Contemporary Reviews

About this Item

Title: [Review of November Boughs]

Creator: unknown [unsigned in original]

Date: July 1889

Whitman Archive ID: anc.00130

Source: The Scottish Review 14 (July 1889): 212-13. The original electronic text for this file was prepared for Walt Whitman, The Contemporary Reviews, ed. Kenneth M. Price (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), and the transcription was completed by consulting a representation of the original (e.g., photocopy, microfilm copy). Following publication of that volume, Price received an updated transcription file from Cambridge University Press, and the Whitman Archive has used the final file from the publisher as the basis for the electronic text presented here. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the reviews, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Natalie O'Neal, Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Todd Stabley

November Boughs By WALT WHITMAN. Paisley and London: Alex. Gardner. 1889.

In this volume the author has gathered together a number of pieces both in prose and verse, written at different periods extending over a considerable number of years. The topics are varied, but chiefly of a literary, or biographical kind. There are poems entitled 'Sands at Seventy,' and others with the leading 'Fancies at Navesink.' Then there are prose essays, some of them covering little more than a page, and others extending to several pages on such topics Our Eminent Visitors, The Bible as Poetry, Burns as Poet and Person, Tennyson, Shakespeare, English Books, Slang in America, Abraham Lincoln, and a number of War Memoranda. But the most interesting as well as the most important of the Essays is the one with which the volume opens, 'A Backward Glance o'er Travell'd Roads.' In this the author reviews himself and his work, and notwithstanding all that has been said against his poetical beliefs and methods, reiterates his persuasion of their truth and appeals from the present to the future. Here also he repeats his demand that America should possess a literature peculiarly and exclusively its own, saying, 'No law or people or circumstances ever existed so needing a race of singers and poems differing from all others, and rigidly their own as the land and people and circumstances of our United States.' At the same time he restates his belief that science instead of superseding poetry will only open out fresh and more extensive fields to which the poetic imagination must emigrate. 'Whatever,' he remarks, 'may have been the case in years gone by, the true use for the imaginative faculty of modern times is to give ultimate vivification to facts, to science, and to common lives, endowing them with the glows and glories and final illustriousness which belong to every real thing, and to real things only.' The papers on Shakespeare and Burns are suggestive, but there is little new in them. On such subjects much that is new can scarcely be expected from anyone.


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