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    My First Book at Boydell: Letters I Never Mailed: Clues to a Life

    Boydell & Brewer was my first job out of college, and it was supposed to be temporary. Fourteen years later, here I still am, toiling away in the marketing department! One of the earliest books I worked on was Letters I Never Mailed: Clues to a Life, by Alec Wilder. It remains one of the most delightful.

    Alec Wilder (1907-1980) wrote pop tunes during the American songbook era as well as classical pieces. Here’s a small sampling:

    I’ll Be Around
    Jack, This is My Husband

    Letters I Never Mailed was an obvious fit for the Eastman Studies in Music series, since Wilder is a Rochester native and his archive is housed in the Eastman School of Music’s Sibley Library. The book is exactly what it says: letters Wilder wrote with no intention of mailing. The addressees range from the famous to the unknown, from his good friend Frank Sinatra to the dry cleaner who kept the $300 he’d left in his pocket. Though professionally a composer, Wilder’s letters are artfully written and show slices of a very human life. A few examples . . .

    To Mr. Copland: You were very kind to take the time to look at my string quartet. I’m not surprised or hurt that you said I was more intresting than my music except that I do believe you could have said the same thing slightly more politely.

    To Marian: Do you know that you inadvertently depressed the hell out of me by conning me to do that television show? For Christ’s sake! When I looked at the playback of that videotape I damn near threw up and fainted, in that order. I look as if I were on loan from Mount Hope Cemetery! If that’s what people look at when they meet me, how can they possibly tell me I’m looking well? I look as if I were in the last stages of Bangheart’s disease or jungle rot!

    To John: I’m in the midst of the goblins. Songwriters, in general, and publishers, totally, are a frightening, agate-eyed lot.

    To Mrs. Rutledge: You were extraordinarily beautiful as well as utterly understanding. My mind darts and leaps about and most people justifiably find it alarming. But you didn’t. . . . Age is only an embarrassment I find, but changes none of the dreams and romantic concepts of the mind and heart. So, late as the hour is, I tell you now that I love you profoundly.

    This latest edition of Wilder’s book is more reader-friendly than the first, thanks to annotations by David Demsey, Professor of Music at William Paterson University. Demsey confirms that the letters above were written to composer Aaron Copland; Marian McPartland, jazz pianist and Wilder’s close friend; Wilder’s fellow Eastman student John Barrows; and (some mysteries remain) one Mrs. Rutledge, an otherwise unidentified friend of Wilder’s aunt. Mrs. Rutledge, Wilder guesses, would have been in her seventies at the time of their single encounter, and in her nineties when he wrote the letter.

    Unfortunately, we will never know much about the “Sir” that Wilder saw on an airplane and to whom he devoted an entire letter full of concern:

    Did you have a dream once long ago and have you found that there is no more room for dreams in this poetry-less society? I, for some reason least understood to myself, don’t believe the source of your woes is physical illness . . . I believe that you have ceased to search.

    Wilder had a way of being heartbreakingly earnest while laughing at something – usually himself. He engages with topics you might not expect from someone known mainly for American songbook composition: not just music and creativity, but race, sexuality, labor, and environmentalism. At times, he expresses familiarity with depression and a sense of separateness, but also a great deal of joy, humor, gratitude. His uncompromising individuality and sheer humanity have stayed with this agate-eyed publishing employee since this book came out, and I’m grateful to have learned about him through my job. One of the best things about working at Boydell & Brewer and its partner, the University of Rochester Press, is being exposed to so many things I might never have run into otherwise. While Boydell & Brewer turns fifty this year, the University of Rochester Press turns thirty – many happy returns to both!

    Letters I Never Mailed: Clues to a Life
    by Alec Wilder, David Demsey
    Hardback / 9781580462082 / £14.99 or $22.46

    Do you have your very own “first book at Boydell”? Do you remember the first Boydell & Brewer book that you read, bought, borrowed, referenced or even wrote? We’d love to hear your thoughts and your stories on the Boydell & Brewer books that have impacted you or stir up strong memories. You can email them to Sean at

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    Call for Papers: German History in Context

    German History in Context accepts proposals for monographs and edited collections on all aspects of modern German history. We especially encourage submissions on any aspect of post-1945 cultural, political, and social history. Studies on the Third Reich, the Weimar Republic, and Imperial Germany are also welcomed. Of particular interest to the series editors are studies that explore their given historical topic in a wider perspective, for instance by comparing cultural developments in East and West Germany; by seeking to understand developments in Germany in a transnational or global context; or by analyzing the degree to which events in Germany are shaped by the legacy of earlier eras.

    Series Editor

    Bill Niven
    Professor in Contemporary German History
    Nottingham Trent University

    Editorial Board

    Stefan Berger
    Professor of History
    Rühr University Bochum

    Atina Grossman
    Professor of History and Women’s & Gender Studies
    Cooper Union

    Andrew I. Port
    Associate Professor of History
    Wayne State University

    The series editors invite inquiries, including book proposals and manuscripts.

    Now available in the series…

    Kurt Eisner

    A Modern Life

    by Albert Earle Gurganus

    At the end of the First World War, German Jewish journalist, theater critic, and socialist activist Kurt Eisner (1867-1919) led a nonviolent revolution that deposed the Bavarian monarchy and established a republic. As Germany spiraled into civil war, Eisner fought as head of state to preserve calm, implemented a peaceful transition to democracy, and reforged international relations. In February 1919 he was shot by a protofascist aristocrat, plunging Bavaria into political chaos. At the centenary of the seminal Bavarian Revolution and Republic of 1918/19, this is the frst comprehensive biography of Eisner written for an English-language audience.

    Revisiting the “Nazi Occult”

    Histories, Realities, Legacies

    Edited by Monica Black and Eric Kurlander

    Scholars have debated the role of the occult in Nazism since it first appeared on the German political landscape in the 1920s. After 1945, a consensus held that occultism had directly facilitated Nazism’s rise. More recently, scholars have denied the occult a role in shaping Nazism, emphasizing the regime’s hostility to esoteric religion and alternative forms of knowledge. Bringing together cutting-edge scholarship, this volume calls for a fundamental reappraisal of these positions. Emphasizing both continuities and disjunctures, it promises to re-energize debate on Nazism’s occult roots and legacies, and with it our understanding of German cultural and intellectual history over the past century

    Writing in Red

    The East German Writers Union and the Role of Literary Intellectuals

    by Thomas W. Goldstein

    In the German Democratic Republic words and ideas mattered, both for legitimizing and criticizing the regime. No wonder, then, that the ruling SED party created a Writers Union to mould what writers publicly wrote and said, and to create a socialist and antifascist culture. But it was also supposed to enable its members to have a say in the direction of socialism. Many writers demanded that it pursue this second function, bringing it into conflict with the SED. This book explores how the union became a site for the contestation of writers’ roles in GDR society with consequences well beyond the literary community.

    Edgar Julius Jung, Right-Wing Enemy of the Nazis

    A Political Biography

    by Roshan Magub

    By his death in 1934, Edgar Julius Jung was well known as an ideologue of the so-called Conservative Revolution and as a right-wing opponent of the Nazis. Considered by Goebbels to be one of the regime’s worst enemies, Jung was assassinated by them in June 1934. Jung was long neglected by historians after the war due to his strongly antidemocratic stance: there have been several studies on his political thought, but this is the frst biography in German or English. Roshan Magub’s book therefore flls a serious gap in German historical literature.

    View the complete ‘german history in context’ series

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    The Household Accounts of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury 1635-1642

    Leonie James explains how the accounts of William Laud’s Lambeth Palace household, edited and analysed in full for the first time, reveal much about this controversial figure that we have never seen before.

    It is a rare privilege to be able to bring to press a meaty source about a major figure in British history, which allows us to think differently about that person than we did before. It is especially pleasing when that figure is William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury to Charles I (1633-45). From the early stages of his career, Laud was a magnet for controversy, a uniformly divisive figure who became a driving force in bringing about religious change in the decade before the British civil wars. Generations of scholars, undergraduates, A’ level students and general readers are familiar with the archbishop as the dutiful, if rather waspish, crown servant who stood by his royal master, only to be abandoned by the king after the outbreak of war. More recently, however, we have started to appreciate that Laud often went further than offering mere support to the monarch – he regularly pushed the king in his ambitions to achieve a radical reshaping of Protestant worship in three kingdoms and was a far more Machiavellian political operator, adept at covering his tracks, than he has previously been given credit for. We can all agree, though, that for his pains, Laud was accused of being a closet Catholic (or ‘crypto-papist’), faced impeachment and prosecution for treason in the Long Parliament and was beheaded in January 1645, four years before Charles I came to a similar end outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall.

    William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, by Wenceslaus Hollar (Etcher) and Anthony van Dyck (Artist), 1641. Image credit: Metropolitan Museum of Arts

    The household accounts of Lambeth Palace under Laud, published in January 2019, provide us with an entirely fresh take on this high profile and unpopular character. Laud may have been Charles I’s most senior adviser at court, but he was also the head of a bustling and lively household, a capacity in which we have never seen him before. This book certainly allows us to witness the archbishop in his ‘home environment’ and to visualise everyday life behind the gates of Lambeth and Croydon manor, the archbishop’s summer palace, while Laud was in residence. But it is more than a window into his domestic domain. It also yields some really lovely new insights into the wide network of people to whom the archbishop was connected – not just the seventy or so servants he employed, but also the hundreds of men and women who gave him gifts, who visited him at home or who crossed Laud’s path in the course of his daily routine. When put together, these nuggets give us a much more rounded assessment of a man with a rather austere and isolated reputation and allow us to appreciate more fully the nature of the role of early modern archbishop and how it was viewed by contemporaries.

    Besides its richness, two things make this document particularly exceptional. First, its very existence. The ransacking of the library at Lambeth in 1643, the destruction of many of his papers and the violent end to Laud’s life two years later make the survival of this document quite remarkable. Secondly, the fact that so few scholars – including Laud’s most famous biographer, Trevor-Roper – appear to have been aware of it. For someone, like Laud, who has received so much attention, this is really quite surprising. Personally, I first got wind of this manuscript, which is now held at the National Archives, many years ago and decided then that I wanted to edit and publish it, but life and other projects got in the way. In fact, even if you had unlimited time and energy, producing an edition of a manuscript like this is a very slow process anyway, and one that requires a combination of constant decision-making, thorough research and sheer determination. Even taking into account seventeenth-century handwriting, transcribing the account book was the easy bit – it was not until I had completed the full transcription that I really began to think about what shape the edition should take. In the end – and because over 400 people are named in the document – I decided to supplement the introduction and edition with a substantial biographical appendix, explaining who the people were, their relationship to Laud and a brief summary of their career. In addition to contextual footnotes I also compiled a glossary of unusual or archaic words. I hope that this will encourage potential readers to discover for themselves something that I myself learned while producing this book – there is an awful lot more to early modern account books than just numbers!

    From a personal perspective, when I had finished producing this edition, I felt as though I had actually lived and breathed inside Lambeth Palace during the 1630s. I got to know the rhythms of the household; its hustle and bustle; and the sounds, smells and colours of the building were brought to life too. I also got to know a bit more about the man himself, William Laud. And, although the experience was a very long and frustrating one, interrogating and editing this document reminded me of one reason why I love historical research so much – there are still new, interesting and important things to learn about even the most widely studied aspects of our history. Or, to put it more succinctly, even the most well-trodden ground can still prove fertile.

    This guest post was written by Leonie James, a Lecturer in History at the University of Kent, Canterbury and author of ‘This Great Firebrand’: William Laud and Scotland, 1617-1645 (Boydell Press, 2017).

    The Household Accounts of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1635-1642
    Edited by Leonie James
    Hardback / 9781783273867 / £52.50 or $90
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    Call for Papers: African Literature Today 38

    Environmental Transformation in Literature and Criticism

    Papers are invited on the ways in which African environmental(ist) writing engages with major shifts in twenty-first-century thinking such as the announcement of the Anthropocene, and on the diverse genres, themes, and frameworks through which twentieth-century writers addressed environmental issues. 

    • What literary strategies do creative writers adopt to convey the impact of environmental transformation?
    • In what ways do creative writers connect with existing realist and non-realist genres?
    • How does literature mediate the specificities of environmental change and environmental justice in an era of global capitalism and technological change?
    • In what ways do future-oriented narratives, such as speculative fiction, address issues such as feminism, human rights, and a critique of the human sciences?
    • How do environmental literatures address histories of violence?
    • What ethical work is carried out in post-human and cross-species imaginations of African environments?
    • Through what methods can one trace the genealogies (and legacies) of environmental literature?
    • What alternative epistemologies are offered in environmentalist literature and criticism?

    Articles should not exceed 5,000 words, and should be submitted as a Word document to the Guest Editors: Cajetan Iheka ( and Stephanie Newell ( and Series Editor, Ernest N. Emenyonu, University of Michigan-Flint, ( on or before 30th September 2019

    Submissions are also invited for the literary supplement: short creative writing selections – poetry, short stories/ one act plays particularly those that relate to the environment/environmentalism. Contributions should not exceed 5,000 words, and should be submitted as a word document to the Series Editor, Ernest N. Emenyonu, University of Michigan-Flint ( on or before 30th September 2019

    Series Editor

    Professor Ernest N. Emenyonu
    Department of Africana Studies,
    University of Michigan-Flint
    303 East Kearsley Street
    Flint, MI 48502, USA

    Assistant Editor:
    Patricia T. Emenyonu (University of Michigan-Flint)

    Associate Editors:

    Adélékè Adéẹ̀kọ́ (The Ohio State University)
    Iniobong Uko (University of Uyo)
    Isidore Diala (Imo State University)
    Kwawisi Tekpetey (Central State University)
    Madhu Krishnan (University of Bristol)

    Oha Obododimma (University of Ibadan) 
    Pauline Dodgson-Katiyo (Anglia Ruskin Uni) 
    Stephanie Newell (Yale University) 
    Vincent O. Odamtten (Hamilton College, NY) 
    Wangui wa Goro (Independent scholar)

    Books for Review and Review Material

    Books for review should be sent (2 copies) to: 
    Obi Nwakanma 
    University of Central Florida 
    English Department, Colburn Hall 
    12790 Aquarius Agora Drive, Orlando, Florida 32816, USA

    Book reviews are invited for the Reviews Section and should be submitted as a word document, on or before 30th September 2019 to:

    View Series

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