"An Immortal Book": The Publishing History of the 1912 Edition of Mrs. Spring Fragrance

Wang, Anran, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Vander Meulen, David, AS-English (ENGL), University of Virginia

Despite conscientious scholarly effort in recent years to reconstruct the biography and oeuvre of Edith Maude Eaton, due to decades of popular and critical neglect and dearth of archival evidence, many gaps are still left unfilled and questions unanswered, which leaves assumptions and interpretations of her life and work open to challenge. Drawing upon historical scholarship, archival research, and methods of analytical and descriptive bibliography, this thesis addresses the 1912 edition of Eaton’s Mrs. Spring Fragrance, published by Chicago’s A. C. McClurg and Company. The first chapter presents a survey of the context of Eaton’s life and writing. Eaton’s early life and semi-professional journalism career informed the literary strategies she had taken in her creative writing. Adopting the Chinese pen name Sui Sin Far, Eaton used popular periodicals as an outlet to tell the stories of the Chinese immigrants in America during the Chinese Exclusion Era (1882–1943), upon which Mrs. Spring Fragrance is chiefly predicated. The second chapter deals with the book publishing houses that Eaton had contact with. Informed by recent historical research and drawing on previously undiscovered archival sources, this chapter provides a far more detailed and accurate narrative of Eaton’s book publishing history, including the rejection of two manuscripts by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1909; the acceptance, production, and marketing of the 1912 edition of Mrs. Spring Fragrance by A. C. McClurg and Company; and the book’s reception in the 1910s and reincarnation in recent decades. Finally, Chapter 3 looks closely at the bookmaking of the 1912 McClurg edition of Mrs. Spring Fragrance, with an emphasis on the binding and the paper, and shows how the aestheticization and Orientalization of the design features interact and interfere with Eaton’s text. This thesis explores how Edith Eaton was perceived by and negotiated with the literary marketplace of the turn of the twentieth century, and how 1912 McClurg edition of Mrs. Spring Fragrance, as both a documentary text and a physical object embodying Eaton’s work, was molded by editorial patronage and commercial valuation.

MA (Master of Arts)
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