Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Wordsworth's Prelude, anonymous Literary World review

An anonymous review of Wordsworth's poem The Prelude appeared in The Literary World on August 31, 1850, one week after the same journal printed the second part of Herman Melville's now famous review essay, Hawthorne and His Mosses. The copy of the Literary World volume 7 at Princeton University is Google-digitized and accessible courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library

The unsigned 1850 review of The Prelude is wrongly attributed to Professor Henry Reed in Hershel Parker's Historical Note for the scholarly edition of Melville's Published Poems (Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 2009) at page 409. More plausibly, in a 1981 essay on "Melville & the Berkshires," Parker credited Evert Duyckinck for the "predictable" August 31, 1850 review. There Parker called it
"a set of random quotations from various parts of the poem intermingled with pious, humbugging commonplaces."

-- Hershel Parker on Melville & The Berkshires: Emotion-Laden Terrain, "Reckless Sky-Assaulting Mood," and Encroaching Wordsworthianism in American Literature: The New England Heritage, ed. James Nagel and Richard Astro (Garland, 1981) pages 65-80 at page 68.

Considering Evert Duyckinck's editorial work on Melville's great Hawthorne essay, and the intensity of their summertime socializing in Berkshire, it would not be too surprising to find some trace of Melville's influence in the review of Wordsworth's The Prelude that appeared in The Literary World on the last day of August 1850. 

Anonymous review of The Prelude, page 167
 Literary World - August 31, 1850

Anonymous review of The Prelude, page 168
 Literary World - August 31, 1850

Henry Reed's "Second Paper" on Wordsworth appeared in the Literary World on September 14, 1850. "Second Paper" does mean there was a "First Paper" on Wordsworth, but the anonymous review of The Prelude on August 31, 1850 was not it. On June 8, 1850 the Literary World announced the first one this way:

A paper on Wordsworth from Prof. Henry Reed, communicating passages from the Poet's Correspondence, in our next.

As promised, Reed's first paper on Wordsworth appeared in the next issue of the Literary World on June 15, 1850. Both papers were submitted from Philadelphia and subscribed, HENRY REED.

Passages in Advance / from Wordsworth's New Poem "The Prelude" were printed from the forthcoming Appleton's edition in The Literary World for August 10, 1850. These passages were selected and sent from Pittsfield by Evert A. Duyckinck when he was much with Melville, as revealed in Duyckinck's letter to Margaret Panton Duyckinck dated August 4, 1850:

My dear wife:

I dropped you a line yesterday in a parcel to the office which Melville says I must have been tempted to make up by the Yankee atmosphere. I have the proof sheet of Appleton's edition of Wordsworth's posthumous poem "The Prelude" with me to read & use at leisure in the paper. [Cornelius] Mathews told me that [Rufus W.] Griswold was about to publish a whole book of it in his next week's magazine, so I concluded that my next week's paper should have its share & made up a parcel by mail with the necessary directions at once. So you see that the Literary World can be edited at a distance of 160 miles--so that need be no obstacle to our settling here if you choose....  --as transcribed in Steven Olsen-Smith, Melville in His Own Time (University of Iowa Press, 2015) page 34.

The issue of the New York Literary World  with "Passages in Advance" mailed from Pittsfield also contains a review of  Aesop's Fables that Herman Melville might have written. 

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