Boston: 1851. Autograph letter signed by Whipple and addressed to Oakes at her Brooklyn address. Fine condition. 9 ¾ x 7 ¾ inches bifolium. Fine. Item #List2032
An interesting letter written by critic Edwin Percy Whipple to Elizabeth Oakes Smith, encouraging her to publish in Graham Magazine. He then offers sympathies on a play performed in Philadelphia, and excoriates the American theatre and its inability to do justice to Shakespeare’s work. The letter was written during the period when Oakes published her “Woman and Her Needs” series in the New York Tribune, though it would appear from subsequent events that Whipple’s opinion had been formed by her earlier work. Whipple’s views on Smith would change later and be marked by Whipple's negative critiques of Smith's writing. In 1855, Whipple published a review of Smith's book "The Sinless Child," which criticized her unconventional views on marriage and motherhood. Smith responded with a scathing letter, accusing Whipple of being a "literary bully" and a "spiritual coward" in a letter she sent to the editor of the Boston Evening Transcript on September 25, 1855.
Full text follows:
Boston, March 1, 1851
I have but just time to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of Feby 26th, being about to start for Buffalo. On my return I will write to Graham, and I can assure you that your powers as a writer will lose nothing in my statement. I cannot conceive of any reason why Mr. Graham should not be proud to have you among his contributors, and think that there must be some misapprehension on his or your part in regard to the matter. I know that he is desirous of having articles from the best and most eminent native writers and, deductively from that proposition, he must desire to have articles from yourself. There is a logical compliment for you!
I am sorry that the tragedy was not better acted in Philadelphia, but the truth is that there are no stock companies in the Country whose acting could save a new play of Shakespeare himself. Go into a theatre, and hear their tame and flat delivery of the text of Hamlet or Macbeth, - see how they loosen all his silver cords and break all his golden bowls - and then you are not surprised that they fail in recommending our American plays.
Mrs. Whipple often alludes to you, and would be delighted to see you in Boston. She sends her best regards and remembrances. As soon as I can hear from Graham, I will write to you.
Very Sincerely Yours,
E. P. Whipple.