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City's forgotten literary history on display in new BPL exhibit

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  March 28, 2012 03:34 PM

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By Johanna Kaiser, Town Correspondent

While Boston might pride itself on its storied past, a new exhibit at the Boston Public Library and the Massachusetts Historical Society aims to showcase some chapters of the city’s literary history that have been forgotten.

The exhibit, “Forgotten Chapters of Boston’s Literary History,” offers more than 100 letters, manuscripts, and early editions of work by Boston authors, both well known and less remembered.

“Moving beyond the canonical authors of the American Renaissance, the exhibit highlights authors, works and genres that deserve more attention,” said Paul Lewis, a Boston College professor, who has worked to highlight Edgar Allan Poe’s ties to the city.

Lewis said Boston does not do enough to celebrate and remember its past literary community. The new exhibit highlights authors, editors, and publishes from the American Revolution through Civil War and will be on display from March 28 through July 30.

Works displayed in the exhibit include works by Olaudah Equiano, Phillis Wheatley, Judith Sargent Murray, Susanna Haswell Rowson, William Charles White, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Charles Sprague, Lydia Maria Child, Edgar Allan Poe, Margaret Fuller, Samuel Griswold Goodrich, Sarah Josepha Hale, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Gilmore Simms, Charles James Sprague, James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jacob Abbott and Henry David Thoreau.

The exhibit is divided into six sections following the rise and fall of reputations and mapping the streets of Boston during the height of literary achievement.

It also focuses on the the rise of children’s literature and problems faced by African American, women, and Irish writers in Boston.

Lewis and his students who helped collect and research material for the exhibit will host an opening night program Wednesday at the Boston Public Library from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Matthew Pearl, a historical novelist, is set to give a talk titled “The Old Corner: How a Modest Bookstore Defined a Boston Literary Epoch.”
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Twitter: @YourBackBay, @JohannaKaiser
E-mail: johanna.yourtown@gmail.com

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