Library to celebrate John Preston McConnell's birthday

When John Preston McConnell, Radford University's founding president, was born in 1866 in Scott County, Virginia, the world was certainly a different place.

McConnell Library will celebrate the 149th anniversary of the birth of its namesake on Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. with a short commemorative ceremony and cake-cutting.

The celebration provides the RU campus with an important link to the past. But there are more links to the past scattered throughout the building, waiting in the stacks for students and faculty to read, browse and enjoy.

Here are five seminal works published in 1866 - all available in the library – which will offer readers a window into the world into which McConnell was born.


John Preston McConnell, Radford University's founding president.

"Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Remaining one of the most famous works in world literature, "Crime and Punishment" tells the tale of Raskolnikov, a student-turned-murderer who must deal with the mental, social and judicial consequences of his crime. Dostoyevsky was a master at writing about what makes people tick; in addition to still making readers think today, "Crime and Punishment" had a monumental impact on philosophy and literature.

"A Long Fatal Love Chase" by Louisa May Alcott

Before Alcott became a literary sensation with "Little Women" (1868), she wrote sensational adventure stories under a pseudonym, A.M. Barnard. "A Long Fatal Love Chase" was meant to be a Barnard tale but Alcott found it rejected by publisher after publisher. The gothic novel tells the story of the brash, adventurous Rosamond Vivian and her roughish suitor Phillip Tempest, both scandalous characters for mid-19th century readers. The book was finally released in 1995 to acclaim, with critics noting that the dark love story and feminist themes Alcott explored seemed surprisingly modern.

"The Adventures of Captain Hatteras" by Jules Verne

Verne's influence on the adventure and science fiction genres cannot be overstated. In the 1866 edition of "The Adventures of Captain Hatteras," the French author turned his imagination to the then-unexplored wilds of the North Pole. While many of Verne's predictions about the geography of the north were incorrect, the zeal and intensity of Verne's Captain John Hatteras surfaced in later, real- life polar explorers like Robert Peary or Roald Amundsen.

"The Dead Letter, An American Romance" by Metta Victoria Fuller Victor

Not only was "The Dead Letter" (published under Victor's nom de plume Seeley Regester) the first detective novel written by a woman, it is sometimes named as the first American detective novel ever. In it, detective Mr. Burton's quest to find banker Henry Moreland's killer transports modern readers to the streets of 19th-century New York. Victor was prolific author of "dime novels," the cheap, often pulpy stories that are the ancestor of the modern mass-market paperback.

"Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War" by Herman Melville

America in 1866 reeled from the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Authors and artists were quick to confront the tragedies of the period in their work. Herman Melville, of course remembered for "Moby-Dick," turned his thoughts on the war into some of his best poetry in "Battle-Pieces," which he dedicated to all who fought and died to preserve the Union. Selected poems from the work can be found in the Melville collection, "Tales, Poems, and Other Writings," available in McConnell Library.

For more information about McConnell Day or to learn more about these books, visit the library website.

Feb 18, 2015