Nine fresh views, by varied authors, of male-female literary friendships in 19th century America. These are fascinating...

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PATRONS AND PROTEGEES: Gender, Friendship, and Writing in Nineteenth-Century America

Nine fresh views, by varied authors, of male-female literary friendships in 19th century America. These are fascinating mini-biographies of such famous men and less famous women as Edgar Allan Poe and Frances Sargent Osgood, Walt Whitman and Fanny Fern, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Sherwood Bonner. Each essay breaks down the stereotypical view, accepted by generations of scholars, that the woman was always ""less bright, less talented, a protÉgÉe, a lovesick lady."" These ""female scribblers,"" as Hawthorne once characterized lady novelists, emerge as independent, professional, and always the personal equals of their male friends. Frances Osgood was every bit as eager to exploit her friendship with Poe as he was--they promoted themselves and each other. It was Fanny Fern, at the time a successful journalist, who gave the little-known Walt Whitman a great boost by reviewing Leaves of Grass. Poet and newspaper columnist both sang the praises of the honest-working man, but Fern, whose message, especially in her novel Ruth Hall, was intended for women, has been forgotten. Unfortunately, though, with the exception of two strong essays (one about Margaret Fuller and Emerson, by Dorothy Berrson, and another about Constance Fenimore Woolson and Henry James, by Cheryl B. Torsney), none of these pieces offers an exciting sense of literary rediscovery; there is too much sniping at sexist male critics and too little analysis of the merits of the works themselves. An important, if somewhat limited, contribution to the reintroduction of works by women into the canon of American literature.

Pub Date: March 11, 1988

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Rutgers Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1988