All posts by mlp60@duke.edu

Tales of Provenance: Una Vincenzo Revealed in Three Inscriptions

Post contributed by Liz Adams, Special Collections Cataloger

Cover of Knight Asrael: and Other Stories, written by Una Ashworth Taylor and newly cataloged as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin collection.

When I open books, one of my favorite things to do is look for small signs of its previous owners, its provenance: Was the book a gift, with a thoughtful note to the recipient? Did the owner write her name, big and bold, on a flyleaf? Sometimes there are so many signs that a separate story, that of the owner, begins to emerge. This was the case with Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge and her copy of Knight Asrael: and Other Stories, written by her aunt Una Ashworth Taylor.

Inscription by author Una Ashworth Taylor.

Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge was born in 1887 to a family steeped in literary culture. Not only did her aunt Una write Knight Asrael, but her other aunt Ida wrote several novels, contributed regularly to 19th century magazines, and published biographies on Lady Jane Gray, Queen Hortense, and Madame Roland (Palumbo-De Simone, 2004). Her grandfather, Sir Henry Taylor,  was a well-known dramatist and poet (Reger, 2004). This literary heritage is felt early on in Una Vincenzo’s copy of Knight Asrael. Una Ashworth Taylor wrote a deeply personal inscription to her nieces, one explicitly connecting baby Una and her older sister Violet to literature, to the power of reading:  “Here are your stories, Violet, for you to listen to now, to read to yourself soon, & to tell to baby when she is old enough to hear them. September-1889.”

Although it’s unclear if Violet read the chivalric stories in Knight Asrael, Una seems to have, or at the very least, she enjoyed its opening pages. On the front pages of Knight Asrael, there are exuberant blue drawings, signed by their artist: U.T.

Drawings in the opening pages of Knight Asrael.

While these drawings might be some of the earliest known Una Vincenzo works, they are not the last: Una trained at the Royal College of Art, ultimately focusing on sculptural works (Ormrod, 1984, p. 29). A bust of the famed Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky cast by Una now lives at the  Victoria and Albert Museum

Drawings in the opening pages of Knight Asrael.

Una Vincenzo left one more sign in Knight Asrael, an inscription of her own on the title page: “Radclyffe-Hall & Troubridge, Chip Chase, Hadley Wood, Herts.”

Radclyffe Hall is the author of several novels, most notably The Well of Loneliness, an influential work in lesbian literature.  She and Una met in 1915 and moved in together in 1919—after Una formally separated from her husband, Admiral Ernest Troubridge (Ormrod, 2004, p. 65, p.133).   Una and Radclyffe (also known as John) were romantic partners for 28 years, living together at Chip Chase and abroad, until Radclyffe’s death in 1943 (Baker, 2004). Una documented their lives together through photography

Inscription connecting Una Vincenzo with Radclyffe Hall and noting where they once lived together at Chip Chase.

and a biography published after Radclyffe’s death, The Life and Death of Radclyffe Hall. And even after death, Una continued to write letters to her beloved (Ormrod, 2004, p. 286).

When the provenance in Knight Asrael is taken together, the life and loves of Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge begins to break through: her artistic endeavors, her literary nature, and her deep love for Radclyffe Hall. Una ultimately lived to the age of 76, dying in 1963 in Rome, Italy (Ormrod, 2004, p.313).

The Rubenstein Library acquired its copy of Knight Asrael as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, a transformative collection documenting the lives and work of women across several centuries.

 

Works Cited

Baker, M. (2004). ‘Hall, Marguerite Antonia Radclyffe- (1880–1943)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn, May 2015 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37878, accessed 21 July 2017]

Ormrod, R. (1985). Una Troubridge: the friend of Radclyffe Hall. New York: Carroll & Graf.

Palumbo-De Simone, C. (2004). ‘Taylor, Ida Alice Ashworth (1847–1929)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn. May 2015  http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/46564, accessed 21 July 2017]

Reger, M. (2004). ‘Taylor, Sir Henry (1800–1886)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn. May 2015 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/27030, accessed 21 July 2017]

Notes from Durham’s Musical Past: Polonaises and Mazurkas on Main Street

Post contributed by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Visual Materials Processing Archivist

There are many music-related collections in the Rubenstein Library, but the Gilmore Ward Bryant papers are special to the history of Durham, North Carolina.  This small collection of diaries, photographs, school records, and sheet music documents a time when turn-of-the-century citizens held cultural aspirations that included unleashing the terpsichorean muse on Durham—hoping perhaps that arpeggios and arias would temper the roughness of the tobacco town (population 18,241 in 1910).

Enter Gilmore Ward Bryant, born in 1859 and raised in Bethel, Vermont.

Gilmore W. Bryant, circa 1870, from the Gilmore Ward Bryant papers

After a successful musical career in New England and Virginia, he was reportedly lured to the Southern upstart town of Durham by the Duke family, who financed the design and construction for what was to become the Southern Conservatory of Music.  Finished in 1898, the grand Italianate-style building stood on the corner of Main and Duke Street, across from the Liggett Myers Building, on land that today belongs to the Brightleaf Square parking lot.

Here is a view of the Conservatory.  This is what you would have seen if you stood at Toreros Mexican restaurant and looked across the street:

Conservatory Calendar, 1920-1921, Gilmore Ward Bryant papers

Its auditorium, practice rooms, and parlors were classically grand in scale—the reverberations must have been amazing, to say the least:

Conservatory Calendar, 1920-1921, Gilmore Ward Bryant papers
Gilmore Ward Bryant, circa 1920, Conservatory Calendar, 1920-1921

“G.W.” Bryant served as Director of the Conservatory, and along with his partner and wife, Mattie Emily Bullard Bryant, the head of the Voice Department (his daughter-in-law also taught piano), kept the undoubtedly expensive venture thriving for many decades.  The school was a huge success, hosting large concerts, alumni dinners, and recitals several times a year.

Bryant was also a composer, penning scores as early as 1895 and continuing into the 1930s.  He wrote and published many pieces, including a “Tiny Waltz” and another piece entitled “Topsy Turvy.”

Sheet Music Series, Gilmore Bryant papers
Sheet Music Series, Gilmore Ward Bryant papers

Eventually, perhaps due to a familiar pattern of rising downtown rents, the Bryants laid the cornerstone for a new Conservatory on South Alston Avenue, then open countryside, in summer 1923, and the old Conservatory was demolished in 1924.  Bryant’s wife writes in her 1923 diary on December 31: “Went up & thru the old Conservatory— was terrible—nearly dropped to pieces.”

Today Durham hosts several music schools, but the era of grand edifices and classical conservatory training has yet to return.  In the meantime, we applaud the Bryants’ vision for and dedication to their adopted Southern hometown.  Luckily, some of the Conservatory’s records and the Bryant family’s personal papers and photographs have been preserved for researchers at the Durham County Library and the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscripts Library.  You can see the inventory for the Rubenstein collection here:

http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/bryantgilmore/

(Thanks to the Open Durham and Durham County Library websites for background information.)