Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ein Kaiser unterwegs (An Emperor en route)

Maximilian accepted the throne of Mexico without ever having seen it-- he was crowned Emperor in 1864 in his residence in Trieste (then part of Austria, now Italy). Once he arrived in Mexico, however, he made strenuous efforts to tour the country and get to know its people, its moneymen and other key players, its natural wonders and, of course, the silver mines. As anyone who tries to write about Mexico's Second Empire soon discovers, Maximilian's (and his consort Carlota's) incessant travels make any chronology of the period headscratchingly complex.

Enter the indispensable Ein Kaiser unterwegs: Die Reisen Maximilians von Mexiko 1864-1867 nach Presseberichten und Privatbriefen* by Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan (Vienna: Böhlau, 2007), which details Maximilian's multitude of journeys in Mexico during the Second Empire. These include his inaugural tours of 1864 and then 1865 to the silver mines; 1865 and 1866 to Cuernavaca; October 1866 through January 1867 to Orizaba and back to the capital; and the final journey to Querétaro in 1867.

A hardcover edition with many rare photographs, documents, and new maps, a bibliography, and an index of biographical names, this is an essential addition to any collection concerning the period.

About the authors: Konrad Ratz has published many works on Maximilian and the Second Empire. His most recent is Tras las huellas de un desconocido: nuevos datos y aspectos de Maximiliano de Habsburgo. Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan is curator of documents and flags in Mexico's National Museum of History, in Chapultepec Castle.

I understand the book will be available in Spanish soon.

*I would translate this as An Emperor En Route: Maximilian of Mexico's Travels 1864-1867, from Press Reports and Private Correspondence.

Next post: next Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Feria Internacional del Libro, Guadajara, November 27th

This Saturday November 27th at 6 pm at the Feria Internacional del Libro in Guadalajara, I will be presenting my novel, El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano (Grijalbo Random House Mondadori), which is the magnificent translation by Agustín Cadena of my novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books).

(Last year, I presented the English version, and blogged about the fair here and here--- and also about Literal, its editor, my amiga Rose Mary Salum, and a little literary history including about Tameme and El corno emplumado. One of the people I was especially happy to see last year was Spanish and Ladino translator Trudy Balch, who, alas, passed away last month in New York. Read Trudy's fascinating guest-blog post about Mexican activist Gaby Brimmer here.)

The two writers who will be presenting my novel at FIL are Carlos Pascual (author of La insurgenta, winner of the Grijalbo award for best bicentennial historical novel), and historian Alejandro Rosas. (Alejandro also presented the English version of the novel in Mexico City last year.)

P.S. Carlos is also an actor; I think he may read a section of the novel.

The details / Los detalles:
27/11/2010
Presentación del libro
El último príncipe del imperio mexicano por C.M. Mayo
Presentan:
Carlos Pascual, Alejandro Rosas
Horario:
18:00 a 18:50
Salón Elías Nandino, planta alta, Expo Guadalajara

The event is free and open to the public.

More anon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Recollections of Maximilian by Marie de la Fère: A Rare English Language Eyewitness Memoir

The historian Robert Ryal Miller mentioned this rare manuscript, a circa 1910 English language handwritten eyewitness memoir of Maximilian, in a letter to me some years ago. He had found it at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, and was preparing an edited and annotated version for publication. Alas, Miller died in 2004 without, as far as I know, having published it. I have not seen what Miller wrote, I am sad to say, for I understand he had identified the author whose name was not — as I too, immediately suspected -- "Marie de la Fère." When I visited the Bancroft as part of my own research for my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, I dutifully looked up this manuscript. I was glad I did, for, among so many other things, it gave me insight into the strong feelings of the monarchists and Maximilian's character.

After Miller's death, as I felt this memoir deserved more readers than we intrepid few who have eyes for microfiches, I wrote to the Bancroft for permission to print it here. This was granted in 2006.

Would that I could offer a more detailed introduction, but this extraordinary memoir has been waiting in my files long enough. (For those of you looking for a basic introduction to Maximilian and the Second Mexican Empire, I can suggest my book, as well as others on the "Maximilian" webpage's links and my own bibliography. Also, Robert Ryal Miller's Mexico: A History gives a brief but fine and very readable overview of the French Intervention / Second Empire.) I have corrected some misspellings and punctuation, though in some places, where it reveals the author's charming linguistic melange, I have left it intact. A few notes appear in brackets rather than footnotes, for ease in reading on-line. In a few places the handwriting was unreadable; these I have noted with brackets around a question mark.

Aside from such very minor blemishes, here, dear reader, is a true literary treasure of the Second Empire.


It seems almost impossible that forty three years have passed since I was a witness and participator in the events connected with Maximilian's reign three brief years in Mexico. My father was a retired American banker and while traveling in Mexico had met and married my mother, who is of Spanish and French descent. When Maximilian landed at Veracruz, I was but seventeen years old. I was old enough to realize and know that Mexican affairs both political and financially were in terrible straights. My father conversed very freely to us in English regarding the status of affairs. His money he trusted to no Mexican bank; everything we had was in New Orleans and he lived on the income accruing from his investments there. When Juarez left the city and we learned that the French troops were steadily advancing in [?] first Orizaba, Puebla and were almost in Mexico City, father wished us to all leave and embark either for New Orleans or Europe, but my mother would not listen to it. Monseñor Labastida, who was always a welcome visitor, had thoroughly imbued her with his ideas of Mexico's coming greatness as soon as the Church party got control of affairs and she was determined to see it out. And again a letter from France notified us that our relative, Mama's uncle, an officer, was coming with the "Interventionists."

On June 10th 1863 my father came home in a hurry saying that the French troops were entering the city, which he had scarcely finished before the cannon commenced their salutes, also the bells of all the churches began ringing, the crowds in the streets were [?] Triumphal arches with pictures of Napoleon and Eugenia wreathed in flowers were in Plateros and San Francisco streets at the Cathedral a Te Deum was chanted in honor of the entrance of General Forey and Saligny with the French troops. In the evening a large reception was given by the Ayuntamiento at the Nacional [sic] Palace in honor of the French officers. CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Henry R. Magruder's Woodcuts of Mexico in 1866

All ten of Henry R. Magruder's woodcuts from his memoir, Sketches of the Last Year of Mexican Empire, are now on-line at my Maximilian on-line reading page. (Once there, if you click on an image, the link will take to you the high res 300 dpi of same.) Henry R. Magruder was the son of ex-Confederate John Magruder who came to Mexico to Mexico in 1866. More about the Confederates soon...

Read my previous post about the author and his memoir here.

Next post next Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dr. J. Marion Sims (January 25, 1813 - November 12, 1883)

One of the enduring mysteries of Mexico's Second Empire is why, after several years of marriage, Maximilian and Carlota could not have children. In my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, which is based on the true story of the scandal of Maximilian's "adoption" of the Emperor Iturbide's grandsons, I leave the reader to continue contemplating the mystery, for there were (and are), so many contradictory theories, many from murky sources and / or clearly and merely malicious gossip and propaganda, and not one of them do I find completely convincing.

That said, there is a theory I favor. I found it in the personal diary of John Bigelow, 1882, which I consulted in the Manuscripts Division of the New York Public Library. The U.S. Minister to France during Mexico's Second Empire / French Intervention, Bigelow later visited Mexico City as a tourist, and there he interviewed Doña Alicia Green de Iturbide, the mother of Agustín de Iturbide y Green, the "last prince." She told Bigelow that Maximilian had tried to engage a Dr Sims of New York to come to Mexico and perform an operation on Carlota, but Dr Sims asked for 30,000 dollars, a staggering sum at that time, and General Almonte refused to support such an expenditure.

Is it true? In all my forays in the archives, I have been unable to find any correspondence with Dr Sims (nor anyone else) on such a matter. However, it can be said that Doña Alicia de Iturbide is a far more credible source than most, for she knew General Almonte (he was the guest honor at her wedding to Angel de Iturbide in 1855, and, in Paris in the summer of 1866, the Almontes and the Iturbides would have been hovering together around the Grand Hotel, in wait for Carlota) and, of course, Doña Alicia herself signed the contract in which the childless Maximilian took custody of her son and nephew in 1865.

In a visit to the New York Historical Society, I did find out this: had Carlota needed surgery, the ideal candidate would have been, indeed, Dr. Sims of New York, for he was the leading gynecologist of his time, well known in Brussels, Vienna, and Paris. Originally from the south, Sims had moved to New York for his health. During the Civil War, he sided with the Confederacy and spent the duration in Paris, where one of his patients was none other than the Empress Eugenie.

Further reading about Dr. J. Marion Sims:

American National Biography, vol. 20, pp. 25-26, Oxford University Press, 1999

The Story of My Life by J. Marion Sims, edited by his son, H. Marion Sims (1884); republished in 1968 with a new preface by C. Lee Burton

Sexual Surgery and the Origins of Gynecology: J. Marion Sims, His Hospital and His Patients, by Deborah Kuhn McGregor, 1990

Women's Surgeon: The Life Story of J. Marion Sims, by Seale Harris, 1950.

And here is a photo and some information about his statue in New York's Central Park.

More anon.

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