Monday, August 17, 2009

Arnold T. Schwab and literary research

I was reading the bibliography of a book I just received, The Shield of Achilles, War, Peace, and the Course of History by Philip Bobbitt. My mind wandered back to the time I was being taught how to do literary research. My professor was Arnold T. Schwab. He was working on a biography of Edward MacDowell. The entire class had to do “field work” which consisted of chasing down “leads” about MacDowell in libraries all over Southern California. I wondered if he had ever published that biography and went in search. Schwab was a fussy meticulous fellow – ruthless, when he found any of us misusing grammar or overlooking a typo. I was inspired to buy his book on James Gibbons Huneker and search it for typos, and subsequently tricked him – sort of – into allowing me to read in class the page numbers of the typos I had found in his book – right after he castigated the class about typos being inexcusable. He took it well, and copied down the list of typos I quoted to him. But his face had grown red. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had take my effrontery out on me at grade time, but he didn’t.

The original of the following article has disappeared but I found it “cached”:

Library of Congress Acquires Arnold T. Schwab Archives

Collection Related to Work of Marian Nevins MacDowell

The Library of Congress has acquired the Arnold T. Schwab Collection, an archives of materials related to the life and work of Marian Nevins MacDowell, wife of composer Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) and founder of the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H. The collection was given to the Library by Professor Arnold T. Schwab of Westminster, Calif.; it reflects Professor Schwab's longtime interest in the MacDowell legacy. The Schwab gift joins the Music Division's "Edward and Marian MacDowell Collection" and the Manuscript Division's "Marian MacDowell" and "MacDowell Colony" collections, thereby making the Library of Congress the foremost center for study of the lives of these two important icons of American cultural history.

Dr. Schwab developed an interest in the MacDowells in the 1960s when he was working on a biography of the critic James G. Huneker, a great admirer of Edward MacDowell's music. He eventually gained access to the MacDowell papers and continued to collect letters and reminiscences about Mrs. MacDowell through the years. Because of his involvement with other writing projects, however, Dr. Schwab never was able to write the biography that he had planned.

"I decided, painfully, to give up the material so that I would be sure it would be preserved in what was already the largest public collection of MacDowelliana for the convenient use of some younger scholar who would have the energy to do what I wanted to do," wrote Dr. Schwab recently.

Marian Griswold Nevins, who was born in 1857, was an accomplished pianist when she met Edward MacDowell in Germany, where she had intended to study with Clara Schuman, wife of composer Robert Schumann. Instead, Nevins began her study with MacDowell and eventually married him. After spending time in Europe, the couple returned to the United States settling first in Boston and then in New York, where Edward MacDowell joined the faculty of Columbia University to establish its music department. Edward MacDowell was considered to be the most prominent and internationally recognized American composer of the era.

In 1896, the MacDowells bought a 75-acre farm in Peterborough, N.H., a place that they hoped would be a source of inspiration for the composer. A decline in Edward MacDowell's health, however, prompted them to transform the farm into a place where creative artists could find freedom to concentrate on their work - a goal that would consume Marian MacDowell until her death in 1956.

Included in the collection is an important assemblage of correspondence both to and from Edward and Marian MacDowell, reminiscences of Marian Nevins MacDowell by some of her friends and MacDowell Colonists, photographs and a large number of related materials.

Arnold T. Schwab, who was born in Los Angeles in 1922, received his A.B. from the University of California at Los Angeles, and his master's and doctorate degrees from Harvard University. For most of his career, he was professor of English at California State University, Long Beach; he retired in 1980. Dr. Schwab is the author of numerous scholarly articles, lectures and poems. He has also written several articles on Edward and Marian MacDowell and the MacDowell Colony.

The collection, comprising approximately 19,000 items, is available to researchers in the Performing Arts Reading Room in the Library's James Madison Building, located at 101 Independence Ave. S.E.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your blog about Dr. Schwab after I had related to a friend an old story about doing field work for a demanding, perfectionist professor in the mid-sixties. My first assignment in his literary research class was the name of a person on a card (Fanny Ratchford) and the mission of trying to discover all I could about this person. No Internet in those days. How I fared, of course, would go a long ways in determining my grade. Fortunately, I thrived on such challenges and before long learned the woman's identity, her literary significance, and, most impressive to Dr. Schwab, her exact whereabouts in a Texas hospital and notes from my brief telephone conversation with her.