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Opus Posthumous by Wallace Stevens ; edited, with an introduction by Samuel French Morse

Opus Posthumous by Wallace Stevens ; edited, with an introduction by Samuel French Morse


New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1971. Fourth printing. Hardcover. 300 pages ; 22 cm.$8.95 dust jacket. Rubber stamp on flyleaf. Light foxing through the first half and a few of the last pages in this book. No markings to pages. Binding is firm.

OPUS POSTHUMOUS completes the publication in book form of all of Wallace Stevens's writing which anyone but a researching student will care to read. Taken, that is, with The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens and the prose collected in The Necessary-Angel, this volume completes the public canon of one of the significant and enduring writers of twentieth-century America.

The poems, plays, and prose writings in Opus Posthumous cover the entire span of Wallace Stevens's career. About one third of this material appears in this volume for the first time. All six of the poems included here which were printed in earlier Stevens books (including Owl's Clover) were omitted from The Collected Poems. The rest of this writing—poems, plays, and prose—was found by Samuel French Morse scattered through the magazines, anthologies, and miscellanies to which Stevens contributed generously and often. Thinking, perhaps, of future critical works and theses, Mr. Morse writes: "The time for printing such material as remains in manuscript will undoubtedly come. The present volume, however, serves a different purpose: it adds to the total body of the published work whatever is intrinsically interesting, from the real beginning to the end."

Opus Posthumous contains seventy-six poems and sections of poems (counting Owl's Clover, here reprinted intact from the original Alcestis Press edition, as a single poem despite its length and its division into titled sections). The volume also contains two plays: Three Travelers Watch a Sunrise, which appeared in Harriet Monroe's Poetry in July 1916, and Carlos Among the Candles, written for the 1917-18 season of the Wisconsin Players. Mr. Morse has included an extended selection of the proverbs called Adagia, which he describes as "the aphorisms or materia poetica of an artist rather than the more general sayings of a Pascal." The book closes with twenty prose pieces, including critical views of William Carlos Williams, John Crowe Ransom, Raoul Dufy, and others; of these perhaps the most remarkable is the "Two Prefaces" to the Dialogues of Paul Valery.

Samuel French Morse, literary adviser to the Wallace Stevens Estate and himself a poet, has supplied Opus Posthumous with a thoughtful Introduction that should help to dispel the miasma of ill-informed commentary which has risen about the solid but somehow mysterious figure of Wallace Stevens.

About the author :

WALLACE STEVENS was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 1879, and died in Ha Connecticut, on August 2, 1955. He attended Harvard University for three years, and then studied law at the New York Law School, receiving his degree in 1903. In 1904 he was admitted to the New York Bar and began to practice in New York City. From 1916 to his death he was associated with the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, of which he became vice-president in 1934.

Although Wallace Stevens had contributed to the Harvard Advocate while in college, he did not gain general recognition until four of his poems, appearing in a special 1914 wartime issue of Poetry, won a prize. He was awarded another prize for Three Travelers Watch a Sunrise, a one-act play later produced at the Provincetown Playhouse, New York. Harmonium, his first volume of poems, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1923; it was followed by Ideas of Order (1936), The Man with the Blue Guitar (1937), Parts of a World (1942), Transport to Summer (1947), The Auroras of Autumn (1950), The Necessary Angel (a volume of essays, 1951), and The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (1954).

Wallace Stevens was awarded the Bollingen Prize in Poetry of the Yale University Library for 1949. In 1951 he won the National Book Award in Poetry for The Auroras of Autumn; in 1955 he was present to accept it a second time, for The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, which was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1955.

SAMUEL FRENCH MORSE was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1916. Having studied at Dartmouth, Harvard, and Boston University, he himself has taught at Harvard, the University of Maine, and (since 1951) Trinity College, where he is assistant professor of English. He has published two books of poems: Time of Year, with an introduction by Wallace Stevens (1944), and The Scattered Causes (1955). His checklist of the published writings of Stevens was published in 1954 by the Yale Library as part of the Stevens seventy-fifth birthday celebration. He is at work on a critical biography of Stevens.

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