I have been struggling with a forgotten relic of the 19th century American lit of the antebellum period. In fact, the novel itself, by Robert Henry Newell, is very little evidence of utopian thinking in this period. What it does reveal is that paper itself was a kind of utopia — an entrance point to a literate culture that could subsist on anti-woke dreams and romances. The novel ‘Avery Gleebun; between two fires’ (1857) is a tough read because of its paper thin characters and intense sentimentality.
But given that the most that people could afford at the time was a Bible and a few scattered religious tracts, the popular novel (of the time) had (HAD) to be sentimental. It is a work of literature with a few choice gems scattered in between pages of almost impenetrable sentimental dialogue. But why this work & its author fell into the forgotten list of antebellum authors who were NOT Hawthorne, Poe, and Melville is a blessed mystery that I am trying to unravel.
This novel has struck my interest, as well as the Orpheus C. Kerr (a pun based on “Off-Ice See-Ker”) Papers, has relaunched my study into the history of print in the 19th century. This begins and ends with William Charvat’s ‘Literary Publishing in America 1790-1850,’ a book that I have yet to fully read and truly appreciate. I’m going to try to read and take notes in hopes that a Ch. 4 of the dissertation will emerge.
I still remember that ‘God gives us the privilege of seeing the right’ to quote A. Lincoln, the 16th president and a fan of R. H. Newell’s work. So it will take a mountain of prayer to get over this hill which is also a kind of desert. I hope to emerge from it unscathed, but fear that it may be everlong (Foo Fighters’ song) an issue that never gets resolved. I hope that I am able to get a bird’s eye view of this chapter but it may not happen.