University of Virginia Library

Search this document 


expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
collapse section 
collapse section2.0. 
collapse section2.1. 
expand section2.2. 

expand section 


Page 208

The Working Library

Since Cabell had two libraries and the first was destroyed by fire, the working library, numbering about fourteen hundred volumes, does not chronicle his reading during his entire lifetime. Cabell began collecting books as early as 1890, as an autograph in Kipling's Plain Tales indicates: "James Cabell (1890) / 217 S. Third / Richmond, Virginia." Cabell was eleven years old when he autographed this volume; eleven years later, on March 29th, 1901, his parents' home burned, destroying almost all of his early library. We know very little of the lost volumes except that some were by Poe,[1] and some were books that Cabell acquired between 1894 and 1898 while a student at the College of William and Mary. The first library also contained books he may have bought between 1899 and 1901, when he was a reporter on the New York Herald. In addition to the Poe we can be certain only that the early collection contained some books in the Mermaid Series, indicated by the following inscription in a copy of James Shirley by Edmund Gosse: "I sent this, remembering that your early / Mermaids were — wasn't it? — burned. The / holiday compliments — / L. G. 15-XII-24 / Paris —."[2] The working library is further inaccurate regarding what Cabell read because he often discarded books he could borrow from libraries.[3] Thus we see that Cabell's working library gives at best an incomplete picture of his reading. However, it more than compensates for this deficiency by the light it sheds on his published works.

For much of his life Cabell was a genealogist. He began this exacting form of scholarship by compiling personal family genealogies, among which are Branchiana, Branch of Abingdon, and The Majors and Their Marriages. Thus he gained a reverence for precision, thorough note taking, and crediting of sources. As a result he inscribed many of his source books, hence leaving concrete evidence of the ways in which he transmuted sources into finished works of art.

Cabell autographed or inscribed 409 of the 3,363 volumes in his library, many more than once. The inscriptions fall roughly into three categories. First are volumes in which Cabell simply placed his name, or the short phrase "Property of / James Branch Cabell"; second are the volumes, (often periodicals), containing factual information concerning his publishing history. The following are examples:

  • The Bomb VMI. Published Annually by the Cadets of The Virginia Military Institute, 1901. Autograph: The first story and the first verses / to be published, regrettably, under / the name of / James Branch Cabell.

  • 209

    Page 209
  • The International: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Travel and Literature, April, 1901. Autograph: First published work.

    Rascoe, Burton and Groff Conklin, eds.

  • The Smart Set Anthology. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1934. Autograph: James Branch Cabell / the first appearance of / Jurgen, in The Smart / Set for July 1918.
Finally there are the inscriptions in the actual source books, volumes Cabell used in writing his own works. We find, for example, in W. W. Beach's The Indian Miscellany Albany, 1877, an inscription indicating the source for The First Gentleman of America: "It was this volume which, circa 1912, / gave me the notion of writing, some / day or another, the book which in 1939 / began to take form as The First Gentleman of America. / James Branch Cabell." Again, in Julia Wyatt Bullard's Jamestown Tributes and Toasts Lynchburg, Virginia, 1907, we find an inscription central to two Cabell books: "Property of / James Branch Cabell / — but for which he could not well have written either The Rivet in Grandfather's Neck or Let Me Lie." One particularly revealing inscription relates to Cabell's Jurgen. Controversy about the name of the main character, Jurgen, must end with a reading of an inscription in Hans Christian Andersen's Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales. Mrs. H. B. Paull, trans., London and New York, 1890: "An extensive source book, out of / which, among many other matters, / came the name Jurgen from a / short story I have never read. / James Branch Cabell." Also, in William J. Thoms's Early English Prose Romances, London and New York, no date, we find an inscription central to two more Cabell novels: "It was in this book that circa 1915 I / found the gist of Hamlet Had an Uncle. / Some of the Faustus story was utilized / in writing Jurgen. / James Branch Cabell." And finally in W. R. S. Ralston's Russian Fairy Tales: A Choice Collection, New York: Hurst and Co., n.d. we find the inscription "James Branch Cabell / his source book."

The relevance of such inscriptions to Cabell the man and the writer is varied. That he simply placed his name in a given book tells us little. At most we can say he thought enough of the volume to sign it; and this is, of course, significant since hundreds of the volumes were not marked in any way. The information, however, takes on greater significance when we come to inscriptions which give us factual information concerning his career, for here is the raw material with which his biographer, yet unnamed, will be vitally concerned. Inscriptions in the source books are of obvious importance: they relate to Cabell's theories of composition, both in content and execution; and they often show, from germination to fruition, his progression of ideas.

One section of the collection deserves separate mention. On the east wall of the library is a case containing 298 volumes. Here Cabell kept books on voodoo, folklore, sexual aberrations, and occult subjects. Also shelved here are dictionaries of mythology and anthropological studies, Sir


Page 210
James G. Frazer's works for example. The future Cabell scholar interested in sources and analogues will find this part of the library central to his study. Following are illustrations of these volumes. Bp indicates the presence of Cabell's bookplate:
  • Adams, W. H. Davenport. Witch, Warlock, and Magician: Historical Sketches of Magic and Witchcraft in England and Scotland. New York: J. W. Bouton, 1889. Bp.
  • Bede, Cuthbert, collector. The White Wife with Other Stories, Supernatural, Romantic, and Legendary. London: Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, 1865. Bp.
  • Besterman, Theodore. Crystal-Gazing: A Study in the History, Distribution, Theory and Practice of Scrying. London: William Rider & Son, Ltd., 1924.
  • Bibliotheca Diabolica; Being a Choice Selection of the Most Valuable Books Relating to the Devil; His Origin, Greatness, and Influence, Comprising the Most Important Works on the Devil, Satan, Demons, Hell, Hell-Torments, Magic, Witchcraft, Sorcery, Divination, Superstitions, Angels, Ghosts and with Some Curious Volumes on Dreams and Astrology. In Two Parts, Pro and Con — Serious and Humorous. New York: Scribner, Welford Armstrong, 1874. This is a pamphlet.
  • The Blue Laws of Connecticut; With an Account of the Persecution of Witches and Quakers in New England; and Some Extracts from the Blue Laws of Virginia. New York: The Truth Seeker Co., 1898.
  • The Book of Fate and Fortune: An Encylopedia of the Occult Sciences. New York: Robert M. McBride & Co., MCMXXXII.
  • Bratley, George H. The Power of Gems and Charms. London: Gay & Bird, 1907.
  • Clodd, Edward. Magic in Names and in Other Things. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1921. Laid in: undated card from Alfred Goldsmith.
  • Conway, Moncure Daniel. Demonology and Devil-Lore. 2 vols. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1879. Bps. Laid in in vol. 1: 2 newspaper clippings regarding Alfred F. Goldsmith. Laid in in vol. 1: Christmas card from Goldsmith, 1843.
  • Cooper, Paul Fenimore, trans. Tricks of Women and Other Albanian Tales. New York: William Morrow & Co., MCMXXVIII. TLS: From Thayer Hobson, New York, 14 June 1928, 1p.
  • Cormack, Mrs. J. G. Chinese Birthday, Wedding, Funeral and Other Customs. Peking and Tientsin: La Libraire Francaise, 1923. Bp. Laid in: Postcard from Alfred F. Goldsmith, 10 Sept. 1927.
  • Crawley, Ernest. The Mystic Rose; A Study of Primitive Marriage and of Primitive Thought in its Bearing on Marriage. 2 vols. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1927.
  • Davidson, P. The Mistletoe and its Philosophy, Showing its History, the Origin of its Mystical and Religious Rites; Why this Weird Plant was Preferably Chosen to Others; Its Legendary Connection with the Great World Reformers-RAMA-Along with a Description of Several Rare Plants and Herbs that Possess Mystical Properties. Loudsville, Ga.: Peter Davidson, Glasgow: Bernard Goodwin, 1892.

  • 211

    Page 211
  • Du Chaillu, Paul B. The Viking Age; The Early History, Manners, and Customs of the Ancestors of the English-Speaking Nations. 2 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1889.
  • Edwards, Charles. The History and Poetry of Finger-Rings. New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1880.
  • Farmer, Hugh. An Essay on the Demoniacs of the New Testament. London: G. Robinson, MDCCLXXV.
  • Graves, Robert. The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. New York: Creative Age Press, 1948.
  • Grey, Sir George. Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealanders as Furnished by their Priests and Chiefs. London: George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1922. Bp.
  • Harris, J. Rendel. Origin and Meaning of Apple Cults. Reprinted from "The Bulletin of the John Rylands Library" Vol. 5, Nos. 1 & 2, August 1918-March 1919. Manchester: The University Press, Longmans, Green & Co., 1919.
  • Haynes, Carlyle B. Satan: His Origin, Work and Destiny. Nashville, Fort Worth and Atlanta: Southern Publishing Association, 1920.
  • Hone, William. Ancient Mysteries Described; Especially the English Miracle Plays Founded on the Apocryphal New Testament Story, Extant Among the Unpublished Manuscripts in the British Museum, etc. London: William Reeves, n.d. Bp.
  • Hutton, Alfred. The Sword and the Centuries; or, Old Sword Days and Old Sword Ways. Being a Description of the Various Swords Used in Civilized Europe During the Last Five Centuries, and of Single Combats Which have been Fought with Them. London: Grant Richards, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901. Bp.
  • Lawrence, Edward. Spiritualism Among Civilized and Savage Races; A Study in Anthropology. London: A & C Black, Ltd., 1921. Bp.
  • Nature Worship; An Account of Phallic Faiths and Practices Ancient and Modern, Including the Adoration of the Male and Female Powers in Various Nations and the Sacti Puja of Indian Gnosticism. Privately Printed, 1929.
  • O'Donnell, Elliott. Animal Ghosts; or, Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter. London: William Rider & Son, Ltd., 1913. Bp.
  • Rhazis, Le Docteur. L'Amor Perverse; Fetichistes, Sadiques, Masochites, Necrophiles, Stercoraires, Exhibitionnistes, Bestialite. Paris: De Porter, n.d. Collection de Sciences Médicales Élémentaires, No. 14.
  • Waite, Arthur Edward. The Occult Sciences; A Compendium of Transcendental Doctrine and Experiment Embracing an Account of Magical Practices, etc. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., n.d. (first edition was 1891). Bp.