On hundred years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, France and Germany signed armistice documents in a railway carriage in the forest of Compiègne, France, bringing the First World War to an end.
Paul Elder & Company published two short books in connection with the War. The first of these, The President’s War Message, is the text of Woodrow Wilson’s address to Congress on 2 April 1917, asking that a state of war be declared between the United States and Germany.
The United States had remained neutral up until then, despite such events as the sinking of the ocean liner RMS Lusitania by German submarines on 7 May 1915, which killed 1,198 people including 128 Americans. Wilson insisted that Germany stop attacks on passenger ships, to which the Germans agreed. Wilson’s reelection in 1916 was attributed partly to his success in keeping the US out of the war. But in January 1917, Great Britain intercepted a German telegram informing Mexico that they would be resuming attacks on passenger ships, and offering to help Mexico reacquire Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Wilson released the telegram to the US public, and used it as justification for going to war. After Germany sank seven American merchant ships, Wilson gave his speech on April 2nd, and Congress declared war on April 6th.
Germany had launched the March 1918 “Spring Offensive” in an attempt to win the war before the Americans arrived. They advanced to within 75 miles of Paris, but there the offensive stalled. By summertime, 10,000 American soldiers arrived in France every day. The resulting “Hundred Days Offensive” was the decisive campaign of the war, and by November the Germans sued for peace.
As Adam Hochschild wrote in the New Yorker on 5 Nov 2018, the war ended as senselessly as it started, with more soldiers perishing on Armistice Day–2,738 killed, 8,206 wounded or missing–than did in Normandy on D-Day, 1944. Though the Armistice was signed at 5am, it would not take effect until 11:11am, and many Allied divisions fought on, trying to gain ground that would be conceded just hours later. The last American died at 10:59am when he charged a German machine-gun crew, and ignored their pleas to stop.
The human toll of World War I was truly horrific. Ten million men died in combat, with twenty-one million wounded (the “Lost Generation”). Almost eight million civilians were also killed, and dozens if not hundreds of cities and towns in France and Belgium were bombed into dust. The war destroyed Europe’s old order, along with the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires.
My personal wish for all of us: may we see the day when war and bloodshed cease, when a great peace will embrace the whole world. Let peace fill the earth as waters fill the sea.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Paul Elder’s Abbey Classics series comes complete with a little mystery: how many titles were there?
Like the Panel Books, Paul Elder contracted TheAbbey 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 in late 1907, Elder writes:
The Abbey Classics: The shorter of the great English and American poems, those which can be easily read at a sitting. With brief critical introductions. Edited by Walter Taylor Field.
The Cotter’s Saturday Night. Burns. “The music of a shepherd’s pipe, carrying straight to the heart.”
Ode on the Nativity. Milton. “Joyous and yet earnest; bright and yet full of a stately dignity which is a prophecy of the grandeur of Paradise Lost.”
The Vision of Sir Launfal. Lowell. “Illustrating three of Lowell’s strongest characteristics: his kinship with nature, his wide humanity, and his moral force.”
The Building of the Ship. Longfellow. “Presenting the thought of joyous and successful labor. The most characteristic and perfect of Longfellow’s shorter poems.”
Other volumes in preparation for 1Q08 include Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Browning’s Narrative Poems (selected), Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese, and Whittier’s Snow-Bound.
Set in a bold, legible face of old-style type and printed on Normandy vellum, with rubricated initials. Each with a photogravure frontispiece of the author. Bound in rich brown Fabriano handmade cover. 30 cents net. Postage, 2 cents.
Edition C. Flexible leather. Boxed. $1.00 net. Postage, 3 cents.
Based on this, your fearless editor added the Coleridge, Barrett, Browning, and Whittier titles to the checklist. However, it appears I was too hasty. Further research reveals in The Dial, vol. 49, no. 586, p. 389, 16 Nov 1910:
The Abbey Company of Chicago announce that they have acquired from Messrs. Paul Elder & Co. all rights in The Abbey Classics. They will add to the series Whittier’s Snow-Bound, with a critical introduction by Mr. Walter Taylor Field.
Two months later The Bookman, vol. 32, no. 5, January 1911, reported that the Abbey Company had indeed released Snow-Bound in its Abbey Classics series.
There is also circumstantial evidence: in over twenty years of searching I have only seen examples of the first four titles. So I have chosen to remove the last four titles from the checklist, as the evidence strongly suggests that Elder never published them.
So then: there are four titles in the series:
The Cotter’s Saturday Night And Other Poems, by Robert Burns
Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, by John Milton
The series was available in three bindings: “flexible Fabriano cover, Fabriano boards (vellum black), and flexible leather.” The books are quite slim, following Elder’s usual habit of producing a very giftable book, but not one whose reading would require excessive time.
The series’ editor, Walter Taylor Field (1861-1939), was born in Galesburg, Illinois, and moved with his family to Chicago as a young boy. He graduated from Amherst in 1883 and held editing positions at several Chicago publishing companies. He contributed to various magazines and literary journals, and lectured on art and literature. He married Sarah Lounsberry Peck in 1871; they had two children.