Alphonso Hopkins' Geraldine (1881 et. seq.)

Since Lucile was a phenomenal best-seller, it has long seemed likely that attempts were made to produce other works in the same style and with similar themes that would compete with it for fame and profit. Early in 2003, we discovered there had been an attempt at this, a novel in verse titled Geraldine, A Souvenir of the St. Lawrence, written by one Alphonso Alva Hopkins, 1843-1918, published in 1881 and reissued a number of times in later years. Remarkably enough, Geraldine was first published by James R. Osgood, who in 1860 as a principal at Ticknor and Fields very likely had a good deal to to with his firm's publication of Lucile; who by 1881 had taken over the remnants of Ticknor & Fields; and who in 1881 also published a massively illustrated Holiday Edition of Lucile!

Hopkin's unpersuasive preface to his book reads (in part) as follows:

Years ago I resolved to write a romance in the style of verse which follows. I chose this style as specially well adapted to a wide variety of expression, and because at that time, so far as I knew, no author had employed it at such length and for such purpose. When it was similarly made use of by an English poet, at a date much more recent than my resolve, his poem's popularity confirmed my choice as wise ; but I have refrained persistently from reading that poem, or hearing it read, or in any way learning of its character, spirit, and scope, lest unconsciously I might borrow of its style or thought. Having now taken leave, so far as probably I ever can, of my own “Geraldine,” I shall devote the earliest leisure accorded me to becoming acquainted with Owen Meredith's “Lucile.”

Geraldine has four major characters (as does Lucile). They are:

Percival Trent – a poet and speaker who travels a great deal;

Geraldine Hope – his fiancé in Rivermet;

Isabel Lee – a witty and beautiful widow who lives “in the style of the Upper / Ten Thousand, who dine very late, and sit down / to their tea at a time when the rest of the town / is asleep.” Her principal initial concern seems to be whether the “longings” poets express are real. She sees in Trent a possibility for exploring this question.

Major Archibald Mellen – an old acquaintance of Trent and a “cousin” of Isabel “by kin or by common consent : / If the former t'was distant.” He met Geraldine some years before at “the Hills” and apparently had fallen in love with her (but she not with him).

A Chapter Outline of Geraldine:

Note: binding shown below is the 1894 Houghton, Mifflin & Co. edition.

I: Of poetry and poets

II. Mellen and Isabel introduced; Isabel is interested in a Trent poem.

III. Trent writes a letter to Geraldine after having dined with Mellen and Isabel.

IV. Trent calls on Isabel again (and again); they talk about poets and poetry.

V. Geraldine is introduced.

VI. Mellen visits Geraldine and (not knowing she is engaged to Trent ) suggests that Trent is falling in love with Isabel.

VII. Trent and Geraldine meet; “more tender than common.”

VIII. Trent vacations alone in the St. Lawrence islands; hears a singing voice; takes out skiff and is run down by a steamboat – Mellen and Isabel are of course aboard the steamboat.

IX. Trent enjoys an outing on the river with Mellen and Isabel.

X. “Days upon days of delight.” Trent writes to Geraldine about them.

XI. Trent and Isabel row on the river and talk; an approaching storm.

XII. They take shelter in a cabin on an island and talk; skiff is gone in the morning.

XIII. They are searched for; the skiff is found; they are reported drowned.

XIV. Geraldine grieves.

XV. Rescued next day by a passing boat; p131 contains a passage on the need to eat.

XVI. Trent and Isabel debate Trent 's going or staying.

XVII. Trent leaves on a steamer; runs rapids.

XVIII. Trent continues on to Quebec .

XIX. Trent writes to Geraldine.

XX. Mellen visits Geraldine. Reinforces Isabel's interest in Trent .

XXI. Trent journeys down the St. Lawrence; writes a poem.

XXII. Geraldine reads a letter from Trent that does not mention Isabel.

XXIII. Trent and Isabel enjoy a tete-a-tete.

XXIV. Trent receives letter from Isabel; he replies.

XXV. Trent , traveling, stops in on Geraldine.

XXVI. Trent again meets Isabel, “by chance.”

XXVII. Trent travels West, thinking about Isabel and Geraldine.

XXVIII. Trent, in a mining town, picks up letters from Isabel and Geraldine; Geraldine's letter informs him that she gives him up.

XXIX. Trent finds a dying man in a canyon: Isabel's long-departed husband (who abandoned her because she had shown her “5th cousin,” Mellen, too much attention).

XXX. Mellen visits Geraldine; makes clears his passion for her.

XXXI. Trent, unwell, in the mountains.

XXXII. Trent, revived by a storm, comes near dying for lack of water.

XXXIII. Trent calls on Isabel; describes her husband's death and returns his wallet.

XXXIV. Trent recovering his health; writes two poems.

XXXV. Trent performs in Rivernet; reconnects with Geraldine; finis: Mellen's and Isabel's marriage is announced in newspaper.

Geraldine, p130-131, a passage reminiscent of Meredith:

----------------------------------- And faint
With their fasting, no longer inclined to complaint,
They had languidly noted the beauties abounding,
The merriment over the still water sounding,
And heeded but little the comment they caused.
When at length the slow steamer reluctantly paused
At a rickety wharf, they went gladly ashore,
While the vessel backed off, and its proper course bore
Further on.
------------- Man is mortal. There's nothing so tells
Of mortality, nothing so certain repels
The romance of our being, the essence and spirit
Of life, as the hunger that feeds it. Mean fear it,
And flee it; and yet in their folly they nurse it
With spices and tonics, till wretched they curse it,
And die of dyspepsia and doctors. The greed
Of the animal dominates over the need
Of the heart and the brain. And all sentiment waits
Upon hunger; is happy or hurt as the fates
Of the stomach decree. The day's measure is dinner.
Man loves like a saint; but he eats like a sinner,
Forgetting his love till his appetite flies,
But remembering well when capacity cries
To be spared.
---------------- At a quaint little inn they were greeted
By fare not too fine, when at last they were seated
Before it. But hunger for diet the meanest
Gives sauce that is lively, and relish the keenest.
They ate as if love were a manna untasted
In wilderness ways; as if hearts had but hasted
Their good to forget, or the lingering pain
Of their sorrowful hurt in a marvelous gain.

Announcements of Geraldine's Publication

Geraldine, a souvenir of the St. Lawrence. Boston: James R, Osgood & Co., 1881. 321 p. 8v0 cl $1.25.  A narrative poem by an anonymous author said to be a well-known American poet, who prefers for the present to withhold his name : it is similar in rhyme and thought to Owen Meredith's “Lucile” although the writer disclaims in his preface ever having read “Lucile;” it is a story of love, passion, and retribution having but four characters -- a young poet and his betrothed, a coquettish widow and skeptical man of the world; it is full of fine passages and really a meritorious work. “Weekly Record of New Publications.” The Publishers’ Weekly No. 506, September 24, 1881.

The Book-Buyer's Guide. [James R. Osgood & Co. advertisement]. “ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR SEPTEMBER.” Scribner's Monthly ( New York ). XXII:6 (October 1881), back material. [Holiday edition is also announced]. Geraldine : A Souvenir of the St. Lawrence (16mo, $1.25), is a poetical romance of great beauty and power, told in smooth and flowing verse, and containing brilliant descriptions, of the scenery of the Thousand Islands, and of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. A strange and fascinating story of divided love, noble ambition, and wounded conscience fills these scenes of natural beauty.

Two contemporary reviews of Geraldine

The Critic. October 8, 1881.
"Geraldine: A Souvenir of the St. Lawrence.” $1.25. Boston: J. R. Osgood & Co.

'GERALDINE' is a story in verse by one who is said to be "a well-known poet," though he prefers to let his achievement be pronounced upon without the help of his name. It is written in that most inappropriate of all metres for a poem of great length – the anapestic -- whose rhythm, however musically managed, becomes monotonously wearisome before twenty pages are read, Owen Meredith's 'Lucile' to the contrary notwithstanding. That 'Lucile' should be so popular in spite of being weighted with this unfortunate measure, is proof that it has innate qualities as a novel of society to bear it along through its lilting anapestic dance. The author of 'Geraldine' sets forth a brief prose preface, in which he asserts that he planned his poem and selected his rhythm before 'Lucile' appeared: and, that he might not be influenced by the latter work, he forbore reading it until his own metrical romance was in print. It is well his readers have this explanation; otherwise they would he sure to accuse him of receiving suggestions from the English poet. Not that 'Geraldine' shows the culture, or the knowledge of men, or the keen analysis of character, or the wit of 'Lucile'; but it is moulded after the same pattern, though with a difference as between satin and serge. As to the morale of 'Geraldine,' it is higher in its stern lessons of duty, it is stronger in its' pure teachings of a gracious Christianity than 'Lucile,' which is written from a worldly standpoint; but its art is far inferior, and its poetic and intellectual status much narrower. It is surprising that one who can handle the anapestic measure so musically on one page should write so prosaically on the next. Take two paragraphs, selected at random:

------------------------------"What of death?
The one heritage truly; the silence that saith
To all care and all effort, 'Be still?' -- the one blessing
The poorest of all may be sure of possessing;
The rest from all fever; the peace from all pain;
The one antidote certain for life's bitter bane;
All humanity's right, that Divinity gave
When He peopled the earth and permitted a grave."

The next one we open upon is plain prose, though written in measured lines: "They were out of the track of the steamers that plied the American channel: It happened beside that no boat from the Canada ports came along until noon: When it came, on its decks were a throng full of riotous mirth, on a pleasure-trip bent to the village some miles from the Bay." Or this: "Dinners out-doors should be eaten quite merrily ever: for half of the pleasure you take in it, lies to the jovial mirth you make in it. The butter that's 'come,' may have hastened by running; mosquitoes persistent with bills, keep a-dunning: the table is always a doubtful thing, under its showy pretences, and causes a wonder if crockery rests in a state of security."

We will not give even a résumé of the story, which is wholly one of love, and deals with but four characters, two women and as many men, each being to the other the traditional foil. There is a great deal of philosophic and metaphysical talk about poets -- their mission, their transcendent power, their ability to sway the world -- and some of it is very true; but the author has selected odd times and places for its introduction. Geraldine, who gives the volume its title, is a somewhat nebulous creature -- one of those pale, passive, yielding beings, who have no "grit," and feel it to be a Christian duty always to give way. Yet it must be conceded that there is some fine reasoning and much pathos in her tearful soliloquies. The scenic descriptions of the story are often touched with warm color, as in the passage of "La Chine," and the sail up "the Saguenay's stillness;" and the companion-pictures of "Cape Eternity" and "Cape Trinity." But every now and then the narrative runs into the guide-book fashion -- e.g.,

-------------------"The next morn they made fast
To the wharf at Quebec, and Trent hastened by rail
To the hills of New Hampshire."

Upon the whole, after carefully weighing 'Geraldine's' merits, we do not think 'Lucile' is overshadowed.

The Literary World; a Monthly Review of Current Literature; November 26, 1887.
Geraldine: A Souvenir of the St. Lawrence. [Ticknor & Co., $3.50.]

We are at a loss to understand just why the anonymous poem of Geraldine, published some years ago, should be supposed to merit the honor now accorded it of an expensive reprint with illustrations. It is a metrical story in the measure of Owen Meredith's Lucile, turning on the fortunes of a so-called "poet" named Percival Trent. The specimens given of Percival's poetry would not incline us to place him in the front rank of the guild, but he manifests a truly poetical aptitude for collecting "material" out of his own experiences, the chief occupation of his life being a sort of double-ended love affair of the seesaw variety, between two ladies, to one of whom he is, and to the other of whom he ought to be, engaged. When he is not exchanging deep soul utterances with his bethrothed Geraldine Hope, who is a maiden of spiritual turns of mind and phrase, he is kissing the bewitching Mrs. Lee on desert islands, or sailing with her hand in hand up the St. Lawrence -- a course of action which in plain prose might be called dishonorable, but which in the case of a poet may find extenuation. Only it seems to us that in that case the poet should write better poetry, and not mask his infidelities with such needless devoutness of utterance or quite so many appeals to Deity! The illustrations here accompanying the poem have been conscientiously made, and the book has a "dressy" look.

The Writings of Alphonso Alva Hopkins, 1843-1918 (as condensed from NUC Pre-1956 records):

The Triumphs of Duty; or, The Merchant Prince and His Heir. A Tale for the World. By the author of “Geraldine,” “A Tale of Conscience,” Etc. Boston: P. Donohue, 1863.

Asleep in the Sanctum, and other poems. New York: Sheldon & Co., 1873; 1874.

His Prison Bars; and, The Way of Escape. Rochester: Rural Home Publishing Co.; New York: Hurd and Houghton, [1874]; [1875]; New Voice Press, 1901. [same as?] John Bremn. Boston: [1877]; John Bremn. His Prison Bars. A Temperance Story. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1888.

Newspaper Poets; or Waifs and Their Authors. Rochester: Rural Home Publishing Co., 1876. [As] Waifs, and Their Authors. Boston: D. Lothrop, [1879]; [1880].

Our Sabbath Evening; Home Meditations in Prose and Verse. D. Lothrop & Co., [1880].

Geraldine, A Souvenir of the St. Lawrence. Boston: J.R. Osgood & Co., 1881; 1882; 1885; Ticknor & Co., 1887; 1888; [1889] 15th Edition; Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1890; 1891; 1892; 1894; 1896; 1898; 1899; 1909.

Sinner and Saint. A Story of the Woman's Crusade. A Novel. Boston: D. Lothrop & Co., [1881]; New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1888; Chicago: New Voice Press, 1902.

The Powers Fire-Proof Commercial and Fine Arts Buildings. Rochester: E.R. Andrews, 1883.

The Life of Clinton Bowen Fisk. With a brief sketch of John A. Brooks. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1888; 1890.

In Memoriam: Clinton B. Fisk, December 8, 1828-July 9, 1890. [Memorial address delivered at Harriman, Tennessee, August 7, 1890]. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1890.

Wealth and Waste. The principles of political economy in their application to the present problems of labor, law, and the liquor trade. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1895. New York: New Lincoln Chautauqua Ed. Rev., 1910.

Prohibition from the Front Porch. An Echo of the McKinley Campaign. An Address delivered at the Prohibition State Convention of New York in Syracuse, September 7, 1897. J.B. Lyon, 1897.

Ballads of Brotherhood. New York: [circa 1900].

Profit and Loss in Man. New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1909.

The Bugle of Right; What the Old Flag Said and Other Poems of the New Patriotism. New York: Funk & Wagnall's Co., 1913

Our Army and How to Know it. New York: 1918.

Last revised: 13 August 2010