The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

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“Undying Light” by Richard Watson Gilder


Jasper Francis Cropsey’s “Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania,” from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Undying Light.
By R[ichard]. W[atson]. Gilder
From the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, 1886, pg. 790.

WHEN in the golden western summer skies
A flaming glory starts, and slowly fades
Through crimson tone on tone to deeper shades,
There falls a silence, while the daylight dies
Lingering,—but not with human agonies
That tear the soul, or terror that degrades;
A holy peace the failing world pervardes
Nor any fear of that which onward lies;
For well, ah well, the darkened vale recalls
A thousand times ten thousand vanished suns;
Ten thousand sunsets from whose blackened walls
Reflamed the white and living day, that runs,
In light which brings all beauty to the birth,
Deathless forever round the ancient earth.

O thou the Lord and Maker of life and light!
Full heavy are the burdens that do weigh
Our spirits earthward, as through twilight gray
We journey to the end and rest of night;
Though well we know to the deep inward sight
Darkness is but thy shadow, and the day
Where thou art never dies, but sends its ray
Through the wide universe with restless might.
O Lord of Light, steep thou our souls in thee!
That when the daylight trembles into shade,
And falls the silence of mortality,
And all is done,—we shall not be afraid,
But pass from light to light; from what doth seem
Into the very heart and heaven of our dream.

Comment-a-Haiku Poetry Competition!

I invite any of my readers to join me in entering this competition. I would love to see your entries!

Vita Brevis

Vita Brevis is hosting a four-day haiku competition–taking place entirely in the comment section of this post!

Support Us Here.

Here’s What You Need to Know:

How to Submit:

1. Submit one nature-themed haiku as a comment on this post

2. Reblog this post on your blog or write a post announcing that you’ve entered it

3. (Optional) Give good feedback on other commenters’ work!

Theme: Nature

Reward: We’ll publish the winning poet, featuring their haiku on the front page of our online magazine with a link to their blog.

When: Starting right now (08/10), ending Monday night (08/13)

Questions: Use our Contact Us page–I’ll get back to you soon!

I’ll try to respond to as many of you as I can–get writing and have fun!

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Holy Martyr Saint Valentina of Caesarea

Note: This post is unlike any other on this blog. Because of my dear grandmother’s steadfast dedication to studying the Eastern Orthodox saints, I have delved into these studies, as well. These studies will not be regularly posted on this blog. This post is purely for research purposes.

Today we commemorate the Holy Martyr Saint Valentina of Caesarea, Palestine.  According to Eusebius of Caesarea in “The History of the Martyrs in Palestine, Saint Valentina was condemned in 308 AD by the governor of Palestine for her strong faith in the Lord, as well as for rising to the defense of her sister, Thea, who was tortured and convicted for her faith and defiance against the Egyptian emperor. Notably, although “small indeed in person,” Valentina was “courageous in soul.” When accosted after speaking out against the torture being inflicted upon her sister, Valentina boldly kicked an altar containing sacrifices, which overturned, consequently scattering fire from the altar upon the ground. Because of her rebellious actions, Valentina was persecuted, and subsequently both Thea and Valentina were tortured and bound together, sentenced to death by fire, for their acts of resilience and for testifying the name of Jesus Christ.


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This is my own icon of Saint Valentina. Many thanks to David of Russian Icons online for posting an incredibly helpful guide on translating Vyaz’ Church Slavic calligraphy. Without his post, I would not know the subject of this icon. I was unable to find an icon of Saint Valentina like this one online, which is why I’m posting it here. Please feel free to use it as needed. 



Concerning Bookplates

When browsing through used books, undoubtedly one will come across a name of ownership and/or inscription, along with a date and, if gifted, “To:— From:—.” Many of these are of interest to both collectors and casual readers, as they offer a personal glimpse into the previous owner’s life. However, the art of inscribing in books is, of course, not new to today’s modern readership, and in fact was more elaborate in past centuries.

Bookplates, or ex-libris, were especially common during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. These displayed a pictorial representation of ownership, sometimes marking heraldry, sometimes portraying the owner themselves. These pictures were paired with either a name, an inscription, or both. Inscriptions were commonly phrases, such as family mottos, or general statements (for example, an insert statement may say something along the lines of “don’t steal my book”). According to King’s College, Cambridge online, simple bookplates date back to the Middle Ages, with the earliest known printed bookplates dating to the 15th century. The Jacobean period to Edwardian era saw a shift in elaborating these bookplates, incorporating “engravings and etchings known as ex-libris (‘from the books of…’)” into the plates.

Over the span of several centuries, numerous styles emerged. For example, and according to the Bookplate Societywhich also provides a comprehensive list of all of the British styles, along with detailed written and pictorial descriptions of each type, Heraldic bookplates dated from 1580-1680; Early Armorial bookplates dated from 1680-1715; Jacobean Armorial dated from 1715-1745; Chippendale Armorial plates dated from 1740-1770; Festoon, Wreath and Ribbon, and Spade Shield Armorial plates dated from 1770-1810; Landscape and Pictorial dated from 1780-1820; and Plain Armorial dated from 1800-1900. To view examples of famous bookplates, both American and European, dating from the 18th-20th centuries, you can click here.

Because of the artistic and historic value of each unique plate, these have become collectible and highly valued today.  As mentioned, there is great artistic value in these unique items; so great was the artistic value, that creating bookplates was a profession for some artists. For example, even a quick glimpse through A Directory of Bookplate Artists edited by Alfred Fowler from 1919 will imply the desire, or at least the high competition, of bookplate artists. You can even still contact modern bookplate artists to commission your own, unique plate.

To learn more about bookplates and to view other examples of bookplates throughout history, you can visit the Bookplate Society and the American Society of Bookplate Collectors & DesignersTo read more about American bookplates specifically, I recommend American book-plates, a guide to their study with examples by Charles Dexter Allen.

All in all, the next time you come across an antique book, be sure to give the plate a second glance—you never know the story it will tell. Below, you will find a couple from my own collection that tell their own stories. Note: these are posted only for educational purposes.

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This plate comes from the collection of Robert Apthorp Boit, author of Eustis: A Novel. The plate dons the “ex-libris” statement, and the artist’s name, L. S. Ipsen, can be found in the bottom right corner of the plate. Because Boit lived from 1846-1919, this clue gives me reason to, naturally, believe it dates to the late 19th century, early 20th century. Do you have any ideas of its specific plate period? Please feel free to comment below!



FullSizeRender-1This plate comes from William Herbert, Dean of Manchester. (See this similar one from Yale.) The artist is identified as Cole, although I am unsure as to whom this artist may be. It bears the Carnarvon motto, “Ung je serviray” (“I will serve but one master”), and represents the Carnarvon crest. Because of the Rococo-esque style of this plate, I deduce it is of the Chippendale Armorial period. Although Herbert was born in 1778, eight years after the end of this period, it likens most to this style, and is unlike the Festoon, Wreath and Ribbon, or Spade Shield Armorial styles. Again, what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

“The Flower Manual” by Thomas King


From Godey’s Lady’s Book, July, 1849

In this post I wish to share a delightful list of clever puns, found in the July, 1849 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book. In his article, the author humorously attaches various flowerswith their “intended” recipient. I’ll leave it at that. 

The Flower Manual
Thomas King

The following directions for the appropriate distribution of flowers are ingenious and amusing. We are much obliged to the gentleman who suggested the plan, and hope he will receive, from the friends of the Lady’s Book, plenty of “Forget-me-nots.”

I would give—
To Heroes, “Laurels.”
To the Cruel, “Barberry.”
To the Wounded, “Balsam.”
To the Afflicted, “Heart’s Ease.”
To the Persecuted, “Balm of Gilead.”
The Housewives, “Thrift.”
To Murderers, “Devil in a Bush.”
To Banditti, “Deadly Night Shade.”
To Victoria, A “Crown Imperial.”
To the Grand Seignor, A “Turk’s Cap.”
To Priests, A “Monk’s Head.”
To the Lady Mayoress, “London Pride.”
To the Chancellor of Exchequer, “Penny Royal.”
To those who love kissing, “Tulips.”
To Lawyers, “Honesty.”
To Ploughmen, “Milk Maids.”
To the Lassies, “Lad’s Love.”
To the Vain, “Coxcombs.”
To the Malicious, “Black Hellebore.”
To the Restless, “Poppies.”
To your wife, “Yew.”
To Eliza, “Sweet William.”
To Broadway Beaux, “Painted Ladies.”
To Beauties, “Venus’s Looking Glass.”
To those who Sigh in Secret, “Love in a Mist.”
To little Girls, “Wax Work.”
To the Nervous, “Valerian.”
To Apothecaries, “Senna.”
To Perfumers, “Jasmines and Violets.”
To Writing Masters, “Jonquill.”
To the Low Spirited, “Lavender.”
To the Precise, “Primroses.”
To the Learned, “Sage.”
To the Wicked, “Rue.”
To Spinsters, “Bachelor’s Buttons.”
To the Frigid, “Snow Drop.”
To the Huntsman, “Larkspur.”
To the fair Recluse, “Lily of the Valley.”
To Tobacconists, “Virginia Stock.”
To Triflers, “Catch Fly.”
To the deserted Damsel, “Willow.”
To Peace Makers, “Everlasting.”
To Masons, “Stone Crop.”
To the Notable, “Thyme.”
To the Idle, “Birch.”
To my best Friend, “Forget-me-not.”