896, he was now both rich and famous. He became a professor of mining engineering at Yale in 1902, and also served as a very highly paid general manager for the Guggenheim Exploration Company, making him wealthier than ever. He became active in the Republican Party and was friends with several U.S. Presidents, particularly William Howard Taft. He was announced as a candidate for vice-president in 1908, but did not get many votes at the convention. Hammond appeared on the cover on Time magazine on 10 May 1926.

John and Natalie Hammond are buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

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The Abbey Classics

12 January 2018

Paul Elder’s Abbey Classics series comes complete with a little mystery: how many titles were there? Like the Panel Books, Paul Elder contracted The Abbey Classics from another printer, this one presumably in New York City. Publicity for the first two Abbey Classics volumes appeared in August 1907, and for the next two in November. In his “Thoughts For Your Friends” catalog […]

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Happy Holidays from paulelder.org

17 December 2017
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The Panel Books

6 December 2017

The following item appeared in the 7 Sep 1907 edition of The Publishers’ Weekly (an American book-trade journal), page 551 Paul Elder & Company, in connection with Sisley’s, of London, are about to publish a handy volume series of standard works under the general title of The Panel Books. Twenty titles will be ready in September. Sisley’s had issued The Panel Books in the […]

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Impression Classics

30 November 2017

Book series that gather and reprint public domain fiction have a long history. Perhaps the earliest series was Poets of Great Britain Complete from Chaucer to Churchill, founded by British publisher John Bell in 1777. Later British series included Routledge’s Railway Library (1848–99) and the Everyman’s Library (1906-). A well-known American example is the Modern Library (1925-70). Book series were a familiar sight at any […]

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Elizabethan Humours and the Comedy of Ben Jonson

21 November 2017

The introduction to Elizabethan Humours and the Comedy of Ben Jonson begins: “The Stanford English Club issues this little book in connection with, and in commemoration of, the presentation of Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour at Stanford University in March, 1905. “This is one of a series of presentations of old English plays in […]

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Poems

1 September 2017

Paul Elder published a lot of poetry in his career: of the 420 titles on the checklist, at least sixty-one (15%) are poetry. Alas, not much of it is good poetry. (In this Paul Elder was not alone: I have a friend who collects “bad poetry” from across the Arts & Crafts period.) Irene Hardy’s Poems (1902) is […]

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San Francisco Through Earthquake and Fire

18 April 2017

One hundred and eleven years ago today, at 5:12 am local time, the great San Francisco earthquake struck. It lasted for 45 seconds, had an estimated magnitude of 7.8, and caused a great deal of damage, not only in San Francisco but up and down the California coast. In San Francisco, however, fire was greater evil. Several […]

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Ruth Gordon (1933-2016)

31 July 2016

Today I mark with sadness the passing of Ruth Gordon, from whom I learned most of what I know about Paul Elder. Ruth’s 1977 Ph.D. thesis, Paul Elder: Bookseller-Publisher (1897-1917): A Bay Area Reflection, from my alma mater of UC Berkeley, was never far from my side during my initial years of research. Indeed, I can […]

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