Benefactors Day Celebrates ABL Supporters

Aug. 30, 2010

Armstrong Browning Library's annual Benefactors Day will take place on September 30 at 3:30 p.m. in the McLean Foyer of Meditation. A tradition that began in 1999 under the directorship of Dr. Mairi Rennie, Benefactors Day marks the anniversary of the Brownings' wedding month and provides a venue for the Library to thank its gracious supporters. Exhibit cases proudly show off the acquisitions that their generous gifts over the past year have made possible, and donors and supporters of the ABL are honored with a special program featuring a guest lecturer.

This year's Benefactors Day guest lecturer, Dr. David R. Sorensen, professor of English at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, is a senior editor of the Duke-Edinburgh edition of The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle and co-editor of Carlyle Studies Annual. He will speak about the two most famous Victorian marriages, between Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, and Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. His theme, "Selective Affinities: The Browning and Carlyle Marriages," will explore the ways in which these two couples mirrored and shaped Victorian notions of marriages and how they were interpreted in the 20th century.

"The Carlyles and Brownings came to embody the worst and best features of Victorian marriage," says Sorensen, "and to a startling degree, they continue to influence modern notions of what marriage should and should not be."

Sorensen, a guest speaker at the ABL last November, spoke on the influence of Carlyle's work on English poetry and, particularly, on Robert Browning's dramatic monologues. He has previously edited (with K.J. Fielding) a selection of Jane Welsh Carlyle's letters (2004) and a collection of essays entitled The Carlyles at Home and Abroad (2004). He is co-editor of the forthcoming Strouse variorum edition of Carlyle's The French Revolution. In 2009, he received the Tengelmann Award for Distinguished Teaching and Research from Saint Joseph's University. He also received four grants totaling $670,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1999-2012) for the Carlyle Letters Project, which includes the creation and maintenance of Carlyle Letters Online, an open-access Web site that houses the first thirty-five volumes of the collected letters.

Preceding the lecture, KT Sullivan, a New York cabaret and Broadway headliner, will perform Elizabeth Barrett's "Sonnet 21" and Robert Browning's love poem "Now," both set to music by composer and pianist Elizabeth Sullivan, her mother. KT Sullivan has received the Mabel Mercer Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs Outstanding Female Vocalist Award. Named by Irish America magazine as one of the top 100 Irish-Americans, she is married to fellow Irish-American Steve Downey, who also happens to be the president of the New York Browning Society. Sullivan's latest recording, Timeless Tunes, with Jon Weber is available through

A reception will follow the program. This event is free and open to the public.