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By the Candelabra's Glare

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By the Candelabra's Glare is a 1898 collection of poems composed by L. Frank Baum. One of his earliest works, the book was a signficiant step in Baum's evolution from amateur to professional author.

The book

Baum's first literary volume, Mother Goose in Prose, was published in 1897 by the Chicago firm Way & Williams. The book was attractively produced, with illustrations by Maxfield Parrish; but its relatively high price for a children's book limited its commercial success. Way & Williams went out of business in 1898.

For his second book, Baum reverted to the amateur mode. He had had his own printing press as a youth, and had created a family newspaper; in 1898 he obtained another machine, "a large foot-power printing press"[1] and some cases of type, and installed his equipment in a basement room in his home at 68 Humboldt Park Boulevard. He then personally printed and bound 99 copies of a collection of his verse. (His sons took over the press when their father was done with it.)

Help from friends

Baum had lived in Chicago since 1891, and as a member of the Chicago Press Club he was part of a circle of the city's journalist, newspaper artist, and publishers. He solicited a coterie of friends to help him with his vanity project; he "relied on friends in the publishing trade to provide the paper, zinc etchings, inks, [and] all other materials, including the illustrations."[2] Eight local artists supplied sixteen pictures for the book. The eight were:

Baum dedicated the book to friend (and future creditor) Harrison Rountree.

The verse

The 41 poems in the collection include sentimental and humorous verses that Baum had composed over the preceding years, some of which had been printed in newspapers, including Baum's own South Dakota paper, the Aberdeen Pioneer. One of the poems is "La Reine est Mort — Vive La Reine," a humorous look at early feminists.

Another poem, "Two Women," provides a more serious view of the same subject, in a contrast between "woman Old" and "woman New." "Nance Adkins," a poem from the South Dakota years (it had appeared in The Aberdeen Pioneer on 1 March 1890), has a farm wife as its heroine.

The poem "The Heretic" criticizes what Baum called "selfish Christianity." A section of "Cycling Verse" responds to the bicycling craze of the time.[3]

The title

In a prefatory note, Baum admitted that he wrote by gaslight, not candlelight. The title of the collection derived from a candelabra design done by Charles Costello.

Contents

Semi-Sentimental Verse:

  • "By the Candelabra's Glare"
  • "T'other Day"
  • "Right at Last"
  • "Time's Vagaries"
  • "Her Answer"
  • "My Quandary"
  • "My First Love"
  • "The Green-Eyed Monster"
  • "Jessie, My Queen"
  • "A Sonnet to My Lady's Eye"
  • "Tell Me"
  • "At Last"

Cycling Verse:

Unsorted Verse:

A Further List of Titles:

Children's Verse:

Aftermath

Though the book was a privately-printed vanity project, it led to Baum's first literary and commercial breakthrough. The final section of the book features nine Baum poems for children; Baum decided to expand this into a new collection. The result was his and Denslow's Father Goose, the major pathbreaking success that launched Baum's literary career. (Two poems appear in both books — "Who's Afraid" and "Where Do They Go?")

Copies of the original edition of By the Candelabra's Glare are "now extremely rare and much sought by collectors."[4] A facsimile edition was issued in 1981.

Notes

  1. Rogers, p. 58.
  2. Hearn, p. 45.
  3. Rogers, pp. 65-6.
  4. Gardner, p. 331.

References

  • L. Frank Baum. By the Candelabra's Glare. Introduction by Peter E. Hanff. Delmar, NY, Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1981.
  • Martin Gardner. The Night is Large: Collected Essays, 1938–1995. New York, Macmillan, 1997.
  • Michael Patrick Hearn. "The Hatching of Father Goose." The Baum Bugle, Vol. 43 No. 3 (Winter 1999), pp. 45-55.
  • Katharine M. Rogers. L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography. New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002.

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