A provocative inquiry into lasting literary fame, the gifted writers who have achieved it, and the gifted writers who have not
Great writers of the past whose works we still read and love will be read forever. They will survive the test of time. We remember authors of true genius because their writings are simply the best. Or . . . might there be other reasons that account for an author’s literary fate?
This original book takes a fresh look at our beliefs about literary fame by examining how it actually comes about. H. J. Jackson wrestles with entrenched notions about recognizing genius and the test of time by comparing the reputations of a dozen writers of the Romantic period—some famous, some forgotten. Why are we still reading Jane Austen but not Mary Brunton, when readers in their own day sometimes couldn’t tell their works apart? Why Keats and not Barry Cornwall, who came from the same circle of writers and had the same mentor? Why not that mentor, Leigh Hunt, himself?
Jackson offers new and unorthodox accounts of the coming-to-fame of some of Britain’s most revered authors and compares their reputations and afterlives with those of their contemporary rivals. What she discovers about trends, champions, institutional power, and writers’ conscious efforts to position themselves for posterity casts fresh light on the actual processes that lead to literary fame.
H. J. Jackson is professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, where she was one of the founders of the graduate program in book history and print culture. She has explored every major research library in the U.S. and spent many happy summer months in the British Library and other collections in the U.K. She lives in Toronto.
“[A] revelatory and delightful study . . . Jackson’s study should renew interest in the Romantic period and its writers—the famous and forgotten alike.”?Publishers Weekly
“Jackson commands a lifetime of reading in a fluid, ceaselessly compelling history of the literary afterlife, of how over the centuries, our concepts of a writer’s immortality have morphed, mutated, double-backed.”—William Giraldi, The New Republic
“Those Who Write for Immortality is therefore a special book, a delightfully readable and reliable witness for a subject that sometimes seems out of fashion, as ideas of posterity appear either pointless or impossible, in literature or elsewhere.”—The American Scholar
“A thoughtful, elegant, and subtly humorous exploration of the specific circumstances that enable literary reputations to flourish over the long term.”—Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker
“[A] fascinating new study of literary reputation . . . [a] meticulously researched, elegantly written and wonderfully subtle account of the reputational fortunes, over time, of a select group of Romantic period writers.”—The Literary Review of Canada
“[A] spirited and always enlightening meditation on literary fame.”—Carlin Romano, The Chronicle of Higher Education
“[A] lively and immensely knowledgeable book.”—Richard Holmes, The New York Review of Books
“Samuel Daniel, a poet attuned to literary immortality, dreamed of “one good reader”. Jackson is just such a reader. Her book is full of good criticism.”—Hal Jensen, TLS
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