AND OTHER POEMS (1861)
MARY ELIZABETH BRADDON
The publication history of the volume of poetry
By Jennifer Carnell
The first and only edition of Garibaldi, published by Bosworth & Harrison
This book was Mary Elizabeth Braddon's own copy.
The half leather and marbled binding is from a later date and was presumably commissioned by Braddon herself.
The title page of Garibaldi.
This copy contains annotations and changes in Braddon's own handwriting.
'Garibaldi; and Other Poems,' Athenaeum, 23 February 1861.
M. E. Braddon writes so well that we regret she has not taken pains to
write better. There are, in her volume, clear evidences of poetical ability,
- of a talent which deserves encouragement. But in publishing, she has selected
hastily, and arranged without judgement. Her first poem is a rhythmatical
paraphrase of the prose popularized by the Times correspondents.
The theme is an ill-chosen one. The time has not yet arrived when Garibaldi
can be rightly estimated at the hands of the poets; and wiser minstrels
than Miss Braddon, in attempting so prematurely to chronicle his greatness,
would blunder unaware into the bathos of harsh detail. Moreover, one might
take issue as to the good taste of choosing a subject which renders the
author liable to the imputation of attempting to float into popularity on
the current of popular enthusiasm.
Yet some of the other poems in this book evince a fine faculty and a delicate cultivation. 'Olivia,' a story-poem in irregular rhyme, contains passages of great beauty. The plot, albeit it is neither new nor old, is very prettily adorned. There is a wicked beauty, a foreign adventurer, a liaison, a super-refined, unpleasant opera singer, a separation and a duel; but we pardon such morbid excrescences for the sake of pictures like the subjoined:- [long quote]
M. E. Braddon has served her apprenticeship under Messrs. Browning and Owen Meredith: with much of the latter's sensuousness, she lacks the depth and grasp of the former. Some of the miscellaneous poems are particularly good, and the best among them amply show that the writer has only to prune her fancy and cultivate her judgement in order to attain a high position as a poet of promise. Any one of them might have been better; even the following, 'Among the Hyacinths,' which, however, contains meanings more beautiful than those which appear on a first reading:- [quote]
We have quoted enough to prove that M.E. Braddon possesses a real faculty. We must be excused for deciding the question of the author's sex: the initials in the name and the absence of personal pronouns from the Preface are evidently intended to bewilder critics. Internal evidence, however, convinces us that M. E. Braddon is a lady, and a young one. She has powers, and the field which shall test them is open to her. By studying better models and choosing better subjects, she may make a reputation; for she possesses character, passion, and (we may add) originality. ( (Please note that transcripts were originally made as rough research notes by Jennifer Carnell and that anyone wanting to quote them in their own work is advised to consult the original for complete accuracy.)
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