Below are three posts -- from 11/2, 11/4 and 11/5 -- AND -- there's a surprise ending to it all!
I’ve got a lot of reading to do!
Article-wise, I did read “Bitchy Little Spinster: Emily and the Woman in her Orbit” (the woman being Mabel Loomis Tood) by Joanne O’Leary (via London Review of Books) – and though I did post some info from this article in early October (having to do w/the love affair between Ms. Todd and Dickinson’s brother Austin) – I want to read it again to gain more info on the early publications of Dickinson’s poetry.
I also have “The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson” (i.e., her “fascicles”) by R. W. Franklin, and “Reviewers’ Despair: The Politics of Dickinson’s Critical Reception during the 1890s” by Mariette Messmer. This article is basically a review of Willis J. Buckingham’s “Emily Dickinson Reception in the 1890s,” a compilation of all 600 extant notes and review articles published when the posthumous editions of Dickinson’s poetry first appeared.
I also recently got “Positive as Sound: Emily Dickinson’s Rhyme” by Judy Jo Small. I had hoped Santa might drop that book off for me at Christmas – but lo & behold, my wife got it for me for my birthday!
Today I thought I’d share an interesting tidbit from the “Critical Reception” article re: reviews of Dickinson’s poetry after selected poems were published in 1890.
1: Regional Rivalries: Boston vs. New York;
2: The British Reception; and
3: The Politics of Gender and Genre – and the “interesting tid-bit comes from the first section.
In this first passage, Messmer notes that before the turn of the 20th century, the publishing-center of the US was shifting from Boston to New York City:
“It is Boston’s decline as a literary authority, combined with New York’s increasing skepticism toward literary productions originating from this (former) rival…that is largely responsible for the relatively subdued responses to Dickinson’s poems shown by many of New York’s leading literary papers and magazines…(and as a result)...initially Dickinson was indeed advertised and marketed as a Boston product"..."She was a 'Boston Fad' before the national monthlies had a chance to comment."
She then provided this quote from Buckingham’s book: “Some New York and western publications warned against Dickinson as a 'Boston fad,' the enervated exemplar of a waning New England school of letters. One California paper, early on, suggested that her popularity was the self-serving creation of a ‘New England clique.’”
Turns out that Dickinson was quite an enduring fad, huh?
When Dickinson’s poems were first published in 1890, the literary center of the country was shifting from Boston to New York. As a result, some of the early reviews out of New York referred to Dickinson as the “Boston fad,” the enervated exemplar of a waning New England literary scene. Even one paper out in California suggested that her popularity was “the self-serving creation of a New England clique.”
Though many of the more-powerful literary voices were critical of Dickinson, out of the 20-plus reviews that appeared in New York in 1890 and 1891, approximately one-third were in papers and magazines that had strong ties to Dickinson supporters (Higginson, Todd, etc.) – and this helped her poetry from failing completely on the New York literary scene.
However, in an 1892 review, the long-time editor of the Atlantic Monthly, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, dismissed Dickinson and said this: "It is plain that Miss Dickinson possessed an extremely unconventional and grotesque fancy. She was deeply tinged by the mysticism of Blake, and strongly influenced by the mannerism of Emerson ... But the incoherence and formlessness of her versicles are fatal" -- and he added, "an eccentric, dreamy, half-educated recluse in an out-of-the-way New England village (or anywhere else) cannot with impunity set at defiance the laws of gravitation and grammar.”And by the way – Aldrich was not alone in his criticisms of Dickinson – and the early reviews seemed to focus on the debate between those who believed “poetry could dispense with traditional form and finish and those who believed it could not.”
Hmm…here’s an experiment you can try today: Ask your friends if they’ve heard of Emily Dickinson; then ask if they’ve heard of Thomas Bailey Aldrich. LOL.
From November 5:
Yesterday I mentioned early (as in 1890, 1891, and 1892) reviews of Dickinson’s poetry. She was called the “Boston fad,” and the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, dismissed Dickinson for her “incoherence and formlessness,” and said she was “an eccentric, dreamy, half-educated recluse in an out-of-the-way New England village”
LOL – then I asked people to conduct an experiment: “Ask your friends if they’ve heard of Emily Dickinson; then ask if they’ve heard of Thomas Bailey Aldrich.”
That reminded me of a story of another well-known American poet, who – when he was working as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC – he encountered poet Vachel Lindsay, with whom he shared some poems.
Have you heard of Vachel Lindsay?
He lived from 1879 until 1931, and the Wikipedia article about him states, “In the final twenty years of his life, Lindsay was one of the best-known poets in the U.S.”
Again – have you heard of Vachel Lindsay?
Well, the busboy I mentioned earlier recognized Mr. Lindsay when he visited the restaurant -- so he shared some of his own works with the poet – and Mr. Lindsay was so impressed he encouraged and mentored the young busboy poet.
As a matter of fact, there’s a chain of restaurants in the Washington DC area named “Busboys and Poets,” named after the incident at the Wardman Park Hotel when the busboy (and future poet) recognized poet Vachel Lindsay and shared some of his poems with him.
Do you know the name of the busboy poet? I guarantee you do.
The busboy who later became a well-known poet was Langston Hughes.
And now -- like Paul Harvey used to say -- you know the rest of the story!