[Martin Farquhar Tupper critiques three poems by Walter Chalmers Smith.] Three Autograph Letters Signed (all 'Martin F. Tupper'), one to Smith and two to his publisher MacLehose, on 'Olrig Grange', 'Borland Hall' and 'Hilda Among the Broken Gods'.

Martin Farquhar Tupper (1810-1889), poet and author, best known for his 'Proverbial Philosophy' [Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908), Scottish poet; James MacLehose & Sons, Glasgow publishers]
Publication details: 
Two on letterheads of Albury House, near Guildford, Surrey. 4 and 12 December 1874. The third from Western Villa, North Park, Croydon. 23 June 1878,
SKU: 20815

Three 12mo letters in good condition, lightly aged and worn. An interesting batch of letters, in which one minor Victorian poet critiques the work of another, both to the author himself and to his publisher. The three books by Smith which are the subjects of Tupper's letters are 'Olrig Grange' (1872), 'Borland Hall' (1874) and 'Hilda Among the Broken Gods' (1878), all of which were published by the Glasgow publishers James MacLehose and Sons. ONE: Addressed 'To the unnamed Author of Olrig Grange'. 4 December 1874. On letterhead of Albury House, near Guildford. 4pp., 12mo. 'On the human principle of thanks being welcome, when justly due' Tupper sends his 'hearty commendation' of the book. 'These last 2 evenings I have read aloud the whole of this graphic & touching poem to my home-flock, and we all testify to its power & beauty.' A critique of the poem follows, in which he commends 'the deep & true & full feeling of the story', with its 'tender & true catastrophe'. He urges him to 'give the world your name, for no truer poet is extant'. He 'picked up Olrig' by 'mere chance', and is 'delighted & astonished at having chanced upon “an angel unwares”'. TWO: To 'Mr. Mackehose. [sic] | Glasgow'. Letterhead as One above. 12 December 1874. 6pp., 12mo, comprising a main letter of 4pp., and a postscript of 2pp. The postscript, signed 'M F Tupper', is dated from 'Albury. Dec. 12/74.' He has sent him a 'Card of thanks for the gift of Borland Hall: having just read it aloud – at 2 eventides to my homeflock – I take leave to tell you at once what I think of the poem.' He begins his assessment by describing the poem as 'a work of true genius, evidencing great & varied powers; not a pleasant – nor perhaps on the whole so perfect as Olrig Grange, - but more forceful'. He describes some 'blots in the dramatic framework', but does not wish to be 'hypercritical where there is much to praise in every section of the story'. He is happy to see that the 'wellpaired volumes' of 'the Unknown Author' are to be 'supplemented […] by yet a third'. He concludes the main letter by pointing to what he takes to be 'a very masterly & mindful section', as well as 'what I like least'. The two-page postscript concerns 'quite another subject': 'I myself lack a publisher, as thus, - & for aught I know the matter might suit you.' He proceeds to suggest terms for a collection of dramatic pieces: 'Long ago I published a 5 act play “King Alfred”, - also another 5 act “Sir Walter Raleigh” - both utterly out of print & wanting reissue: also I have written – for the same thin volume when it appears – 3 Dramatic Scotch sketches, on Wallace, Bruce, & Claverhouse, to be added.' That MacLehose 'may judge better of the idea', he is sending him 'the parcel registered for safety & to be returned similarly if, after some days perusal &c, you are unwilling to take it'. THREE: [To MacLehose.] Western Villa, North Park, Croydon. 23 June 1878. 3pp., 12mo. The recipient is not named, but is clearly MacLehose (see the reference to 'your author'). Tupper begins: 'My dear Sir, | I always do a thing when I can – for fear of no other chance of doing it – when I can't – so (as tomorrow mg. For a week I shall be in Warwickshire, & thereafter for a fortnight in the Isle of Wight) not to disappoint sine die your unknown Genius of Hilda, I have made a two hours' rush through the book (though it deserves a thoughtful & critical two days') & will now give obiter my judgement of it, as you ask me.' He wonders whether the anonymity of the work might be due on the one hand to the 'autobiographical' nature of the 'whole sad story', and on the other to 'the author's clerical status'. His assessment follows, in which, while praising 'the beauty force & wit & wisdom everywhere disclosed', which all 'prove points of genius & power very various in kind', he doubts whether the book 'can be popular with the many; it is too painful for that, and Hilda with her broken idols, - the chief being her husband her child & herself – is an object rather for the intellectual pathologist than for the Spiritual poet'. He considers the 'opening verses to Theodore Martin […] quite a pendant to Tennyson's letter to Maurice'. In conclusion he expresses the hope that he may in future 'thoroughly read the book: meanwhile my daughters will – good poets both, - & possibly some day you & your author may hear more from Truly Yours | Martin F. Tupper.'