Lives out of Letters: Essays on American Literary Biography and Documentation in Honor of Robert N. Hudspeth

By Robert D. Habich | Go to book overview

Foreword

Joel Myerson

I FIRST MET BOB HUDSPETH OVER THE TELEPHONE AT THE 1972 MODERN Language Association convention. I was revising my dissertation for what would become a book on the Dial, and was casting about for a new project, one that would complement the primary and secondary bibliographies of Margaret Fuller that I was about to undertake. It seemed to me that an edition of Fuller’s letters was sorely needed, and that it promised a manageable time frame for completion, but I had heard that a professor at Penn State was already committed to do it. I tracked Bob down in his hotel room, and we talked briefly; and, yes, he was doing the edition of Fuller’s letters, so I wished him luck. After watching Bob edit Fuller for two decades, I have never once regretted his being there first, and, frankly, I think Fuller was better served by him than by the plans I had envisioned. At the least, I would have been unable to teach myself Italian, as Bob did, to complete the edition.

Bob was already known to scholars in the American Renaissance when he took on editing Fuller. Like many people trained in the 1960s, Bob began his career under the sway of New Criticism, and his early articles include critical appraisals of works by Joseph Conrad, John Hersey, Henry James, and D. H. Lawrence. But in the late 1960s he began working on the poet Ellery Channing, publishing two fine articles on his poetry in Emerson Society Quarterly and one of the best books in the Twayne series, Ellery Channing (1973). (And he maintained an interest in Channing, about whom he lectured in 2002 at the Concord Museum.)

The decision to work on Fuller, Ellery’s sister-in-law, was a logical next step. Only those who have actually worked with the Fuller manuscripts, and especially the collection of her writings at the Houghton Library of Harvard University, can fully understand the daunting task Bob assumed. To begin with, Fuller’s letters and journals had been mutilated when William Henry Channing, James Freeman Clarke, and Ralph Waldo Emerson prepared their Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli

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