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BOOK REVIEWS Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Johnson . Edited by Howard K. Beale. Assisted by Alan W. Brownsword. 3 vols. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1960. $30.00.) in 1925 the late Howard ?. beale pointed out tìiat die Diary of Gideon WeUes, as edited by John T. Morse, Jr. (3 vols.; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1911), was not exacdy what it purported to be. This Morse edition departed frequendy from die letter of Welles's original manuscript. The most serious fault was die inclusion of Welles's, his son's, and the editor's emendations and day-to-day entries as Welles first wrote diem. Ever since Professor Beale's revelation, students of die Civil War and Reconstruction have desired a reliable edition of die diary. Surely no one was better qualified to prepare such a work tiian Professor Beale himself. At last die Beale edition is available, widi a 39-page introduction in which he has restated his critique of die Morse edition. The new publication turns out to be not entirely new. It is a photographic reproduction of tie 1911 printing , widi corrections indicated by ordinary proof marks plus thirteen arbitrary symbols and widi additions printed in die margins and in a series of "inserts" at die end of die third volume. Nowhere is die relation of diese volumes to those of die 1911 printing made explicit. Nor is diere any explanation why tìiis unusual form of publication was chosen. Perhaps it was a way of cutting costs, and yet the three-volume set, at $30.00, is hardly low-priced, especially considering the indifferent quality of die binding. A proof-marked reproduction of a faulty edition is no doubt advantageous for die reader interested in studying die process by which a manuscript becomes corrupted. For die reader interested in die historical document itself, however, such a reproduction, while not widiout value, is awkward and even exasperating to use. Much better would have been a completely reset edition, giving the diary (so far as practicable) in its pristine purity, widi footnotes containing Welles's changes and enlargements (where diese have significance as parts of the historical record.) Such footnotes would have needed to be comparatively few, for die great majority of die items corrected in die Beale edition are trivial so far as die historical value of die diary is concerned. Welles's original mistakes in punctuation , for example, are meticulously restored, diough his spelling errors are not. The words tìiat Welles inserted merely to clarify die sense or smoodi die style, as well as die afterthoughts which more or less change die meaning , are painstakingly set off by editorial brackets. Here is a random sample 451 452civil war history (Vol. Ill, p. 11) : "I confess I had not been as reserved as [die Secretary of State and Secretary of War]"—here Welles's original words "Seward and Stanton" appear in die margin as replacements for die bracketed phrase— "in expressing my opinions." Some of die editorial markings, diough proportionately a radier small number, are of real wordi from die historian's point of view. These designate Welles's afterthoughts which, if taken as genuine diary entries, give an erroneous idea of his knowledge and feelings on die dates concerned. To cite only one case, diough an important one, diere appear in die Morse edition under die date of April 13, 1865, as if diey were contemporary jottings, two radier full paragraphs in which Welles records a conversation widi Lincoln in regard to die convening of die "Rebel legislature" of Virginia. The significance of diese paragraphs, as indicating Lincoln's views on April 13, 1865, is drastically altered when we discover, from die markings in die Beale edition , diat die paragraphs were inserted after that time (probably not until 1870). By serving as a corrective guide in matters of this kind, die Beale edition, despite its peculiar form, becomes indispensable to all students of die period who cannot justify a trip to Washington to view die original manuscript. They are indebted to Professor Beale for a prodigious labor conscientiously performed . Richard N. Current University of Wisconsin Meade of Gettysburg. By...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 451-452
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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