Letters of Charles Eliot Norton - Vol. 1

Letters of Charles Eliot Norton - Vol. 1

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Letters of Charles Eliot Norton - Vol. 1

Letters of Charles Eliot Norton - Vol. 1

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Excerpt

Soon after Lowell's death Charles Eliot Norton wrote to Leslie Stephen: "I mean to publish, by and by, a selection of his letters, strung on a brief thread of Memoir"; -- and later he added, "I do not propose to make a formal biography. I shall state such facts as are necessary for giving the outline of the course of his really uneventful life, -- uneventful, I mean, in the external sense. . . . and then I shall endeavour to illustrate his real life by his letters."

A similar purpose has controlled the editors of these volumes. Norton's correspondence, from the beginning to the end of his life, provides an abundant record of his thought and action. The problem has been to choose, from a supply exceeding the need, the passages which shall most accurately and significantly illustrate his life. The editors have attempted the rôle less of critics than of interpreters: much has been left to Mr. Norton himself -- and to the reader.

Yet in a work of this nature -- composed chiefly of letters -- there must needs be great omissions. Individual habit in regard to the preservation of correspondence plays an important part. The inclusion of some names and the absence of others must throw the image slightly out of focus. But in one case the material exists, in another it does not: the circle of life as it appears in letters is like a wheel from which spokes are missing.

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