THE LITERATURE OF GOSSIP by Elizabeth- Ed. Drew

THE LITERATURE OF GOSSIP

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Miss Drew is a browser's browser. Unless it is a collection of 19th century sermons, nothing can look quite so solid and defeating as the collected letters of one of the dedicated correspondents of the past. Nevertheless, when you know where to look in these books, they hold moments of pleasurable insight and this author/editor knew where to look. She has excerpted the passages of deep intimacy or the scraps that flash with personality from nine great English letter writers. Her running commentary supplies the background of the times for each of her subjects and the necessary information on the various replies each received. Dorothy Osborne's correspondence with her fiance, Sir William Temple, starts the book and the examples of her style prove Miss Drew's point that these letters are primary source material on manners and morals for the 17th century. Jonathan Swift and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu follow, contrasting his guarded brilliance with her steadily more sophisticated pronouncements. There is Horace Walpole the indefatigable, ""writing deliberately for posterity,"" followed by William Cowper. Charles Lamb emerges as a concerned and tender friend. Byron is penetrating, personal and undoubtedly has one eye ked at biographers. Jane Carlyle's unconventional (for her times) wit makes her correspondent you'd like to have today and Edward Fitzgerald, the great translator of Oriental poetry, reclusive to the point of lunacy, was more forthright in his letters than he ever was in person. There is a selective suggested reading list of collected letters for those who catch the urgo from these tastes.

Publisher: Norton