Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of The Young Wife's Book,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. VIII: Literary Criticism - part 01 (1902), pp. 158-160


[page 158, continued:]


[Southern Literary Messenger, January, 1836.]

WE can conscientiously recommend this little book, not only to that particular class of our fair friends for whom it is most obviously intended, but, in general, to all lovers of good reading. We had expected to find in it a series of mere homilies on the Duties of a Wife, but were agreeably disappointed. Such things are, no doubt, excellent in their way, but unhappily are rarely of much service, for the simple reason that they are rarely read. Unless strikingly novel, and well written, they are too apt to be disregarded. The present volume is made up of mingled amusement and instruction. Short and pithy Lessons on Moral Duties, on the Minor Obligations of Married Life, on Manners, on [page 159:] Fashion, on DressDialogues, and Anecdotes connected with subjects of a similar nature — form the basis of the book.

In one respect we must quarrel with the publication. Neither the title page, nor the Preface, gives us any information in regard to the biblical history of the work. It may be taken for granted that every reader, in perusing a book, feels some solicitude to know, for example, who wrote it; or (if this information be not attainable,) at least where it was written — whether in his native country, or in a foreign land — whether it be original or a compilation — whether it be a new publication or a re-publication of old matter — whether we are indebted for it to one author, or to more than one — in short, all those indispensable details which appertain to a book considered merely as a book. The habit of neglecting these things, is becoming very prevalent in America. Works are daily re-published, from foreign copies, without any primâ facie evidence by which we may distinguish them from original publications; and many a reader, of light literature especially, finds himself in the dilemma of praising or condemning unjustly as American, what, most assuredly, he has no good reason for supposing to be English.

In the Young Wife’s Book now before us, are seventy-three articles. Of these, one is credited to the thirty-first chapter of Proverbsnine to Standford’s Lady’s Gift — and two to an Old English Divine. Some four or five belong to the Spectator. Seven or eight we recognize as old acquaintances without being able to call to mind where we have seen them; and about fifteen or twenty bear internal evidence of a foreign origin. Of the balance we know nothing whatever beyond their intrinsic merit, which is, in all instances, [page 160:] very great. Judgment and fine taste have been employed, undoubtedly, in the book. As a whole it is excellent — but, for all we know to the contrary, it may have been originally written, translated, or compiled, in Philadelphia, in London, or in Timbuctoo.





[S:1 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of The Young Wife's Book)