THE VISITABLE PAST
THE TWENTY-FIVE BIOGRAPHIES of American worthies reissued in this Chelsea House series restore an all but forgotten chapter in the annals of American literary culture. Some of the authors of these volumes--journalists, scholars, writers, professional men--would be considered amateurs by today's standards, but they enjoyed certain advantages not open to their modern counterparts. In some cases they were blood relations or old friends of the men and women they wrote about, or at least near enough to them in time to catch the contemporary essence often missing in the more carefully researched and authoritative later studies of the same figures. Their leisurely, impressionistic accounts--sometimes as interesting for what is omitted as for what is emphasized--reveal a good deal about late Victorian assumptions, cultural and social, and about the vicissitudes of literary reputation.