Selected Letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson

Selected Letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson

Selected Letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson

Selected Letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson

Excerpt

"I don't care for X's letters," Robinson once said of a correspondent. "They read as though he had written them for posterity."

There is a world of poetry and there is a world of letter- writing and hardly the two shall meet. Writers in either field had best address themselves to their appointed hearers, the poet to the universe, the letter-writer to one person chosen out of earth's hurrying multitudes. It should become clear on reading the letters assembled in this volume that the writer of them had no double purpose. In his letter- writing as in his life he kept his eye single.

But what if posterity, in spite of him, should turn from his poetry to his letters in search of his human quality? Such natural curiosity will not go unrewarded. Indeed posterity, if it pleases, will know far more about him than was known during his lifetime, when brief impression and popular report labeled him a shy New Englander whose writing outsoared his speech as the lark the snail. This in fact was true, part of the time. But if he was a poet, first of all, he was also emphatically a human being, and not all his reticence can keep his letters from revealing the warmth, genuineness and variety of his human relationships.

The good fortune of being lawful heir to previous generations, which each age holds in turn, must be paid for by certain privations, as, for example, our never having seen Blake or heard Coleridge. But there are always compensations, and our successors will not be without theirs. True, they will never see Robinson sitting in a room full of chatterers, with eyes excessively bright and lips completely silent, pressing his long fingers to his forehead, or hear him . . .

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