James Russell Lowell

James Russell Lowell : Portrait of a Many-sided Man

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Product details

  • Hardback | 286 pages
  • 146.05 x 211.07 x 23.88mm | 462.66g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Fr.
  • 019501376X
  • 9780195013764

Review Text

Like Wagenknecht's other monuments to the legacies of nineteenth century American literati - Longfellow, Whittier, Emerson, etc. - this portrait of the New England poet, critic, essayist, diplomat and enormously companionable dinner guest, scatters exhaustive research with sleety prose and peculiar organization. For example, minor areas in Lowell's profile are ticked off - his health and appearance - never to reappear in any integrated fashion. And what does it matter to know that J.R.L., although tending to the hirsute, was not a "hippie" (the quotes are the author's) and to read that "the real plague of his life, healthwise, was gout." (It is evident that there were other ills, plaguewise.) The author has amassed a heavy fall of corroborative evidence for Lowell's positions concerning literature, religion, politics, etc. but the material is seriously unweighted. Excerpts from both unpublished, spoken and published matter are often presented wholly out of context and denuded of circumstances. Lowell's attributed remark to Mrs. Darwin - "I hate it (science) as a savage does writing, because he fears it will hurt him somehow" - certainly reflects playfully the sanity of a creative, humanistic vision. But this is given as an "extreme" example of Lowell's distrust of science. There is a bloodless attempt to trace thought development in his poems and published criticism, and there are occasional illuminations, but without a steady pulse of personality - Lowell's or Wagenknecht's - Martin Duberman's 1967 biography remains unchallenged. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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