Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mark Twain Said What?

According to a recent article in the New York Times, celebrated author Mark Twain was “often savage in his commentary” on other literary works. Writing in the margins, as was common among voracious readers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Twain edited already-published volumes by renowned authors Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and our own Lew Wallace.

So what did he think of Wallace’s writing style? Twain’s handwriting on one of the endpages of his copy of Wallace’s 1906 Autobiography is pictured here, and the transcription below spells it out clearly:





“The English of this book is incorrect & slovenly & its diction, as a rule, barren of distinction. I wonder what ‘Ben-Hur’ is like.”

This may be professional jealousy on Twain’s part. After all, Wallace’s epic – which Twain had apparently not read – outsold Twain’s work handily.

On the other hand, he’s kind of right. I mean, a two-volume autobiography? I’m not sure if he learned to be long-winded or if it was just his personality, but Lew could go on a bit. Modern readers in particular can get lost in the flowery, descriptive sentences that fill Lew’s writings. But, if it was “slovenly”, as Twain puts it, then why was Ben-Hur so popular? Was Mark Twain’s grammatical knowledge that far above the masses, or was he nitpicking other authors of popular works?

Frankly, even as a self-proclaimed “grammar Nazi”, I find Twain’s comments unnecessarily abrasive. True, some of his better-known works – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for instance – contain diction that is quite distinctive, enough to prompt some school districts to ban some of them from the required reading list. But, is his work “correct” enough to qualify him to criticize so harshly? Wallace was not the only recipient of his reproach. Perhaps the question for the ages is not so much, “did Lew Wallace’s writings measure up?” as, “can Mark Twain make these claims?”

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ben-Hur vs. Twilight

“So Ben-Hur was the Twilight of the 1800s.”

Out of the mouths of babes – an eighth-grader on a recent school visit made a striking connection between the popularity of Lew Wallace’s masterwork and the rise of new novels made into films. One aspect of the Ben-Hur legacy is merchandising in a variety of franchises and media – books, films, comics, you name it. Just as Mel Brooks immortalized in the film Spaceballs, after Ben-Hur rose to great fame they came out with Ben-Hur the children’s books, Ben-Hur the action figures, Ben-Hur the hairpins, Ben-Hur the freezer...and on and on. Merchants figured they could sell just about everything imaginable by attaching the name of a popular novel to the products. The concept has continued into modern literature and films as merchants continue to market lunchboxes, posters, and clothing by attaching images of popular media. It all comes back to Ben-Hur.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lew Wallace's 183rd Birthday Party

Kids compete at tug-of-war at Lew Wallace's 183rd Birthday Celebration on the grounds of the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum on Saturday, April 10, 2010.

Lew Wallace's 183rd Birthday Party

Young visitors color stained glass designs at Lew Wallace's 183rd Birthday Celebration on the grounds of the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum on Saturday, April 10, 2010.

Lew Wallace's 183rd Birthday Party

Visitors try walking with old-fashioned stilts at Lew Wallace's 183rd Birthday Celebration on the grounds of the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum on Saturday, April 10, 2010.

Lew Wallace's 183rd Birthday Party

General Lew Wallace, and a dead-on homemade dough facsimile, skillfully crafted by one of our visitors for Lew's birthday!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Happy Birthday & Wildflowers

Let the parties begin!!!

In celebration of Lew Wallace's 183rd birthday, the Museum will be having a party. On Saturday, April 10th, the museum will play host to a variety of activities. In the Study, all visitors will get an opportunity to build their own study using Legos. They may also choose to color a replica of the stained glass that is in the Study's atrium. Build Ben Hur's chariot, sculpt with playdough and make a fan are activities taking place in the Carriage House.
The lawn area will be host to 1800's games. Croquet, wooden hoop rolling, tug of war and learning to walk on stilts are just some of the games planned. Cookies and punch will be served and admission is free!

While visitors are celebrating with birthday games and goodies, the wildflowers will be in full bloom. Warm weather has forced the wildflowers to bloom, seemingly, all at once. Some of the flowers in bloom are: blue violets, harbinger of spring, cutleaf toothwort, spring beauty, myrtle, pansies, tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, trout lilies, and the magnolia trees are in full regale. Stop by for a visit and enjoy the day of fun and activites and nature at its best.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

City of Crawfordsville Easter Egg Hunt TODAY!

The Hunt is on! The Crawfordsville Easter Egg Hunt is proceeding as scheduled on the grounds of the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum at 1:00 p.m. today. The rain is lessening and all of the candy and prizes are in eggs this year, so nothing's getting soggy. Come join us this afternoon!