In October 1865, a 22-year-old wordsmith living on Ashburton Place, behind the Massachusetts State House, filed what has to be one of the nastiest book reviews ever published. The volume before him was “an insult to art,” a brash and haughty Henry James told readers of The Nation, a then-months-old New York weekly. Written in free verse, each line beginning “in resolute independence of its companions, without a visible goal,” the book demonstrated, according to James, “the efforts of an essentially prosaic mind to lift itself, by a prolonged muscular strain, into poetry.”Well. There you have it.
The poet himself James found downright distasteful. “Mr. Whitman,” he harrumphed, “is very fond of blowing his own trumpet.”
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The efforts of an essentially prosaic mind to lift itself, by a prolonged muscular strain, into poetry
From The echoes of Walt Whitman’s ‘Drum-Taps’ book review by Richard Kreitner. Kreitner quotes an earlier review from 1865 by a reviewer, no less than Henry James, reviewing Walt Whitman's Drum-Taps.