Kenneth Roberts Memorabilia: The Lively Lady ASE

Last week I wrote about a new (to me) find regarding Kenneth Roberts books – the American Services Editions of The Lively LadyNorthwest PassageArundel, and Captain Caution. I’m surprised, honestly, that for all the years I’ve been reading and collecting Roberts’ books (20 years?) I’ve never heard of or seen the ASE editions. So last week was a bit of a treat to ‘discover’ something ‘new.’

This week I received an ASE copy of The Lively Lady. Honestly, they’re nothing to write home about. The binding is simple, there are no pictures or prints, and the covers look more like an advertisement than the front cover of a novel. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but hold the book in wonder because I knew that a U.S. serviceman once carried this book with him while serving during war. As you can see in one of the images below, the book I have was once issued to an Alan L. Hunnicutt of the Corps of Engineers.

I have no idea who Hunnicutt is, but my mind is flooded with questions. Who was he? What did he think of the novel? Did it pass hands to other soldiers? What was Hunnicutt’s fate? And so much more. Perhaps these questions will never be answered. Nonetheless, this ASE (as with all others) is a piece of American history – definitely a treasure worth keeping.

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Kenneth Roberts in the Current News: Hodding Carter and Retracing Arnold’s March

Kenneth Roberts’ first novel, Arundel, is the tale of Benedict Arnold’s ill-fated march to Quebec through the wilderness of Maine. Readers experience the pain and toil of the soldiers as they traverse boggy land, carry heavy bateau across rapids, and fight cold and hunger on their way to capture Quebec. It was an epic march; despite the loss of men and supplies, a remnant of Arnold’s army was able to meet up with General Montgomery to attack Quebec (though they failed in capturing the city).

If you recall, Kenneth Roberts’, through the narrator of Arundel, blames Reuben Colburn for the failed expedition. Colburn had built the bateau used to traverse the waters, but they ended up being more of a burden than a help. Like many other historians, Roberts blames Colburn for using green wood to build the boats, as well as using the wrong kind of boat needed for the expedition. Continue reading

Kenneth Roberts’ Books: ‘Lively Lady’ Armed Services Edition (Update)

***I’ve updated this post in light of a comment left by a Roberts fan in Facebook. I’m keeping the original content and adding the update at the end.***

Just when you think you know your favorite author well, a surprise comes out of nowhere on the ever-expansive Internet. It’s been a while since I’ve last posted on this site, so last night I was scouring the Google news search feature to find any Kenneth Roberts tidbits to share. I was not disappointed.

Ten months ago, Nancy Noble (Archivist/Cataloger at the Maine Historical Society) wrote a very interesting piece for Bowdoin College’s “Community” section of their website, titled “‘With books in their pockets’: Armed Service Editions at Special Collections.” According to Noble, she recently had the opportunity to be a researcher at Bowdoin College Library’s archives department. Noble’s work has included “cataloging the World War I pamphlet collection” at MHS, and during her work she stumbled across a book titled “When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning. Continue reading

Kenneth Roberts On American College Football

If you are new to Kenneth Roberts, or are primarily familiar with his novels, then I suggest that you pick up a copy of The Kenneth Roberts Reader (Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1945; also reprinted Down East Books, 2002). The reader is a collection of essays Roberts published in The Saturday Evening Post and excerpts from his novels. The essays from SEP help the reader to get a better picture of Kenneth Roberts the man – his humor, his wit, his quirks, and his pet peeves. He was very observant…and opinionated.

Oxford Rugby 1901

Roberts’ reader contains an essay titled “Oxford Oddities” (originally published in For Authors Only and Other Gloomy Essays [Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1935]) in which Roberts elaborates on his observations of Oxford and its students. True to form, Roberts finds much of the British and their ways odd (relative to American ways), and comments on how Oxford students approach studies, social life, and extracurricular activities. Underlying most of his observations is his pro-American view of American ways. That is everything except American football.

One feature of “Oxford Oddities” is Roberts’ account of his attendance at a rugby match in London (see this post where I highlight Skip Grimm’s post on this account). I’ve read Roberts’ account before, but when I read it again the other day, I noticed something that was hidden last time – his snarky view of American football.

British Fans vs. American Fans

A large percentage of the sixty thousand patronized those snack bars before the game; yet, incredible as it may seem, there were no drunks, no fights in the stands, no beating of strangers over the head by overstimulated enthusiasts (160).

There were sixty thousand people at the game, which was played on neutral grounds near London…Apparently the sixty thousand spectators had come with no ulterior motive, as is so often the case in America, and were actually eager, not to say determined, to let nothing, not even alcohol, interfere with their enjoyment of the game. This may or may not be an indication that the English understand nothing about pleasure (160-61).

If I’m reading Roberts correctly, it appears that he is making a stab at American football fans who, in his (unstated) opinion, attend games with ulterior motives other than the enjoyment of the game. If the British don’t let alcohol get in the way of enjoying the game, then do Americans see the football game as an opportunity to drink? Whatever the case, it appears Roberts saw British rugby fans as more tame than American football fans.

Fan Attendance

At most games, even at important ones, there are not many more spectators than players. This is due to the fact that those who, in America, would be spectators are off somewhere playing a game of something against somebody else (159).

Prior to this excerpt, Roberts noted the sheer number of extracurricular sports teams and participants among Oxford students (and other Brits?). In his opening of this section on rugby, Roberts says:

The method in vogue at Oxford for selecting the members of a varsity team is interesting and not without merit, even when compared with the American system of keeping eighty or a hundred men working all season without an opportunity to play in a game (159).

We see, first, a knock against how American colleges form their football teams: 80-100 team members for a sport where a little more than a ¼ will play. At Oxford, teams are smaller because (in part) so many are playing. This further impacts the patronage of the games, for when one game is going on, other games are in action as well.

Game Day

The game was played on a Wednesday, that being the day after the universities had closed for the Christmas vac. Apparently it never occurs to the English to wait for Saturday in order to play big games. They play when it’s convenient, and if their dates don’t quite suit the convenience of the public, nobody – not even the public – seems annoyed (161).

As all American college football fans know, gameday is Saturday. It’s not until recent years (with the advent of cable TV and ESPN) that we see college football played on weekdays. Apparently, Roberts found it annoying that Americans expected college football to be played on Saturdays, for his tone regarding the English seems to be one of pleasant surprised. Games are played “when it’s convenient,” and if the game day is inconvenient for some, they are not annoyed.

Cost of Tickets

My seats were on what would correspond to the 50-yard line, and cost 7/6 apiece, or $1.87 – and to the best of my knowledge and belief, no football game in the history of the world was ever worth more than $1.87 (161).

Cornell-Penn Fan Guide, 1922

The first thing I noted was the price of a ticket. Today, tickets at the 50-yard line of a college football game are premium tickets (outside of the box seats). Honestly, I’ve never tried to buy such a ticket, but it’s common knowledge that the more premium a seat is, the more you have to pay. Further, if the game pits two powerhouses or rivals against each other, then you’ll be paying even more.

I’m not sure if Roberts was complaining about the price, but what we see here is not an economic complaint per se, but a complaint about the worth of American college football. Roberts never says how many games he had attended in his lifetime, but he must have attended enough to know their worth (in his eyes). It’s worth noting that Roberts attended Cornell University [1908], so he more than likely attended games against Ivy Schools like Yale, Dartmouth, and Harvard. Back in his day, the big games were played by the Ivy Schools.

Coaches’ Salaries

There are no long intermissions, nor do the players leave the field to receive the mental stimulus of a pep talk from a $10,000 coach (160).

This is perhaps my favorite quote from Roberts in “Oxford Oddities.” Complaints about how much college football coaches today abound. Just last month Jimbo Fisher was given the highest paid contract with Texas A&M at $75 million for 10 years. Though college football is an “amateur” sport, the amount of money raked in by football programs leave many skeptical about the “amateur” nature of the sport. Complaints about coach salaries, then, are the norm today.

Complaints about money and college football, however, is not a new phenomenon. The quote just given is in the context of Roberts’ discussion of intermission at rugby games. Where American college football games have lengthy intermissions (too long for Roberts’ liking, apparently), rugby has a very short intermission where teams don’t even leave the field. In the midst of discussing rugby intermission, Roberts slides in a comment about the state of American college football.

The coach, who is seen worthy of a $10,000 contract, does little more than give students a “mental stimulus of a pep talk” at half time. Obviously, in Roberts’ opinion, college football coaches are grossly overpaid.  [$10,000 is nothing today. However, if Google can be trusted, the average salary in 1935 was $1,600/year. Some college coaches, then, were paid almost 10 times more than the average American.]

On American Football

It was as fast and exciting a contest as I ever saw, and more exciting than 90 percent of the big American football games I have seen (161).

If Roberts’ attitude toward American college football was not apparent enough, he makes himself crystal clear by claiming the rugby game was more exciting than practically every American college football games he’d witnessed before. Such an assertion is anathema today, and even then.

Though I’m a Roberts fan, this is one thing I just don’t get. I grew up in Louisiana, where LSU football was (and is) king. SEC football reigns in the South, just as college football reigns in many parts of America. To put non-major sports – like rugby – above college football is…well…it’s just unheard of. But, for Roberts, rugby was more watchable than college football, and he could careless about the national sentiment about college football.

And so we have a look into Roberts’ view of American college football. Quite an interesting peak into the man Kenneth Roberts on a topic we normally do not see him address.

Rocky Pastures: Is Kenneth Roberts’ Home Finally Sold?

If you have followed this site for a while, you may recall a series of posts I did in 2012 on the Designer Show House held at Kenneth Roberts’ estate in July of 2012. The house had been on the market for a while, and the show was to highlight area designers as well as the famous Maine author’s home.

Despite the home’s beauty and stature, Roberts’ pride and joy had been on the market for quite some time. Yesterday I stumbled across the LandVest blog, where a post dated 7/31/2015 highlights Kenneth Roberts’ and his estate, informing readers that they can “own a piece of history.”

LandVest’s blog post got me to thinking about the status of the sale; in the busyness of my teaching and other research, I’ve honestly forgotten to check up on whether the home has sold or not. After a simple Google search, it appears that after long while, Roberts’ Rocky Pastures may have a new owner.

Dated July 28, 2017, the Portland Press Herald published an article titled “Patrick Dempsey is getting boxing lessons from a Portland firefighter (by Ray Routhier). The article primarily focuses on the fact that Patrick Dempsey has been seen around southern Maine. He’d been working out with a Portland firefighter, who is training him how to box. Routhier suggests that Dempsey’s training is in preparation for an upcoming movie role (if you recall, Dempsey is most well-known for his role in Grey’s Anatomy).

What’s of interest to this site is Routhier’s discussion of speculation that Dempsey had recently bought a home in Kennebunkport. Per Routhier,

Dempsey has been seen in southern Maine a lot more than usual this year, especially around Kennebunkport. Locals have posted pictures of him in town on Facebook announcing him as a new neighbor. Richard West, a real estate agent, posted a picture in June saying that Dempsey had bought a summer home a half-mile from his house and that “he is a welcomed addition to Kennbunkport.”

Though no one would confirm where Dempsey bought his home, but after some digging, Routhier suggests that Dempsey is the new owner of Kenneth Roberts’ Rocky Pastures.

An estate in Kennebunkport known as Rocky Pastures, once owned by noted Maine writer Kenneth Roberts, was sold last December for $3.15 million and many speculate Dempsey is the new owner.

The owner is listed in Kennebunkport records as RPF, LLC, with an address of 9100 Wilshire Boulevard, 1000 West, Beverly Hills, California. Two publicists who have worked with Dempsey are listed at that address, as is Grant, Tani, Barash and Altman, a financial management firm that has been linked to him in published reports.

Though I’ve not been able to see any more recent publications affirming Routhier’s claim, it appears that all signs point to Dempsey being the new tenant of Rocky Pastures. If this is true, I wish Dempsey the best, and hope that he helps to carry on the memory of one of America’s greatest authors.

 

Kenneth Roberts in the News: Northwest Passage and Historical Town Markers

I believe that I can safely assert that Kenneth Roberts is no longer nationally known like he was just 50 years ago. I know that I had not heard of him growing up; it wasn’t until 1992 or so – as a junior in high school – that I picked up Rabble in Arms on a whim for a book report. Despite his lack of national recognition today, however, he is still known around his old stomping grounds of New England, particularly Maine and New Hampshire (at least Portsmouth, NH). Bookstores in the area carry rare copies of his books, news sites and libraries occasionally will write up a nostalgia piece on Roberts or his work. There was even an interior decorator event that took place at Roberts’ estate, Rocky Pastures back in 2012. In short, the memory of Roberts is alive and well in New England.

Portsmouth, NH; By http://maps.bpl.org – Bird’s eye view of Portsmouth, Rockingham Co., New Hampshire

What I find interesting when it comes to New England’s memory of Roberts is not so much of what they remember of the man; rather, it is in how they use their memories of him. For instance, J. Dennis Robinson at Seacoastonline.com recently penned a piece on an historical area in Portsmouth, NH. As is the case with many cities and towns in America, developers are wanting to transform a historical section of Portsmouth – the McIntyre block – with modern condos and posh hotels. In doing so, the developers will seek to “honor” the history of the McIntyre block (I place honor in quotes because – let’s face it – most developers care less about history and more about the almighty dollar).

In his piece, Robinson recounts the various buildings that stood in the McIntyre block, the people who bequeathed the land to Portsmouth, and other important historical notes of the area. In doing so, Robinson seeks to remind the citizens of Portsmouth that the building there are more than just buildings – they are physical reminders of where the town has been and of who they are (in light of their past).

Stoodley’s Tavern, courtesy WalkPortsmouth.blogspot.com

I found Robinson’s piece interesting (as one who is unfamiliar with Portsmouth history) in various ways, but particularly in his conjuring up of Kenneth Roberts. Earlier, I noted that it is interesting how New Englanders remember Roberts; Robinson serves as an excellent illustration. One building that was a part of the McIntyre block was an old tavern called Stoodley’s Tavern, which was once owned by a ranger with Roger’s Rangers. To help his readers “remember” this tavern, Robinson points to the tavern’s key role in Roberts’ Northwest Passage:

Stoodley’s Tavern is a key setting in the novel “Northwest Passage” by Kenneth Roberts, and in a 1940 Hollywood film of the same name. Technically, the historic visit by Robert Rogers depicted in the book and film took place at Stoodley’s first tavern on State Street. But his Daniel Street establishment was visited by Paul Revere as Portsmouth citizens planned their raid on Fort William and Mary at New Castle in 1774.

It’s one thing for a fan of Roberts to point out this connection; it’s quite another to use the reference of Northwest Passage as a memory marker in a publicized article. It goes to show that there are still readers out there who are well-versed enough to catch Robinson’s reference.

Kenneth Roberts’ Memorabilia: Roberts’ Inscription in Antiquamania

A running theme throughout this website is the joy of finding a steal – a Kenneth Roberts’ work in great condition, a hard-to-find work, and even a signed copy of his work. One particular work that is difficult find is his Antiquamania, published in 1928 by Doublday, Doran, & Company. Much harder to find is a signed copy of Antiquamania. According to Roberts in his autobiography – I Wanted to Write – he published the book on antiques while in Italy (the period during which he was building the “American Wing” of his house in Italy). He says of Antiquamania:

even though delightfully illustrated with drawings by Mr. Tarkington, [it] was as unproductive as the other volumes had been. Its circulation was 1,165 (181).

Recently, some new Kenneth Roberts fans – Melissa and Drew – emailed me a picture of their recently acquired copy of Antiquamania that was signed and inscribed by Kenneth Roberts. See the image below (posted with permission):

The inscription reads:

Rare old Currier & Ives print, Flying Ants in September, discovered by Professor Kilgallen is an Arundel lumber pile and presented to Paul Allen by Kenneth Roberts.

Hanover, N.H./October 11, 1937

It appears that the picture at the top of the page is the Currier & Ives print discussed in the inscription. If I had to guess, Roberts’ humor shines forth here, matching the humor of the book itself.

Now, I’m no expert on handwriting, much less Roberts’ signature, but the signature and inscription above appear legit.

In a recent post, I’d posted pictures of signatures that I have (and know to be real), and another signature that I have that appeared to be forged (see the post here). The image on the top is the signature I’m confident is real, and the one on the bottom is the questionable one:

This is a Roberts signature located in a presentation copy of Boon Island.

This is the imprint and signature found in the book I received recently.

After that post, I had someone email me questioning my assertion, and now I am not so confident that the signature is a forgery. I’m not 100% confident it’s Roberts’ signature and inscription, though. I do know that Roberts’ wife Anna helped him considerably in his work, so it’s perhaps Anna’s writing on behalf of Kenneth Roberts (note the “of” in the inscription, as if the writer is writing in the third person. This is not something that someone would do if writing in the first person.). However, I do not have a way of knowing for sure right now. Hopefully more on this later, though!

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