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This year an IC professor and one of his former students coincidentally announced that they had each discovered previously unknown letters by famous literary figures.

Michael Twomey, Dana Professor of Humanities and Arts, has discovered a previously unknown text in the medieval legend of King Arthur: a letter in which the fictional character Morgan le Fay speaks satirically about the historical personage Piers Gaveston, the royal favorite of England's King Edward II (who reigned 1307-1327). The letter draws a moral from the downfall of Gaveston, who was executed by the earls of Lancaster and Warwick in 1312.

The letter, written in the French of medieval England, is in a manuscript in the British Library, London. It had been overlooked by catalogs of Arthurian and medieval French texts. Twomey's discovery will be published in the annual journal, Arthurian Literature, volume 25 (2008), published in Cambridge, England.

Steven Hartman (English, 1982; M.F.A., American University, 1991; Ph.D., SUNY Albany, 2003), senior lecturer in American literature and culture in the English department of Vxj University, Sweden, has discovered a letter by Henry David Thoreau to Ralph Waldo Emerson that was previously believed to be lost. Hartman found the letter in a volume of Thoreau's writings owned by the National Library of Sweden.

Among other things, the letter tells of Thoreau's first encounter with Henry James, Sr., and it records Thoreau's mostly unfavorable impressions of life in New York in the 1840's, when Thoreau was living in Staten Island and tutoring the children of Emerson's brother.

Of the thirty known letters that Thoreau wrote to Emerson, this letter is one of three presumed to have been lost or destroyed; and it is the only one of Thoreau's letters to Emerson to have been discovered outside the United States. The National Library of Sweden announced Hartman's discovery (in Swedish) on its website.

For more information about these literary discoveries, please contact:

Michael Twomey
Charles A. Dana Professor of Humanities and Arts
Department of English
Muller 329
Telephone: 607-274-3564
E-mail: twomey@ithaca.edu

English Professor and Alumnus Discover Lost Literary Letters | 0 Comments |
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