The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 1937
Christopher Morley Edits:
--Quotes by W. J. Cash
Whatever else is true about Christopher Morley, he is certainly the most versatile and energetic creature who ever turned up in American letters--as prodigiously energetic as Mr. Thomas Wolfe himself and fuller of strange and different enterprises than ever was Mencken in his heyday. In my desk at this moment lies waiting for review the new novel by Mr. Morley wherein he amuses himself with the tale that Homer told about the wooden horse at Troy. And while Mr. Morley has been turning out this novel, which runs to the respectable length of nearly 300 pages, he has also found time somehow to serve as the editor of--believe it or not--the eleventh edition of old Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations!"
In a pleasant little book entitled "Preface to Bartlett's" (Little, Brown, 29 pp. with seven illustrations in halftone), he tells us about the latter enterprise in typical Morley vein.
Old Bartlett was a bookseller of Cambridge, and the first edition of his celebrated book appeared so long ago as 1855, the same year that Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" crept almost unnoticed into the world. The old man died in 1905, but before his passing, the book had already gone into the ninth edition. And in 1914 Nathan Haskell Dole produced a tenth, probably the one you have in your book case now.
Mr. Morley says that he has taken some "spiritual tallow" out of the old boy in preparing the Eleventh and remedies some inexplicable omissions. Humanity can't go on carrying all its baggage forever. Ancient footnotes that have come downstream through former editions have often been dropped when they seemed pointless; one remembers the man described by Dr. Johnson as having a rage for saying something when there was nothing to be said. A good many shrill huzzas of the patriots of '76, especially around Boston, have faded out, and perhaps some allusions to Axel Oxenstiern and von Munch Bellinghausen, Wordsworth's bleatings when he was fecund rather than facund; lozenges from the original Smith Brothers (of the "Rejected Addresses"); lesser bits of Byron once so fashionable; Robert Pollok, a meteor in his day and confidently consigned to immortality by his epitaph--how much of that sort of thing is still essential to this wallowing world?
How much of Aurora Leigh is still desirable? Who was Thomas Cubble Henvey and how did he get into Bartlett Tenth when his exact contemporary Nathaniel Hawthorne didn't? No Herman Melville, no Emily Dickinson, no O'Henry--most astonishing of all, not a line of William Blake. Even De Quincey and Hazlitt appear only in footnotes.
But Mr. Morley also takes care to reassure readers who may have feared that our good old Bartlett has too violently Gone Modern. Shakespeare and the St. James Bible still occupy more space than any other sources. And all the old favorites with genuine meat in them have been left intact.
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