Douglas, Lloyd C.: The Robe
(researched by Melissa Meyers)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Lloyd C. Douglas. The Robe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First American edition published in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
351 leaves, [6]pp.[1]2-27[28]29-54[55]56-79[80]81-101[102] 103-126[127]128-153[154]155-180[181]182-208[209] 210-243[244]245-262 [263]264-285[286]287-305[306] 307-321[322]323-349[350] 351-383[384]385-412 [413]414-442[443]444-461 [462]463-507[508]509-550 [551]552-569[570]571-603 [604]605-633[634]635-667 [668]669-695[1]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Includes publisher advertisement for THE ROBE in front fly leave. On back fly leave is an excerpt from an interview with the author originally published in the New York Times. The book is dedicated to Hazel McCann. It is neither edited nor introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The end papers attached to both the front and back covers are printed with a map of the Mediterranean lands in which the story takes place. The maps are drawn in dark blue on cream paper.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
Page size: 206mm x 140mm Text size: 171mm x 100mm Font size: 97R, Serif Readability of the book is excellent, with 20mm left and right margins and margins of 10mm at the top and 25mm at the bottom. Chapters are numbered in font size 140R but are without titles. The first word in each chapter is in uppercase. Additionally, each page other than the first page in each chapter is headed with THE ROBE written in uppercase. Chapters are split into subsections, which are indicated by a dotted line, with each break indicating a change of setting in the story. When the characters in the story read from fictional printed material, such as letters and notices, the font size is reduced to 81R. Examples of this can be found on pp. 25 and pp. 280-285 of the first edition.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The book is printed on machine-made cream-colored paper that is still in very good condition. Wear is even throughout.
11 Description of binding(s)
Dark orange, calico-texture non-embossed trade cloth binding. The front cover and spine are stamped with a diagonal 3cm grid pattern in non-gilt dark red and dark blue that resembles plaid; the front cover is stamped with an ornate LCD in dark blue with a dark red grapevine motif in the background. The top of the pages is stained dark blue, and the foredge and bottom of the pages are uncut. The dust jacket is printed in many colors to resemble a stained glass window, and along the bottom edge is a drawing of a Mediterranean-looking horizon. The title of the book is printed in yellow that varies from light to dark; the author's name is in light red. Transcription of front cover: LCD Transcription of front jacket cover: The Robe / LLOYD C. / DOUGLAS / The story of the soldier who tossed for Christ's robe and won. Transcription of spine: The / Robe / DOUGLAS / H.M.Co. Transcription of jacket spine: The / Robe / LLOYD C. / DOUGLAS / HOUGHTON / MIFFLIN CO.
12 Transcription of title page
Transcription of title page: LLOYD C. DOUGLAS / The / Robe / (The Riverside Press Cambridge) / 1942 HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY Boston Transcription of verso of title page: COPYRIGHT, 1942, BY LLOYD C. DOUGLAS / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO REPRODUCE / THIS BOOK OR PARTS THEREOF IN ANY FORM / THE RIVERSIDE PRESS / CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS / PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
No information on manuscript holdings is available at this time.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
On the title page, "The Robe" is printed in a dark red ink. The particular copy studied here is from the Taylor collection held in University of Virginia Special Collections. On the inside of the front cover is a nameplate inscribed with the names Lillian Gary Taylor and Robert C. Taylor. Glued to the back of the front end paper are two letters, dated January 13, 1943 and February 24, 1943, from the author to Lillian Taylor, obviously in response to a question on her behalf.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Book Club Edition 1942, 1969, 1975-Boston, 472 p.; 22 cm. Illustrated Edition 1947-Boston, 508 p. col. illus.; 24 cm. Braille Edition 1946-Boston, 7 v.; 30 cm. Notes: Braille Edition. Grade Two. Printed for The Library of Congress at the Braille Institute of America Mariner Books Edition 1999-Boston, 508 p., 22 cm.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
There were at least 65 impressions of the first edition. Source: Publisher's Weekly, WorldCat, Bibliofind
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Houghton Mifflin Company 1942, 1950, 1961, 1975, 1986, 1999-Boston, 508 p.; 21 cm. 1942-Boston, 3 p.l., 695 p.; 22 cm. 1942, 1943, 1944, 1946-Boston, 556 p.; 21 cm. Series: Literary Classics 1953-Boston, 472 p.; 22 cm. Bantam 1984-New York; Toronto, 537 p.; 23 cm. Series: The Greatest Historical Novels Collier 1942-New York, 695 p.; 23 cm. Corgi 1942, 1976-London, 543 p., 18 cm. Notes: Originally published: London, P. Davies, 1943. Consolidated Book Publishers 1942, 1943-Boston, 695 p.; 22 cm. Peoples Book Club edition 1942, 1944-Chicago, 556 p.; 22 cm. Council on Books in Wartime 1942, 1943-New York, 479 p.; 12 x 17 cm. Note: "Published by arrangement with Houghton Mifflin Company" Editions for the Armed Services 1942, 1944-New York, 479 p.; 12 x 17 cm. Note: "Published by arrangement with Houghton Mifflin Company" G.K. Hall & Company 1995-Thorndike, ME, 856 p. (large print); 24 cm. Grosset & Dunlap 1942, 1945-New York, 508p.; 20 cm. International Collectors Library 1942-Garden City, NY, 472 p.; 22 cm. J.G. Ferguson 1942-Chicago, 472 p.; 22 cm. Series: Twentieth Century Classics Macmillan Library Reference 1995 Large Type Edition P. Davies 1942, 1949-London, 496 p.; 21 cm. 1942-London, 296 p.; 20 cm. Peoples Book Club 1942-Chicago, 508 p., 23 cm. Pocket Books 1942, 1958, 1966, 1973-New York, 612 p.; 17 cm. Series: Pocket Cardinal Edition Reader's Digest Association "World's Best Reading" Series 1993-Pleasantville, NY, 510 p., color illustrations; 24 cm. Reprint Society 1947-London, 559 p.; 19 cm. Riverside Press 1944-Boston, 508 p. Thomas Allen 1943-Toronto, 695 p., 22 cm. Sources: WorldCat, Eureka, Interloc, Bibliofind
6 Last date in print?
February, 2000
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
3,724,391 total copies sold Source: Hackett, Alice Payne. 70 Years of Bestsellers, 1895-1975. New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1967. 3,132,288 total hard cover copies sold Source: ibid.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
In the first two years of publication, over one million copies had been sold. In June of 1943, the book was selling for $2.75 (as it did throughout most of the Forties, and by April of 1945, around 1.25 million copies had been sold. The Peoples Book Club printed 900,000 copies, and and overseas edition printed 500,000 copies. When the book again reached the bestseller lists in November of 1953, the price had dropped to $1.98. Yet by late February of 1954, prices had risen to $3.75. After extensive research, this was the most complete information that could be found. Sources: Hackett, Alice Payne. 70 Years of Best Sellers, 1895-1975. New York: R.R. Bowker and Company, 1977. Mott, Frank Luther. Golden Multitudes: The Story of Best Sellers in the United States. New York: Macmillan Company, 1967. Publisher's Weekly, v.143 #23,24, v. 164 #22, v.165 #1,7
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Advertisements from Publisher's Weekly, 1942. Ad placed by Houghton Mifflin Company. A Preliminart Word to the Trade About the New Douglas Novel. The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas surpasses anything this author has written so far. Douglas is already known as one of the most masterful storytellers of our time. In THE ROBE his great narrative skill reaches new effectiveness. The wealth of incident, robust characterization, reality of setting, and philosophical undertones give this book a substance to be found nowhere else in Douglas's work. THE ROBE will not only be bought by the usual large Douglas audience, but also, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, its unusual power will extend the Douglas audience to another and even larger group. We refer you to the next two pages for the key facts about the book. (next page) THE ROBE We expect the novel to outsell both GREEN LIGHT and WHITE BANNERS. This is a long novel in the tradition of Quo Vadis and Ben Hur. Adventure, love, trial, and hope are here combined to make a novel which will be read with mounting tension and excitement, and remembered by thousands as "one of the best books they have EVER read." The main characters: A young Roman Patriarch--relative of Emperor Tiberius--and his cultured Greek slave and friend. It is the social, military, and intellectual world of a people who regarded the Gods of the Greeks, the Romans, and the Jews with cynical disdain. It is the story of how the news of a new King struck the people of a worldly-wise generation. Advertising appropriation is $1500 initial. The largest pre-publication figure we have ever set for a novel." Price: $2.75 Source: Publisher's Weekly, v.142, #14
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
N/A
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Film: Asbury Theological Seminary, 1989- Wilmore, KY. Color. CBS/Fox Video, 1953-New York. 134 minutes. Color. Starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature and Michael Rennie. Also available in Closed Caption, Wide Screen editions. Video released in 1953. Re-released in 1980 by Magnetic Video Corporation. Re-released in 1980, 1982, 1987 and 1989 by CBS/Fox Video. Re-released in 1992 by FoxVideo, Inc. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation 1953-Hollywood, CA, 1 v. (various pagings); 30 cm. Notes: Film script from the 1953 movie based on the novel, written by Philip Dunne. 1953-Hollywood, CA, 328 p.; 30 cm. Shooting Final edition. Notes: Mimeographed film script; numbered shots, dialogue and action; dated January 15, 1953; script written by Philip Dunne. Theatre: McGreevey, John. The Robe, a play in three acts dramatized from the novel. Dramatic Pub. Co., 1952-Chicago, 77p., illustrated; 19 cm. Mc Greevey, John. The robe of the Galilean: an Easter play in one act. Dramatic Pub. Co., 1954-Chicago, 25 p., illustrated; 19 cm. Recordings: Books on Tape, 1984-Newport Beach, CA. 16 sound cassettes, 24 hours: analog. Read by Bob Erickson. Literary Digest, 1983. One sound cassette: analog, 1 7/8 ips.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Chinese: Leu, Nai-ying. Hsiang-kang: Chi to chiao fu chiao chu pan she, 1955. 745 p.; 19 cm. French: Moleyne, Claude. Genaeve: J. H. Jeheber, 1945. 467 p.; 18 x 13 cm. German: Stuttgart: Stuttgarter Hausbucherei, 1945, 1955. 502 p.; 21 cm. Rotten, Elisabeth. Zeurich: Steinberg Verlag, 1945. 495 p.; 20 x 13 cm. Rotten, Elisabeth. Zeurich: Diana-Verlag, 1967. 487 p.; 21 cm. Hungarian: Budapest: Kiadja a reformaatus szinati iroda Sajtaoosztaalya, 1984. 739 p.; 19 cm. Italian: Milano: Rizzoli, 1954, 1958, 1963, 1979. 536 p.; 22 cm. Polish: Skibniewska, Maria. Warszawa: Paz & Palabra Wydawn. Misjonarzy Klaretynow, 1993. 571 p.; 19 cm. Warszawa: Instytut Wydazniczy Pax, 1990. 438 p.; 21 cm. Pisarczyk, Wieslaw. London: Vertitas, 1956. 2 v.; 20 cm. Spanish: Barcelona: Bruguera, 1942. 670 p. Buenos Aries: Editorial Guillermo Kraft, 1954. 1955. 622 p.; 20 cm. Mexico: Latino Americana, 1956. 622 p. Third Edition: 1963, 543 p. Unknown languages: Amsterdam: Amsterdamsche Boek-en Courantmij, 1957. 481 p. Helsinki: Tammi, 1948. 617 p., 23 cm. Lisboa: Editorial Minerva, 1964. 4 v.; 16 cm.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
Although there were no sequels or prequels to the novel, a sequel was created in film, which was a continuation of the movie based on the novel. This film, "Demetrius and the Gladiators," is based on a character created by Lloyd C. Douglas in The Robe. Los Angeles, CA: FoxVideo Inc, 1954, 1992. Videocassette; 101 minutes. Starring Victor Mature.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
More biographical information about Lloyd C. Douglas is available in Katherine Goktepe's entry on MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION. Lloyd C. Douglas published THE ROBE, by far his most popular novel, in October of 1942. He was already 65 years old when this bestseller hit the market; in fact, his literary career did not begin until he resigned from his ministering job at the age of 52. THE ROBE came out over 13 years later than his first novel. In that time Douglas became a more complex and practiced writer, although critical reception remained mixed for all of his novels (Seymour-Smith, 736). All of his novels, essays, and short stories relied on his spiritual background for thematic and creative inspiration. Douglas maintained a close and personal relationship with his readers throughout his literary career. At the height of his popularity, the years around the publication of THE ROBE, he was receiving on average 100 letters a week from fans (Magill, 565). From one such letter came Douglas' inspiration for THE ROBE. Hazel McCann, a department store clerk from Ohio, wrote and asked what Douglas thought had happened to Christ's garments after the crucifixion. Douglas immediately began working on THE ROBE, sending chapter by chapter to the salesgirl. The author and Hazel finally met in 1941, and it is to her that Douglas has dedicated THE ROBE (Newsweek). The popularity of the novel and the author increased even after his death with the 1956 release of the film version of THE ROBE. Two years after THE ROBE was published, and while it was still on the top of the bestseller lists, Douglas' wife, Besse, died. The author was traumatized, and soon thereafter extreme arthritis and fatigue caused him to move to Las Vegas to live with his daughter (Garraty, 800). Despite his failing spirits, however, Douglas was able to produce one last bestseller, and in 1948 THE BIG FISHERMAN topped the bestseller lists with over 1.3 million copies sold (Garraty, 800). By tracing the spiritual concepts presented in Douglas' writings over the 19 years of his literary career, readers can see that the author himself underwent a type of "spiritual pilgrimage" (Garraty, 800). In his earlier writings, such as THOSE DISTURBING MIRACLES, Douglas is seen struggling to logically define and comprehend the complexities of Christianity. Fifteen years later, nearing the end of his career, Douglas claims that he has completely acknowledged the complexities and mysteries of his faith. Perhaps this coming to terms has something to do with his increasing illness and fatigue; nevertheless, THE ROBE and THE BIG FISHERMAN are undoubtedly his most theologically complex novels (Seymour-Smith, 736). Although Douglas' work was never acclaimed by critics, the author was nonetheless adored by his many fans, who found inspiration and consolation in his writing. As the author himself said, "If my novels are entertaining I am glad, but they are not written so much for the purpose of entertainment as of inspiration. There are many people who realize their great need of ethical and spiritual counsel, but are unwilling to look for it in a serious homily or didactic essay. It has been my belief that many such persons can be successfully approached by a novel, offering in a form palatable to them the inspiration they seek" (Davis). Douglas reached many people during his lifetime, which lasted from August 27, 1877 until February 13, 1951. He died in Los Angeles, California after spending a life devoted to his family, his religion, and his writing. SOURCES: American National Biography, Vol. 6. Edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Browning, D.C. Everyman's Dictionary of Literary Biography, English and American. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1958. Cyclopedia of World Authors, Revised Third Edition. Vol. 2. Edited by Frank N. Magill. Pasadena, California: Salem Press, 1997. "Inside the Robe." Newsweek. July 19, 1943: p.58-62 Twentieth Century Authors. Edited by E.L. Davis. 1942. World Authors, 1900-1950, Vol. 1. Edited by Martin Seymour-Smith and Andrew C. Kimmens. New York: The H.W. Wilson Co., 1996.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
For being one of the greatest bestsellers of all time, with over 6 million copies sold and over 20 translations, the critics seem to have very little to say about THE ROBE. Perhaps this is due to the perception of Lloyd C. Douglas as a preacher and not a novelist; nonetheless, after such astronomical sales figures one would expect to find a plethora of reviews and commentaries. For this researcher, at least, this was not the case. Such deliberate ignorance on the part of the critics is noted in Edmund Wilson's article in THE NEW YORKER about THE ROBE and its super-selling phenomenon. "THE ROBE, by Lloyd C. Douglas, has become, from the point of view of sales, one of the great literary successes of all time," Mr. Wilson claims, almost two years after the initial publication of the novel. "It is time, then, for this department, which did not mention THE ROBE when it first came out, to take cognizance of Dr. Douglas." In the remainder of his article, the author claims to be, as he so eloquently puts it, "surprised" by the novel. His expectations, it seems, were nothing higher than he would expect from "the usual trash aimed at Hollywood." Perhaps this also somewhat explains the critics reactions, or lack thereof, about the novel; it seems that they didn't think they would find anything worthy of criticism. But the sales figures prove the opposite, or at least it would seem. Douglas, according to NEWSWEEK, was averaging over 100 letters a week in July of 1943, all of them from fans who claim that his writings have changed their lives. Douglas himself thought that the popularity of THE ROBE was due to "a growing spiritual awareness" that occurred during the first years of the novel. Yet time seems negate that statement; after all, sales of THE ROBE are still steady, with the book still in print, and contemporary review from readers are overwhelmingly glowing (see the following section on "Current Reception".) Mr. Wilson hints that the popularity of THE ROBE may be due to Douglas' ability to connect with his readers. He claims that Douglas has made this historical novel approachable by "diluting the old, grandiose novel of ancient Rome with a jargon that sounds as if Dr. Douglas had picked it up during the years when, as the publishers' leaflet tells us, he was a counsellor of college students at the Universities of Michigan and Illonois." Yet he goes on to criticize Douglas for exactly this ability: "Dr. Douglas has woven, in THE ROBE, an almost unrivalled fabric of old cliches, in which one of the only attempts at a literary heightening of effect is the substitution for the simple "said" of other, more pretentious verbs..." He goes on, "It is so difficult, when one first glances at THE ROBE, to imagine that any literate person with even the faintest trace of literary taste could ever get through more than two pages of it for pleasure that one is astounded and terrified at the thought that seven million Americans have found something to hold them in." It seems that Douglas has answered this question for him. In an article that Douglas wrote for COSMOPOLITAN, he claims that any novel that deals with Jesus without identifying itself with any particular Christian sect is sure to be a success. And Douglas adds that THE ROBE had a special attraction around the time of the war; people wanted to read about healing and spiritual growth, an escape from the terrifying things happening in the world around them. TIME magazine seems to agree with him; it claims that THE ROBE caused "men everywhere [to] soberly reexamine their customs, ideas and beliefs" in light of the war going on around them. SOURCES: Douglas, Lloyd C. "We're Getting Along." THE ROTARIAN: June 1944, p. 8-9. Douglas, Lloyd C. "Why I wrote 'The Robe'". COSMOPOLITAN: June 1944. Wilson, Edmund. "Inquiry into a current bestseller: The Robe." THE NEW YORKER: August 26, 1944: p. 58-62. "Inside The Robe." NEWSWEEK. July 19, 1943: p. 66-68. "U.S. at War." TIME. January 3, 1944: p. 16. "War & Religion." PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY. February 14, 1944: p. 864-865.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
For being one of the greatest bestsellers of all time, with over 6 million copies sold and over 20 translations, the critics seem to have very little to say about THE ROBE. Perhaps this is due to the perception of Lloyd C. Douglas as a preacher and not a novelist; nonetheless, after such astronomical sales figures one would expect to find a plethora of reviews and commentaries. For this researcher, at least, this was not the case. Such deliberate ignorance on the part of the critics is noted in Edmund Wilson's article in THE NEW YORKER about THE ROBE and its super-selling phenomenon. "THE ROBE, by Lloyd C. Douglas, has become, from the point of view of sales, one of the great literary successes of all time," Mr. Wilson claims, almost two years after the initial publication of the novel. "It is time, then, for this department, which did not mention THE ROBE when it first came out, to take cognizance of Dr. Douglas." In the remainder of his article, the author claims to be, as he so eloquently puts it, "surprised" by the novel. His expectations, it seems, were nothing higher than he would expect from "the usual trash aimed at Hollywood." Perhaps this also somewhat explains the critics reactions, or lack thereof, about the novel; it seems that they didn't think they would find anything worthy of criticism. But the sales figures prove the opposite, or at least it would seem. Douglas, according to NEWSWEEK, was averaging over 100 letters a week in July of 1943, all of them from fans who claim that his writings have changed their lives. Douglas himself thought that the popularity of THE ROBE was due to "a growing spiritual awareness" that occurred during the first years of the novel. Yet time seems negate that statement; after all, sales of THE ROBE are still steady, with the book still in print, and contemporary review from readers are overwhelmingly glowing (see the following section on "Current Reception".) Mr. Wilson hints that the popularity of THE ROBE may be due to Douglas' ability to connect with his readers. He claims that Douglas has made this historical novel approachable by "diluting the old, grandiose novel of ancient Rome with a jargon that sounds as if Dr. Douglas had picked it up during the years when, as the publishers' leaflet tells us, he was a counsellor of college students at the Universities of Michigan and Illonois." Yet he goes on to criticize Douglas for exactly this ability: "Dr. Douglas has woven, in THE ROBE, an almost unrivalled fabric of old cliches, in which one of the only attempts at a literary heightening of effect is the substitution for the simple "said" of other, more pretentious verbs..." He goes on, "It is so difficult, when one first glances at THE ROBE, to imagine that any literate person with even the faintest trace of literary taste could ever get through more than two pages of it for pleasure that one is astounded and terrified at the thought that seven million Americans have found something to hold them in." It seems that Douglas has answered this question for him. In an article that Douglas wrote for COSMOPOLITAN, he claims that any novel that deals with Jesus without identifying itself with any particular Christian sect is sure to be a success. And Douglas adds that THE ROBE had a special attraction around the time of the war; people wanted to read about healing and spiritual growth, an escape from the terrifying things happening in the world around them. TIME magazine seems to agree with him; it claims that THE ROBE caused "men everywhere [to] soberly reexamine their customs, ideas and beliefs" in light of the war going on around them. SOURCES: Douglas, Lloyd C. "We're Getting Along." THE ROTARIAN: June 1944, p. 8-9. Douglas, Lloyd C. "Why I wrote 'The Robe'". COSMOPOLITAN: June 1944. Wilson, Edmund. "Inquiry into a current bestseller: The Robe." THE NEW YORKER: August 26, 1944: p. 58-62. "Inside The Robe." NEWSWEEK. July 19, 1943: p. 66-68. "U.S. at War." TIME. January 3, 1944: p. 16. "War & Religion." PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY. February 14, 1944: p. 864-865.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
THE ROBE by Lloyd C. Douglas is one of the greatest bestsellers of all time, hitting the bestseller list of the twentieth century at number 43, with over 6 million copies sold, and topping the annual bestseller lists for four years (Hackett). The original publisher printed it at least 65 times, and there are over 18 editions from other publishers. At least 10 translations into other languages have been made, several of which have many editions. Readership is estimated at roughly 25 million (Wilson). It has been made into a major motion picture by Fox Video, spawned a sequel in that same media, and has been adapted for stage, radio, and children's stories. Yet in no way is it considered a literary masterpiece; contemporary reception, what little of it there was, tended to criticize the book rather than proclaim it (see Section 4, Contemporary Reception, for more information). What is it, then, that makes THE ROBE a bestseller of enormous magnitude? There are several factors that play into the immense popularity of the novel. Lloyd C. Douglas was already a prominent best-selling author of the time, and undoubtedly his name helped to sell copies of the book. Advertising copy from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin, helped to push sales of the book through its very convincing and elaborate marketing scheme. It also seems that the book just happened to be in the right place at the right time; when it was published in late 1942, the United States was on the brink of the Second World War in 15 years. THE ROBE's Christian moral and happily-ever-after storyline kept reader's minds off of the impending strife. Most of these qualities can be seen as tendencies or genres in the marketplace for best-selling fiction. Yet THE ROBE also creates a category of its own. Of all of the bestsellers on the lists for the twentieth century, THE ROBE is the only one to have topped the list in non-consecutive years over a decade apart; after its initial fame in the mid-1940s, THE ROBE again reached number one in 1956 after the release of the motion picture. In this essay, all of these factors will be analyzed regarding their role in the making of the bestseller status of THE ROBE. Perhaps the most important factor in the sales of THE ROBE was the popularity of the author himself. Lloyd C. Douglas had begun his writing career 13 years earlier with the bestseller MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, which hit the charts in 1932. This novel was followed by more and more bestsellers, which included FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES in 1933, GREEN LIGHT in 1935, DISPUTED PASSAGE in 1939 and THE ROBE in 1942. Due to the success of his earlier novels, Dr. Douglas had already created a following of readers, who would probably have purchased his novels due to the sheer fact that they had read and enjoyed his previous works. This quality of "Author Recognition" places him aside such authors as Stephen King and Danielle Steele of the 1990's; as Douglas continued to pump out the novels, they continued to top the bestseller lists. It is important to note, however, that none of these novels received praise from the critics, and often didn't receive anything at all; THE ROBE and other bestsellers by Douglas were given bestseller status by the choice and the tastes of the readers themselves. Although Douglas' name was sure to have helped sales of THE ROBE, it could not have been responsible for all of the popularity that THE ROBE received. After all, THE ROBE was by leaps and bounds Douglas' most successful novel, the only one the reach the number one spot, an achievement it claimed for over 14 months. For this reason, there is obviously something else that helped to push THE ROBE that was missing in Douglas' other books. Initially, sales were spurred by advertisements by the publisher. Houghton Mifflin continued to advertise THE ROBE for three consecutive years, and as they claim in the June 1942 issue of Publisher's Weekly, money allocated to advertising THE ROBE was "the largest pre-publication figure [they had] ever set for a novel". Edmund Wilson, in his article for the New Yorker in August 1943, jeers at Houghton Mifflin's decision to launch a new advertising campaign over 13 months after the book was originally published, saying that "one sometimes gets the impression that they have ceased to publish any other books." It is obvious, then, that the publishers did their fair amount of work in pushing THE ROBE to super-stardom; their plethora of PR helped to place the novel in the public spotlight. Douglas himself had a theory about the astronomical sales of THE ROBE. He claims that any non-sect oriented Christian story about Jesus Christ is sure to be a success, and he allies his book with other bestsellers such as BEN HUR (Wilson). In a later interview, he told Newsweek that he believed that "the overwhelming popularity of THE ROBE [in the U.S.] and in England is due to a growing spiritual awareness." In fact, there are several Christian novels that have made the bestseller lists in the twentieth century; among these are predecessors to THE ROBE such as Sholem Asch's THE NAZARENE and H.W. Freeman's JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN. Although these examples prove that the Christian-fiction genre already existed in bestseller history when Douglas began his writing career, the success of THE ROBE helped to elevate the genre to a sure-bet best-selling success. After THE ROBE was published in 1942, several other novelists followed in Douglas' footsteps, and in the 1940's we see other Christian novels such as Russell Janney's THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS in 1947 and Mika Waltari's THE EGYPTIAN in 1949 hitting the bestseller lists (Hackett). The success of THE ROBE may also be due in part to luck. THE ROBE was published in October of 1942, at the onset of World War Two; it remained on the bestseller lists throughout the war. THE ROBE preaches a peaceful Christian doctrine of tolerance and love, a doctrine that is in many ways opposed to the manslaughter and violence of war. One critic claimed that THE ROBE reminded him of an "old-fashioned historical novel" (Wilson) and it seems that this is exactly what the people wanted; they wanted to return to old-fashioned ideas and forget the problems that arose in the modern world. In this light, THE ROBE can be seen to belong to the genre of escapist fiction that often tops the bestseller lists; the novel allowed its readers to hide in its pages and turn a cold shoulder on the strife that surfaced around them in the world. There are many other novels in this genre; think of Eleanor Porter's POLLYANNA or Booth Tarkington's SEVENTEEN, both of which were published during the First World War and both of which totally ignore it. This escapist fiction seems to play the role of the anecdote to the hatred and violence in the world; it tries to foster in readers the feelings of love, happiness and compassion that are felt to be missing in times of war. For this reason, escapist fiction that carries a moral can also be seen as the forerunner of the self-help book fad of the 1970's. THE ROBE subtly helps people to think in a more Christian framework; although Douglas does not directly preach to his readers or tell them how to think, as a self-help author would, his plot and his moral help readers to feel rejuvenated in their convictions of peace. All of these reasons helped to propel THE ROBE to bestseller status in 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945. After its three-plus year stint on the bestseller lists, sales of THE ROBE dropped below the best-selling line. But in 1956, the novel once again topped the charts, a phenomenon which, to date, belongs only to THE ROBE. The book topped the charts for a second time over 10 years after its original publication; this spike in sales directly correlates with the release of Fox Video's motion picture adaptation of the book. It is interesting to look at the context in which the motion picture was released; in the three years preceding the release of the film, the number one bestseller for non-fiction had been the Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible (Hackett). Perhaps this is why Fox Video chose to adapt THE ROBE into film; they saw that a religious trend was sweeping the nation and decided, as any good capitalist would, to play into it. This revival in the sales of the novel points to the huge effect that other medias can have on sales. The release in 1956 of the motion picture no doubt spurred sales in that year to best-selling quantities, but it also probably has had unrecorded residual effects on sales even now, almost 45 years from its release. In a review on Amazon.com posted in February of 2000, a consumer confessed to not having read the book, claiming that she has "seen the movie and it was really enchanting. [She encourages] you to read this novel, it must be good." Perhaps it is thorough the movie that THE ROBE achieved the recognition and popularity that it holds on to today. But perhaps not. THE ROBE has many other qualities that have sustained many other bestsellers throughout the twentieth century-it is the product of a popular author, published by a large publishing house, written to fit under the genres of historical Christian and escapist fiction. Its timeless setting and Christian morals allow the novel to be relevant to even today's readers; its message transcends cultural, political and global change. THE ROBE, although not one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all time, is nonetheless one of the greatest bestsellers of all time; it is a book written for people, not critics, and it is the people that have made it a bestseller. SOURCES: Douglas, Lloyd C. The Robe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1942. Hackett, Alice Payne. Best Sellers in the Bookstores: 1900-1975. Hackett, Alice Payne. 80 Years of Bestsellers, 1895-1975. New York: R. K. Bower and Company, 1977. Wilson, Edmund. "Inquiry into a Current Bestseller: The Robe." The New Yorker: August 26, 1944: p 58-62. "Inside The Robe." Newsweek: July 19, 1943: p.66-68. Publisher's Weekly, Vol. 142, No. 14
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