Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities

The Skeleton in Armor

Morris & Co. and Walter Crane Crossing the Pond

March 24, 2011 marked the 177th anniversary of the birth of William Morris (1834-1896), the incredibly versatile and prolific British poet, artist, manufacturer, socialist, and designer.  Morris is perhaps most commonly remembered as the designer of brightly colored textiles and wallpapers, however, his breadth of artistic vision encompassed much, much more and reached into virtually all possible areas of production.  Just as abstraction and nature intermingled in Morris’s and his associates’ work, so too were literature and history, myths and legends interwoven with real life.

In the early 1870s, Morris became intensely interested in Iceland, learning and translating the language and, in 1871, traveling to Iceland in order to experience the culture and folkloric history for himself.  By that time, Morris had already lived by his own maxim, “Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  Since his student days at Oxford, he and his fellow student and roommate Edward Burne-Jones had been designing unified decorative schemes and decorating their own living spaces with handpainted murals and handcrafted furniture.

It is particularly fitting, then, that a little over a decade later the products designed and sold by Morris & Co., or ‘the Firm,’ were gaining widespread popularity in England.  They were also increasingly garnering attention in the U. S., which led to a number of commissions in the States.  By the 1880s, Newport, Rhode Island – a bustling port city – was attracting the Gilded Age elite in droves.  Many built summer “cottages” on the water.  In 1882, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe – then the single richest woman in America –  commissioned the American architectural firm of Peabody & Stearns to build her dream house, and ‘the Firm’ of Morris & Co. was chosen to provide much of its interior decorative scheme.  Lorillard Wolfe admired the Old Stone Mill in the center of Newport, which was thought to be evidence of the Viking settlement along the North American coast.  In 1841, the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem “The Skeleton in Armor,” in which he refers to Newport’s Old Stone Mill and intertwines this architectural ruin with news reports of a skeleton outfitted in armor which had been unearthed in Fall River, Mass in 1832.  With all of these influences in mind, Lorillard Wolfe named her Newport cottage “Vinland,” in honor of this Nordic past, and its architectural details and interior design were directly inspired by this surge in interest in Viking history.

Fittingly, Morris & Co. worked on various aspects of this commission, including stained glass windows, carved furnishings, and textiles.  Beinecke owns a key part of this puzzle.  Walter Crane, the renowned British artist and socialist, agreed to provide a large-scale mural for Vinland, painting a frieze that went around the upper border of the dining room.  Beinecke has a series of preparatory drawings or black and white illustrations by Crane which tell Longfellow’s story of the Viking Bride.  Thus we can see this legend of the romance between a “blue-eyed maid” and her beloved Viking soldier come to life. –Adrienne Sharpe (

For more information: Adrienne Sharpe, “Rediscovering Vinland, Pre-Raphaelite Society Newsletter, Summer 2007.

Images: Crane portfolio (above: Uncat MS Vault Crane); Longfellow’s Skeleton in Armor, Boston: Osgood & Co., 1877 (below: Za L860 877s)

Adrienne Sharpe has an MA in Design History from the Bard Graduate Center in NYC, and is a Governing Board member of the William Morris Society in America. More information on Morris and the Morris Society in the US can be found here:;

A reading of letters between psychoanalyst and patient

Posted in Beinecke Library, Yale Collection of American Literature by beineckepoetry on March 27, 2011
Psyche and Muse
image A. A. Brill and
Mabel Dodge Luhan:
A Reading from their Correspondence

by Patricia Everett and Paul Lippmann

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Psychoanalyst A. A. Brill maintained an active correspondence with his patient Mabel Dodge Luhan, a writer and New York salon hostess. Luhan’s analysis began in June 1916 and continued until she moved to Taos, New Mexico, in December 1917, after which analyst and writer corresponded for nearly thirty years. This reading from the Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers presents a selection of letters that reflect the highly personal, expressive, and exploratory nature of their correspondence. Luhan recounted her dreams and reported on her current mental states. Brill responded with advice, warmth, and forceful interpretations. These letters provide views into often inaccessible aspects of analytic relationships.


image Psyche & Muse:
Creative Entanglements
with the Science of the Soul

An exhibition on view through June 13

Web Exhibition

Psyche & Muse explores the influence of cultural, clinical, and scientific dialogues about human psychology on twentieth-century writers, artists, and thinkers. Tracing important themes in the lives and work of key figures and artistic communities represented in the Beinecke Library’s Modern European and American Literature collections, the exhibition documents a range of imaginative encounters involving the arts and the study of the mind. The books, manuscripts, and visual works in Psyche & Muse represent aesthetic and philosophic lineages from the late nineteenth century to the post-war era; the exhibited materials reveal ways in which the study of psychology and core concepts of psychoanalysis were both intertwined with and opposed to artistic production throughout the twentieth century.

Psyche & Muse: Creative Entanglements with the Science of the Soul features materials from the Beinecke Library’s twentieth-century collections, including the Modern European Books and Manuscripts Collection, the Yale Collection of American Literature, and the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters; figures represented in the exhibition include: Lou Andreas-Salomé, Antonin Artaud, James Baldwin, Andre Breton, A. A. Brill, Herman Broch, H. D., Mable Dodge Luhan, Max Ernst, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, Moss Hart, Carl Jung, Jacques Lacan, George Platt Lynes, Eugene O’Neill, Jean Toomer, Glenway Wescott, Richard Wright, and Gregory Zilboorg.


All events and exhibitions are free and open to the public.

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library | 121 Wall Street | New Haven | Connecticut

Discovering E. M. Forster’s Secret Lives

Posted in Beinecke Library by beineckepoetry on March 24, 2011

Wendy Moffat discusses her new biography of E. M. Forster

Using photographs, images of holograph letters, and other evidence, Wendy Moffat will explore a few puzzles she had to solve in writing her biography of the British novelist E. M. Forster. A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster won the Biographers’ Club Prize, was selected as an ALA Stonewall Honor Book and a New York Times’ Top 10 for 2010. If you’re interested in biography, history of sexuality, archives, social history, or literature, this talk is for you.

Wendy Moffat is a Professor of English at Dickinson College, and she earned her Ph.D. in English literature from Yale University. She was a visiting fellow at Beinecke in 2007.

Friday, March 25, 2011 4:00 PM
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (BRBL)
121 Wall St., New Haven, CT 06511
(Location is wheelchair accessible)

Open To General Public
Free Admission

Contact Information:
Beinecke Library

Hilton Als at Beinecke

Posted in Beinecke Library by beineckepoetry on March 16, 2011


A Reading & Conversation with New Yorker critic Hilton Als

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Hilton Als, a staff writer and theatre critic at The New Yorker, is a recipient of a Guggenheim Award for Creative Writing, and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. He has written for The Village Voice and The Nation, and served as Editor-at-Large at Vibe magazine. He edited the catalogue for the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art” (November 1994-March 1995) and recently co-curated the exhibition “Self-Consciousness” with the artist Peter Doig at the Veneklasen Werner Gallery in Berlin (2010). His book, The Women, a meditation on gender, race, and personal identity, was published by FSG in 1996. Als has taught at Yale, Wesleyan, and Smith College. He lives in New York City.

The James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Arts and Letters at the Beinecke Library was founded by Carl Van Vechten in 1941 in honor of James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), poet, novelist, lyricist, diplomat, educator, and noted civil rights leader. The Collection celebrates the accomplishments of African American writers and artists from the Harlem Renaissance to the present.

Co-sponsored by the Department of African American Studies and Calhoun College

No Leaning Out!

Posted in Beinecke Library by beineckepoetry on March 15, 2011

Circular Bridge, Mt. Lowe Railway (Altadena, California), no. 53072. Detroit Photographic Co. or Detroit Publishing Co. ca. 1897-1924

Psyche & Muse Online

Detailed information about collection materials featured in the current exhibition, Psyche & Muse: Creative Entanglements with the Science of the Soul are now available online: Psyche & Muse online .

Books, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, and objects described in the Exhibition Checklists & Object Descriptions may located by consulting the Library’s primary finding tools: Orbis, the catalog for books; Yale’s Finding Aid Database for manuscript materials; and the Beinecke Digital Library.

Psyche and Muse: Creative Entanglements with the Science of the Soul explores the influence of cultural, clinical, and scientific dialogues about human psychology on twentieth-century writers, artists, and thinkers. Tracing important themes in the lives and work of key figures and artistic communities represented in the Beinecke Library’s Modern European and American Literature collections, Psyche and Muse documents a range of imaginative encounters involving the arts and the study of the mind. On view from January 28 through June 13, 2011 at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, 121 Wall Street, New Haven. Free and open to the public.

Image: Aldo Piromalli, Psychiatry, or Death of the Soul, Amsterdam: Vrije Vogel Pers, 1977. A tiny fold-out flier, this colorful comic strip expresses Piromalli’s personal frustration, exiled in Amsterdam on pain of incarceration in a mental asylum should he return to Italy. But it also echoes the broader revolt against psychiatric norms and inhuman treatment that ignited social protest across Europe in the sixties and seventies. Here Piromalli objects to the label “schizophrenic” and singles out “brain-slicing operations.” Other frames in the strip portray electroshocks and drug therapy in equally graphic ways.

Historic Dress