Publisher to the Decadents: Leonard Smithers in the Careers of Beardsley, Wilde, Dowson by James G. Nelson (review)
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Kete observes early on in Sentimental ColUborations that the Utopian American selfachieves unity with others through two fundamental behaviors: "it loves and it shops." In her Epilogue, "Converting Loss to Profit: Collaborations ofSentiment and Speculation," Kete (a bit too briefly, I think) gestures towards an understanding ofthe American selfat a comfortable ifproblematic intersection between sentimentality and capitalism. Earlier on, in her Introduction, Kete offers an ingenious reading ofAl Gore's use ofsentimentality as a vice-president seeking to bond with ordinary Americans; more discussion ofthe operations ofcapital as constitutive of community (the setting for Gore's tale of family trauma a mall parking lot) might be especially powerful. Like sentimentality, speculation invests the individual in an economic social sphere; shopping might parallel loving as a collaborative move into community. This is an intriguing idea, and although it begs for a bit more to be said, especially in connection with an evolving definition ofsentimentality in capitalist America, Kete's point remains a strong one. A unique and well-written work, Sentimental ColUtborations contributes most importantly to the study of nineteenth-century American poetry with its methodology . Additionally, Kete's insight into the poetry of these ordinary Vermontians, and into the aesthetic values ofwhat might constitute a class of people whose ambition is ordinariness, is striking and innovative, and offers great excitement to those in the field. Sentimental ColUborations belongs on the reading list ofanyone interested in new ideas about poetry and American culture, as well as anyone interested in dynamic approaches to literary study. James G. Nelson. Publisher to the Decadents: Leonard Smithers in the Careers ofBeardsley, Wilde, Dowson. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000. 43Op. Linda White University of Nevada, Reno Nelson has spent a career explicating the importance of the nineteenth-century small publishers and their contribution to the field of literary publishing. Publisher to the Decadents was preceded by The Early Nineties: A Viewfrom the BodUy Headand Elkin Mathews: Publisher to Yeats,Joyce, Pound. For those whose research usually targets a book's content, Nelson creates a fascinating, detailed history ofa man whose contacts and interests irretrievably affected the publishing world not only ofhis own era, but of the twentieth century as well. Nelson also provides a new perspective on the Victorian Decadents — Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, and Ernest Dowson — and on the struggle to preserve 116 * ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + SPRING 2001 the works ofSir Richard Burton. A thorough study and skillful usage ofpassages from personal correspondence illuminate the relationships between Smithers and each ofthese individuals without any need on the part ofthe author to inject glaring twenty-first-century labels or explanations. In fact, Nelson writes so well that only the tell-tale superscript numbers remind the reader that he has segued from his own voice to that of the long-dead correspondents. In note 29 ofChapter One, Nelson comments on Burton's disdain for works without notes and index (355). His own work would have earned Burton's praise for its exacting detail, uncluttered yet informative notes, reassuringly complete index, and sixty-five pages ofappendices (four in all) itemizing Smithers' publications . "Appendix A: Smithers and the Erotic Book Trade" was written by Peter Mendes, and Nelson and Mendes collaborated on "Appendix D: Checklist of Smithers's Publications." The checklist is supremely useful, as indicated by the note to the entry on Priapeia: As originally printed (probably by Nichols), Burton's collaboration was openly acknowledged in Smithers's Introduction, but Burton asked for this to be removed and the relevant pages were quickly canceled and replaced by a passage denying rumors ofhis involvement. According to Penzer, only 2 copies containing the canceled pages seem to have escaped, one now in a private U.S. collection . (Nelson 318) Nelson maintains a non-judgmental distance throughoutwith regard to the works mentioned, saving his editorial acid for the restrictive morality of the world in which Smithers lived and worked. The historical information provides a counterpoint to the jaundiced ho-hum modern view ofa publishingworld where PUyboy and HustUr are considered mainstream publications and "porn" is badly written, poorly printed, and miserably bound. Smithers devotion to the creation ofartistic showcases oftheworks ofthose he deemedworthy ofpublication incurred considerable risk. . . . shops...