The best modern comment on Whittier is to be found in a poem by Winfield Townley Scott. It is an affectionate, if sardonic, tribute, full of Mr. Whittier's ""white beard, his saintliness, his other foibles,"" noting that ""it is easier to leave Snow-Bound and a dozen other items in or out of/The school curriculum than it is to have written theme"" and that ""he put the names of our places into his poems and he honored us with himself..."" One mentions the poem since it is a far more suggestive portrait than anything Professor Wagenknecht has managed to draw in his painstaking study. The book is undeniably a useful guide to Whittier's life, the socio-political ethos of the times, the Quaker poet's religious convictions and anti-slavery activities. It also presents careful summaries of the poems, particularly the moral concerns behind them, as well as the cultural landscape he shared with Thoreau and Emerson, and the peculiar rural New England atmosphere he conveyed long before Robert Frost. But Wagenknecht, alas, is simply not an interesting writer, and no amount of excerpting from previously unpublished manuscript material or personal effects can ignite so dim a prose style.