Author Archives

Michael Guest

Writer and editor, blogger on books and ideas. Former university lecturer and professor.

Gunter Biosnip: Trade in Desires

Archibald Clavering Gunter’s life exhibits the marks of a new breed of author—one that in turn exemplifies an emerging species of individual. Homo Economicus, or ‘economic man’: a term coined initially in reaction to John Stuart Mill’s utilitarianist theory and the eminently sensible-sounding principle that “actions are right […]

Gunter Biosnip: Curse of Popularity

The word “unenthusiastic” well encapsulates Gunter’s critical reception. Observe his appearance in a number of overviews of the history of American letters and theatre. In his Dictionary of American Authors (1899), Adams pronounces Gunter’s “popular sensational romances” as “quite destitute of literary merit” (161). In American Authors, 1600-1900 […]

A.C. Gunter’s Baron Montez of Panama and Paris

Prepare to embark on an idiosyncratic taste thrill, another foray into the paradoxically expanding universe of vanishing literature. This bestselling author-playwright, said to have been better known in his day than his contemporary, Mark Twain (1835-1910), is now reduced to fragments, trivial contributions to popular culture: Played middle-man […]

Cobb Biosnip: Laborare est orare

Knowing nothing of Sylvanus Cobb Jr’s work, let alone the writer himself, Emerson did not realize the offense his remarks would have caused Cobb’s brother (see “Cobb Biosnip: No Yellowbacks”). In her memoir, Sylvanus’ daughter Ella Waite Cobb omits to mention which brother it was. Sylvanus Jr., the […]

Cobb Biosnip: No Yellowbacks

Some years after Cobb began writing for the New York Ledger, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered a public lecture in East Boston. The honour of introducing him happened to fall to one of Cobb’s brothers. On the subject of modern literature, Emerson made a contemptuous mention of “yellow-covered literature […]

Cobb Biosnip: Naval Stint

In 1841 Sylvanus Cobb, Jr. left his job running the printing office for his father’s denominational newspaper, the Christian Freeman, to sign up with the US Navy. Seventeen years of age, he passed himself off as twenty-one, to join the crew of the USS Brandywine on May 31 […]