Plum Pudding eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 211 pages of information about Plum Pudding.
a poet who merely reiterates these plain facts ore rotundo.  He only sings them worthily who views them from a height....  Mr. Whitman is very fond of blowing his own trumpet, and he has made very explicit claims for his book....  The frequent capitals are the only marks of verse in Mr. Whitman’s writing.  There is, fortunately, but one attempt at rhyme....  Each line starts off by itself, in resolute independence of its companions, without a visible goal ... it begins like verse and turns out to be arrant prose.  It is more like Mr. Tupper’s proverbs than anything we have met....  No triumph, however small, is won but through the exercise of art, and this volume is an offence against art....  We look in vain through the book for a single idea.  We find nothing but flashy imitations of ideas.  We find a medley of extravagances and commonplaces.

We do not know whether H.J. ever recanted this very youthful disposal of old Walt.  The only importance of it at this moment seems to us this:  that appreciation of all kinds of art is so tenderly interwoven with inherited respect for the traditional forms of expression by which they are conveyed that a new and surprising vehicle quite unfits most observers for any reasonable assessment of the passenger.

As for Walt himself, he was quite unabashed by this or any other onslaught.  He was not gleg at argument, and probably rolled up the issue of the Nation in his pocket and went down to Coney Island to lie on the sand and muse (but no, we forget, it was November!).  In the same issue of the Nation he doubtless read, in the “Literary Notes,” that “Poems Relating to the American Revolution,” by Philip Freneau, was “in press under the scholarly editing of Evart A. Duyckinck to form a complete presentment of the genius of an author whose influence in the affairs of his time would alone impart a lasting value to his works.”  At this Walt smiled gently to himself, wondered how soon “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed” would get into the anthologies, and “sped to the certainties suitable to him.”

II

These miscellaneous thoughts on the fallibility of critics were suggested to us by finding some old bound volumes of the Edinburgh Review on a bookstall, five cents each.  In the issue for November, 1814, we read with relish what the Review had to say about Wordsworth’s “Excursion.”  These are a few excerpts: 

This will never do....  The case of Mr. Wordsworth, we perceive, is now manifestly hopeless; and we give him up as altogether incurable, and beyond the power of criticism ... making up our minds, though with the most sincere pain and reluctance, to consider him as finally lost to the good cause of poetry....  The volume before us, if we were to describe it very shortly, we should characterize as a tissue of moral and devotional ravings, in which innumerable changes are rung upon a few very
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Plum Pudding from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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