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Three New York Poets

"Three New York Poets." Scribner's Monthly. 01 Jul. 1881: 469-472.
Type: 
magazine
Genre: 
literary criticism
Abstract: 

Reviews collections of poetry by William Winter, George Arnold, and Fitz-James O'Brien, all recently published at the time this article was written. The O'Brien and Arnold anthologies were both edited by Winter. The reviewer describes the authors' works as well as the authors themselves and their involvement with New York Bohemianism, "a cisatlantic imitation of Béranger's or Mürger's Bohème; and not a bad one, so far as the Bohemianism went. They cultivated, some of them, the same eccentricities of dress and manner; they lived on the same principle, namely, that life in a garret is pleasant at twenty; and they clean out-drank the Frenchmen, having a strain of Berserker blood in their Anglo-Saxon constitutions" (469).

People Mentioned in this Work

Aldrich, Thomas [pages:470]

Aldrich's poetry is compared to Winter's: "Mr. Aldrich's dainty love-songs caught the popular ear before the sadder sighing of Mr. Winter's muse" (470).

Arnold, George [pages:469,470]

Arnold "wrote good newspaper poetry at a time when most newspaper poetry was bad" (469). The writer suggests, however, that the fond memory of Arnold, who died at a young age, "has softened, to the critic's eye, many rough and careless touches" (469).

Butler, William [pages:471]

Butler's poetry is compared to O'Brien's: "'The Sewing Bird' and 'The Finishing School' are, perhaps, echoes of William Allen Butler's now almost forgotten success, 'Nothing to Wear' or some earlier prototype" (471).

Clapp, Henry [pages:469]

The writer refers to the "king of Bohemia" without directly referencing Clapp by name. The writer specifically mentions Clapp's tragic end, stating, "[t]he old king of Bohemia died a pauper, a half-dozen years ago, and some of his old subjects passed the hat around among the trim young journalists, who had never known him, and collected enough to put a head-stone over his grave" (469).

Clare, Ada [pages:469]

The writer briefly and indirectly refers to Ada Clare, using her epithet, "Queen of Bohemia." After mentioning the "king", the reviewer states, "they had, too, their queen, chosen after a like fashion" (469).

O'Brien, Fitz-James [pages:469,471-472]

While the reviewer asserts that O'Brien was "one of the cleverest of all the Bohemians," he also draws attention to the uneven quality of O'Brien's work, reflecting that "[t]he startling cleverness of his work at its best, taken in connection with its commonplace feebleness at its worst, at first bewilders the reader, and then invites him to critical analysis" (471). The reviewer then suggests that O'Brien's best work was influenced by the works of others, stating that, "[i]t is not that O'Brien was in any way a plagiarist. He was not. But he had a strange power of absorption,–or rather of assimilation, to express an elusive idea in a slovenly manner. He saw what some earlier author had done; saw it was good; and at once set about doing better in the same line" (471).

Poe, Edgar [pages:471]

The reviewer compares O'Brien to Poe, stating that, "[w]hen we read the opening pages of 'The Lost Room,' we say: Poe never had a weirder dream, nor told one in language so rich and graceful" (471).

Stedman, Edmund [pages:470]

Stedman's poetry is compared to Arnold's: "Mr. Stedman's 'Ballad of Larger Beer' was a better piece of work than Arnold's 'Beer'" (470).

Winter, William [pages:469-471]

The reviewer offers a somewhat critical appraisal of Winter's poetry, stating that "Mr. Winter's talent has always been for melodies in a minor key, and he has never gained enough mastery of his art to hide a lack of invention" (470).

The reviewer also suggests that Winter's best work has been the biographical material he has written about his fellow Bohemians, maintaining that "[h]e has certainly written nothing of late years so good as the sketch of George Arnold and preface to his poems, in 1866 and 1867. They express a manly sympathy in clear and simple language" (470).