Sunday, September 20, 2009

Political doldrums and New Books

I haven’t blogged much in the past few days because it doesn’t seem worth it anymore, at least not from the political perspective. The NDP has rolled over and become Harper’s lab-dog, the Liberals are running namby-pamby ads which will have no impact at all because it’s like fighting against a guy shooting an Uzi by dancing ballet, and Harper is just getting worse every day. Writing about politics now seems like trying to a have a rational discussion about aerodynamic while the plane is going down, interesting but superfluous.

In light of this I will just mention the books I got in the mail this week. I got a three volume edition of the Letters of the Wordsworth family edited by William Knight, published by Ginn and Company, Boston, 1907. The set is in very good condition but is discarded from the library of Occidental University so the spines are numbered with typical white numbering. It should be interesting to read many of the letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth to some of the other great literary figures of the age. Though I am not a big fan of Wordsworth, he knew a lot of people and writes a surprisingly good letter. This is not, of course, the exhaustive collection of Wordsworth letters. The complete letters are published by Oxford I believe in a multi-volume edition and each volume can cost a couple of hundred dollars. But I am certainly not a Wordsworth expert and am more interested in the letters as background reading concerning the Romantics in general so this set will do for my purposes.

I also received six volumes of the writings of Thomas de Quincey. I already had two of these volumes but I won the set on ebay, and the two new ones are in better shape than the old ones. These published byf Ticknor & Fields of Boston and are part of a nineteen volume set of the complete works of De quincey published in the 1850s. I have never been able to figure out why a publisher like T&F, a company that was well known for their fairly good quality publications, would invest this kind of effort in publishing this multi-volume works of De Quincey. From what I have been able to determine, De Quincey was well known but hardly popular enough to warrant such an elaborate publication, particularly in the US. Interest in the Romantic poets was growing in the 1850s and De Quincey knew all of them and had written a great deal concerning them and their lives. But that would only have taken a couple of volumes, not nineteen of them. And the strange thing about this set is that it doesn’t include any of De Quincey’s correspondence.

De Quincey is, of course, most well known for his book Confessions of an Opium Eater which appeared in the London Magazine in serialized form in the early 1820s. This book quite needlessly exposed the addiction of Coleridge to Opium and was not a very flattering picture of the great poet. But De Quincey in general is quite an enigma and why he wrote certain things is a complete mystery to me. His prose is some of the most complicated of the whole romantic era and can be extremely difficult to read at times. Some of his work is very interesting if you can wade your way through the long digressions and get to heart of the matter. Such complex writing is best read out loud to get the true effect of the pomp of prose. I encourage people to read a biography of De Quincey because he presents such a strange and enigmatic picture that it is always interesting. 

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