|Adelaide Crapsey: Materials for a Biographical and Textual Study|
|Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation|
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER LIBRARY BULLETIN
Volume XXV · Autumn-Winter 1969-70 · Numbers 1 & 2
Adelaide Crapsey: Materials for a Biographical and Textual Study
--Susan Sutton Smith
Adelaide Crapsey, Rochester's only internationally recognized poet, felt that her hope of personal immortality lay in her work. The envoi of her Verse, entitled "The Immortal Residue," reads:
None of her poetry, however, was published while she lived: she received notice that her first poem had been accepted for publication only a week before she died. She had reflected upon the epitaph Keats chose for himself, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water," and would probably have smiled wryly at the small number of people, even in Rochester, who recognize her name fifty-five years after her death. Those who do recognize her ungainly name are often misinformed. A recent Scrapbook Almanac of the Anglo-American Literary Scene from 1900 to 1950, by Robert Phelps and Peter Deane, says that she died at age thirty-eight in Saranac Lake, New York. (She died at thirty-six in Rochester.) A standard reference work, The Oxford Companion to American Literature, states that her poetry "was written during the last year of her brief life" and that it "was edited by Jean Webster." Such inaccuracy typifies the carelessness with which the poet and her work have been treated. If few people know Adelaide Crapsey's name, even fewer know her work. Although praised by critic Yvor Winters in his final book, Forms of Discovery, as a "minor poet of great distinction," she has generally been ignored. Winters, with characteristic tartness, blames her obscurity on anthologists "who have an infallible taste for the weakest work of any poet they consider." Whether or not this is true, Adelaide Crapsey remains little known and the same few poems are printed in anthology after anthology. The poems chosen are almost always cinquains, for she achieves mention, if at all, as the inventor of this verse form, a poem of five lines, which are of two, four, six, eight, and two syllables respectively.
Adelaide Crapsey's work, in fact, comprises almost two hundred poems, including thirty-five cinquains. Readers fortunate enough to know more than a few of Adelaide Crapsey's poems may well feel, as Winters does, that the poems have worn well, that many of them remain "in their way honest and acutely perceptive." The distinctive compression of her best work offers striking proof that less is more and seems particularly attractive to those surfeited with the aesthetic sprawl of the space age. "They are the work of a lady who was obsessed with the necessity of writing well," says Winters; "we should not let them disappear." For those determined to preserve this "immortal residue," a quiet yet distinctive voice in American poetry, materials in the Rochester area provide a unique opportunity for the study of her life and work. The Department of Special Collections at the University of Rochester Library has in the Adelaide Crapsey Papers manuscripts, notebooks, and letters given to the Library by the Crapsey family and by the poet's friend and editor, Esther Lowenthal. The University's collection of books and manuscripts affords invaluable aid in learning more of the poet's life and in learning more about her poetry so that it may be presented in its truest form. Such biographical and textual studies give serious readers greater understanding of the nature and critical importance of the poetry and its place in literary history. The value and usefulness of the Adelaide Crapsey collection at the University is enhanced by its proximity to a second important collection of Adelaide Crapsey material, that of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur H. Crapsey, Jr., of Greenview Drive in Rochester. Mr. Crapsey is Adelaide Crapsey's nephew, the son of her youngest brother, Arthur H. Crapsey, Sr. (1896-1955); he has generously made available not only his manuscripts, photographs, and memorabilia, but also his rich store of family information, anecdotes, and traditions. Investigation is further facilitated by the presence in the University of Rochester Department of Special Collections of the Bragdon Papers. These include the business records and personal papers of Claude Fayette Bragdon (1866-1946), noted architect and stage designer, Adelaide Crapsey's friend and her first publisher. The opportunities offered by these Rochester materials for a much-needed study of the poet's life and work can perhaps best be appreciated through a description of the way in which both biographical and textual studies depend upon such materials.
Adelaide Crapsey was born on September 9, 1878, in Brooklyn Heights, New York, the third child and second daughter of the Rev. Algernon Sidney Crapsey (1847-1927), an Episcopal clergyman, and Adelaide Trowbridge Crapsey (1855-1950). Students of Rochester history often recognize the poet only as one member of a large and active family and as the daughter of her remarkable parents. For "nearly twenty-eight years," according to a history of Rochester and Monroe County published in 1908, Dr. Crapsey was the "popular and valued rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal church in Rochester." Although his ideas of "Christian sociology" and specifically his statements on "The Origin of Jesus" caused him to be tried as a heretic and suspended from the ministry in 1906, he resolved to continue his work in Rochester "as minister to the physical, moral and spiritual life of the people." The University of Rochester has a fine collection of Dr. Crapsey's books and pamphlets, including his autobiography, The Last of the Heretics, published in 1924. Mrs. Crapsey founded and for many years headed "The Guild of the Lily," a firm which grew famous for its children's clothes. After the poet's death, her mother made two scrapbooks. One of these, in the collection of the University of Rochester, contains letters of condolence written to Dr. and Mrs. Crapsey and reviews and letters of appreciation for her Verse. A second scrapbook, in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Crapsey, bears a carefully lettered title on its first page, "Data Covering The Period 1878 to 1914." To one page of the scrapbook are pasted two typewritten sheets headed "Extracts From Her Mother's Journals." These "Extracts" constitute a carefully arranged chronological supplement to the pictures, letters and mementos contained in the book. The "Extracts" are of great assistance to the biographer, especially since Mrs. Crapsey's Journals were destroyed, at her request, when she died. The extracts and the scrapbooks indicate the strong-minded sense and organizational powers of the woman who made them.
Algernon Sidney Crapsey became rector of St. Andrew's in 1879 and his family followed him to Rochester from New York City on the canal boat. Six younger children were born in the rectory at Averill Avenue and Ashland Street. In 1893, Adelaide and her sister Emily (born in 1877) were sent to Kemper Hall, an Episcopal boarding school in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Adelaide took a college preparatory course including Latin and French and succeeded her sister as editor of the school magazine and valedictorian of her class. She was an enthusiastic basketball player and referee.
In 1897, Adelaide Crapsey entered Vassar College. At Vassar, too, Adelaide was an excellent student; she was graduated with honors, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and was a spirited participant in many non-academic activities. Information on both her course of study and her extracurricular activities have been sent to Rochester from Poughkeepsie. She managed several basketball teams, took the part of Lucy in The Rivals, and was a member of a debating team affirming "That England's policy in the Transvaal is unjustifiable." The University of Rochester now has Xerox copies of her undergraduate poems, reviews, and fiction written for the Vassar Miscellany. For three years she was class poet and in her senior year was editor-in-chief of the Vassarion, the Vassar College yearbook. This year the University of Rochester Library received a copy of the 1901 Vassarion, copyright by Adelaide Crapsey, as a gift of the Vassar College Library. Adelaide seems to have contributed many poems and captions to the Vassarion. As editor-in-chief, she approved, if she did not compose, the tart poetic comment appearing over a list of the Vassar members of the Daughters of the American Revolution:
This use of Burns has the spirit of another independent mind, Adelaide Crapsey's friend and roommate, and a literary editor of the yearbook, Jean Webster. The one-line identification beneath Adelaide's senior portrait in the Vassarion reads "It is a very serious thing to be a funny man," and Adelaide's love of humor is evident also in her friendship with Jean Webster (1876-1916). A niece of Mark Twain from Fredonia, New York, Jean Webster became the author of popular juvenile novels and sketches of college life, including Daddy Long-Legs (1912) and the Patty series. In a memoir of Adelaide Crapsey, written for the Vassar Miscellany in 1915, she recalls her friend's "delightful quality of camaraderie" and "quick, bubbling humor." The poet's first biographer, Mary Elizabeth Osborn, author of Adelaide Crapsey (1933), states that "Jean Webster said that she had had Adelaide in mind while she was writing Daddy Long-Legs" and adds the supposition that "this is probably true of many of the 'Patty' sketches as well." In an excellent example of the progressive error which impedes many a scholarly or historical investigation, The Oxford Companion to American Literature transforms this supposition into the statement that: "The prototype of the heroine of both the novel and the series is said to have been her friend, Adelaide Crapsey, whose Verse she edited (1915)." Jean Webster (Mrs. Glenn F. McKinney) died in 1916 and shares her friend's vulnerability to the distortions of time.
Two deaths saddened Adelaide Crapsey's college years. Her sister Ruth died of undulant fever at the age of eleven in 1898. Beautiful Emily, the sister to whom she was closest, died suddenly of appendicitis at the age of twenty-four in 1901. Adelaide Crapsey spent one year at home in Rochester and during the academic years 1902-1903 and 1903-1904 she taught history and literature at Kemper Hall. Perhaps it was at about this period that Adelaide Crapsey became acquainted with James Holly Hanford (1882-1969), a native of Rochester who was graduated from the University of Rochester in 1904. They may have been drawn together by their admiration for Milton: Adelaide Crapsey thought the first line of Lycidas "the purest poetry" and Milton inspired many of her early metrical studies; Hanford was just beginning a lifetime of Milton scholarship. A friend of Hanford's recorded Hanford's statement that Adelaide "sometimes made poetic remarks." At this period Adelaide Crapsey first began to suffer from the fatigue which was a symptom of her fatal disease. In October, 1904, she sailed for Europe and studied at the School of Archaeology in Rome until late in 1905. She was able to earn money by working occasionally as a lecturer. When she returned from Europe at the end of 1905, she accompanied her father to Batavia, New York, during his trial as a heretic. In December, 1906, Dr. Crapsey was formally deposed from the ministry of the Episcopal Church. Dr. Crapsey requested this deposition after making an unsuccessful appeal of his suspension by the ecclesiastical court. At the same difficult period, the Crapseys' eldest son, Philip, died of malaria contracted during his service in the Spanish-American War.
In 1906-1907 and 1907-1908 Adelaide Crapsey served as an instructor of literature and history at a preparatory school in Stamford, Connecticut. Although she accompanied her father to the Hague Peace Conference in the summer of 1907, the years at Stamford were ones of increasing physical difficulty. Apparently her problem was as yet undiagnosed as tuberculosis, but she found herself exhausted and often spent weekends in bed to recover from the effort of a week's teaching. The story of this struggle, which she spared her family at the time, appears in a 1929 letter of reminiscences from her friend Louise H. Merritt. This letter is included in the scrapbook made by Adelaide Trowbridge Crapsey now in the collection of Arthur H. Crapsey, Jr.
In January, 1908, the Crapsey family moved into a new house at 678 Averill Avenue, Rochester, built for the lifetime use of Dr. and Mrs. Crapsey by his admirers. The story of this construction is told in occasional doggerel written by Adelaide for the dedication of "678," entitled "The Builders of the House."
Failing health caused Adelaide Crapsey to give up teaching and in December, 1908, she again returned to Europe, living in Rome, London, and Kent and spending short periods in Fiesole and Paris. In February and March, 1908, she was in the Anglo-American hospital in Rome. The collection of Arthur H. Crapsey, Jr., also includes a large group of letters from Adelaide Crapsey in Europe to her family. Since she seldom dated her letters, these must be dated, if possible, from internal references, such as her remarks on the funeral of Edward VII and by comparing their contents with the information given in Mrs. Crapsey's chronologically arranged extracts. During her entire stay in Europe, Adelaide Crapsey was in poor health, yet was trying to live as cheaply as possible. She later told Esther Lowenthal that she had lived on one pound a week in London. Apparently the poet describes this difficult period in her characteristically humorous quatrain "Expenses." In London Adelaide continued her work on the "application of phonetics to metrical problems." The University of Rochester papers include her reading slips from the British Museum in 1909 and 1910, and her choice of books indicates clearly the direction of her prosodic studies.
Although the letters in the Crapsey collection have never been thoroughly examined, they may in one sense prove disappointing. Adelaide Crapsey's sojourn in Bloomsbury seems to have left her unacquainted with any of her fellow poets. She seems never to have given the slightest hint of knowledge of the work of her fellow Americans, Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle, or any of the English members of the group later to be known under Pound's label as "Imagists." Adelaide Crapsey seems to have shared in solitude their admiration for modern French poetry and interest in Japanese forms. Poor health and her engrossing metrical analysis undoubtedly help to explain this isolation, though a later letter seems to show that she held some contemporary English poetry in low esteem. In 1911 Adelaide Crapsey returned to America and began work as an instructor in poetics at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts. Among her colleagues and friends at Smith were Mary Delia Lewis of the English department and Esther Lowenthal, then an instructor in economics (now professor of economics and dean emeritus of Smith College). Miss Lowenthal was also from Rochester and now occasionally returns on visits to her family. To her generous gifts of manuscripts and papers she has added valuable information concerning the poet's final years.
A memoir of Adelaide Crapsey written by Mary Delia Lewis for the Smith College Monthly in December, 1915, is available in a scrapbook among the papers of Claude F. Bragdon at the University of Rochester. Miss Lewis evokes Adelaide Crapsey's gray-clad figure, "her indefatigable industry," "a fastidious taste which would admit no standard but perfection, and dominating all, an extraordinary intellectual grasp and power." Most interesting of all is her description of Adelaide Crapsey's combination of sympathy and exquisite reserve: "her power of understanding, arising from her strong belief in the essential right of every individual, however intimate a friend, to unexplained acts and motives." Esther Lowenthal wrote in May, 1969, that Adelaide Crapsey "worked very hard at Smith both at her teaching and at the counting of syllables for the metrics." She seems to have been both an exacting and an inspiring teacher, striving to instill in her students her convictions about the importance of form. Teaching and the metrical analyses often left her exhausted. Sometime in the summer of 1911, Adelaide visited a doctor and was told that she suffered from tuberculin meningitis, or tuberculosis of the lining of the brain. She did not tell her family of the diagnosis. After another year of teaching at Smith she collapsed in July, 1913, and was forced to go for a year (September, 1913, to August, 1914) to a sanitarium at Saranac Lake, New York.
One of the most interesting groups of papers in the University of Rochester collection consists of thirty-two letters from Adelaide Crapsey to Esther Lowenthal written between July, 1913, and May, 1914, and given to the library by Miss Lowenthal in November, 1966. The letters offer few problems in dating because Miss Lowenthal kept most of the letters in their original postmarked envelopes. They provide a rare opportunity to study a person always somewhat reticent and elusive, although never reclusive or withdrawn until her health had been seriously impaired. In her letters Adelaide Crapsey displays resolute courage and humor in spite of "ghastly fatigue," and painful medical treatments which included unsuccessful attempts to collapse a lung. In several letters she apologizes for her handwriting, explaining that she wears mittens because she has been instructed to sit outdoors in the Winter sunshine. Medical theory at that time also encouraged sleigh rides in November and December and she dutifully complied with the directions of her doctor.
Little had been learned in the almost one hundred years since Dr. Clark advised the dying Keats to ride horseback in Rome.
Adelaide Crapsey often writes to Esther Lowenthal of her determination to continue work on "the favorite literature," as she playfully calls her metrical studies. When she was forbidden to continue with this work she turned to poetry, but she does not discuss the poetry in her letters. She refers to a poem only once in the entire group of letters. This poem is the grimly humorous "To My Left Lung" enclosed with a letter in February, 1914. She writes enthusiastically of The Idiot and Henry James, indulges in "3.75 worth of Willy Yeats," and looks forward to Wilfred Meynell's edition of Francis Thompson. Her judgment of contemporary English poetry is flavored with humorous self-awareness. She had received an English Poetry Review and found its contents disappointing: "The Poetry Review like the others—thin and stodgy but a degree more provincial more amateurish—(whats happening to intellectual life in England!) not much good for fav. lit., I fear—You'll notice the delightful implication that my intellectual life is neither thin, stodgy, provincial, nor amateurish!" Although still unwilling to accept the serious and final nature of her illness—"if its chronic tuberculosis" (April 21, 1914)—she was forced to recognize that she would not be able to return to teaching and resolved to find a sanitarium "less expensive more livable and less arctic." She returned to Rochester, grew suddenly worse and died in her family's house at 678 Averill Avenue on October 8, 1914, of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis.
A two-line poem by Adelaide Crapsey entitled "On Seeing Weather-Beaten Trees" asks:
Is it as plainly in our living shown,
For the poet herself the answer is "No." Family and friends watched a hard-working yet fun-loving young woman stricken by disease but could only guess at her inner struggle. The reticence and firm control, characteristic of her finest poetry, marked her own conduct. The "moment of exasperation" which provoked her to cry out "I'll not be patient! I will not lie still!" in the poem "To the Dead in the Graveyard underneath my Window" was rare and even this poetic cry of anguish was revealed to her parents only after her death. Self-control, great consideration for others, and her belief in "the right of every individual" "to unexplained acts and motives" explain something of the slant and twist of Adelaide Crapsey. This very strength of character, however, ensures that biographical facts can provide only hints of the inner life. The reader can only guess at the struggle of a strong character fighting bravely and even humorously what she herself knew was a losing battle, anticipating the "Grim casual comment on rebellion's end," and avoiding the indulgence of self-pity by exercising immense self-control.
Adelaide Crapsey lies buried within sight of the University of Rochester Library in the Crapsey family plot in Mount Hope Cemetery, her ashes in an urn given by her college classmates. John Rothwell Slater (1872-1965), chairman of the University of Rochester Department of English, wrote these "Lines for Adelaide Crapsey's Grave in Mount Hope," now in the local history collection of the Rochester Public Library:
Adelaide Crapsey's "immortal residue," her poetry, strong in its integrity and fastidious in its construction, has proven all too mortal in its susceptibility to neglect and carelessness. The details of the poet's life, fascinating in themselves because of the strengths and struggles they suggest, may also provide valuable aid for the textual study of the work. If the facts of the poet's life are little-known or given incorrectly, ideas about her texts are even less accurate. The statement in The Oxford Companion to American Literature that her poems were edited by Jean Webster is demonstrably untrue. The first edition of Adelaide Crapsey's poems, entitled Verse, was published by the Manas Press in Rochester in 1915. Seven poems were added to the edition published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1922 and reprinted in 1926. Twenty more poems were added to the Knopf edition of 1934, which was reprinted in 1938. Some poems have never been published. As Yvor Winters says bluntly, again in Forms of Discovery, "Good poems do not survive automatically." One way to prevent the disappearance of such distinguished poems and to encourage their enjoyment is to make them available to scholars, students, and readers in good texts, as their author wrote them. A determination to recover and protect the poet's words inspires a careful textual study of Adelaide Crapsey.
The problem of authority for the poems in the 1915 edition of Verse makes a convenient starting place for an account of the textual problems raised by Adelaide Crapsey's poetry. Since the first publication was posthumous, an entire range of forms is impossible: there exists no author-corrected proof or printed copy with the author's holograph revisions. Although the number of possible forms is thus limited, the task of establishing the authentic forms of the text remains formidable. Rochester affords the student of Adelaide Crapsey a wealth of potentially relevant forms. The University of Rochester Library has five important groups of materials in its Adelaide Crapsey Papers:
Another potentially relevant form of the text of the 1915 edition belongs to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur H. Crapsey, Jr., of 51 Greenview Drive in Rochester. This is a typewritten copy of sixty-three poems. Leaf IR (watermarked "OLD DEERFIELD BOND RAG CONTENT MADE IN U.S.A.) bears a statement in elite type composed by Adelaide Trowbridge Crapsey:
Leaves 2 and 3 are watermarked "Berkshire Linen U.S.A." and contain a list of poems. Leaves 4-72 are watermarked "Berkshire Type Writer Paper U.S.A." All leaves in this copy have two holes on the left and are fastened together with two roundheaded brass fasteners. There are two pencil notes in the hand of Adelaide Crapsey (on leaves 47 and 54) and initialed and uninitialed notes by Esther Lowenthal and Mary Delia Lewis. The Crapsey's "Greenview copy" also contains the only extant form of one unpublished cinquain, "Refuge In Darkness":
The two Rochester area collections provide at least one form for most of the sixty-three poems in the 1915 edition. There remain a few poems for which the first edition (posthumous) constitutes the sole authority. These are: "The Guarded Wound," "Fate Defied," and "Grain Field."
Where one or more forms of the poems exist, the relevant and the potentially relevant forms must be carefully distinguished. The traditions surrounding the first edition provide an excellent example of the unreliability of such traditions or accepted assumptions as bases for editorial decisions. Because Adelaide Crapsey's "exquisite verses" were said to have been "discovered after death"—in the phrases of Dr. Slater's inscription for a marker placed at 678 Averill Avenue—some writers have slipped into statements implying that her entire poetic life was secret. An earlier student believed that "Mrs. Crapsey never learned her daughter had been a poet until after Adelaide's death." Since her daughter had written many poems in preparatory school and at college, had been class poet at Vassar, and had contributed poems such as "The Builders of the House" to family ceremonies and celebrations, her mother could hardly have been entirely unaware of her activities.
Claude Bragdon, too, contributes to the impression that a substantial body of poetic work was revealed only after her death. The books and papers of Claude Bragdon in the University of Rochester Library provide evidence of a most unusual author-editor-publisher relationship. An architect with an interest in the occult, Bragdon had established the Manas Press chiefly for the publication of books and pamphlets on theosophy by himself and others. Bragdon regularly described his second wife, Eugénie, as a "Delphic Woman," in constant communication with the spirit world, and, accordingly, in his autobiography, More Lives Than One, published in 1938, he gives the following account of the circumstances which eventually resulted in the publication of Verse: "One morning in the summer of 1915 I was awakened by my wife Eugénie, who asked me if I knew anyone by the name of Adelaide. I told her that Mrs. Algernon Crapsey's name was Adelaide, and it had also been that of her daughter, who had died a short time before. "Take me to see Mrs. Crapsey,' said Eugénie, 'because I was awakened by the sound of her name, repeated over and over: Adelaide! Adelaide!' " Bragdon's home at this time was 3 Castle Park, just on the other side of Mount Hope, and geographical contiguity may have increased his willingness to believe in messages from another world. It is certain, at any rate, that many examples of Eugénie Bragdon's automatic writings exist, duly catalogued and filed, in the University of Rochester Library Department of Special Collections. Some allowances must be made in a city which boasts a monument to the Fox sisters.
Setting aside this account of Eugénie's spirit messages, some of Bragdon's other statements agree with the evidence offered by the holographs and lists of poems. In his foreword to the 1915 edition, he says that "This collection of her verse is of her own choosing, arranged and prepared by her own hand." There are, however, some discrepancies between his statements in 1915 and 1938 and another account, published in a 1929 book of essays, Merely Players: "Adelaide Crapsey was my friend. It was my privilege to edit, introduce and publish her poems, the existence of which were not known until after her death. . . . Shortly after all this happened [July 18-20, 1915] Doctor and Mrs. Crapsey came to me for advice about the publication of Adelaide's verse, which had been found, carefully prepared and arranged, among her effects. They had submitted it to one or two publishers without success." The 1938 account, in More Lives Than One, continues differently: "So we called on the Crapseys, and in the course of the conversation it developed that after their daughter's death they had found a sheaf of poems left by her with the request that they be printed. Not having succeeded in finding anyone who would undertake their publication, Doctor Crapsey asked me if I would read the manuscript and advise him how to proceed." Although his account of Eugénie's part in author-publisher relations has something of the spirit of the mediumistic endings supplied for Edwin Drood, and although his statements do not agree about who went where, they do agree in saying that a group of the poems was intended by the author for publication.
Adelaide Crapsey, who did not herself believe in an afterlife, would have been amused by Bragdon's accounts. Writing to Esther Lowenthal from Saranac Lake in November, 1913, she had smiled and recalled his good intentions when he bombarded her with his own writings on the occult: "Letter from Claude Bragdon and book—wait till I've opened them—another Man the Cube? (her title for his pamphlet on the fourth dimension) Next door to it A Primer of Higher Space 'hot from the press.' Whatever Claude Bragdon's sources of information, he proved a faithful editor, reproducing the poet's unusual punctuation, and having the binding and the geometrically patterned end-papers which he drew himself done in her favorite gray. His detailed business records of the first edition are also among the Bragdon papers at the University of Rochester. He lists every one of the 1,313 copies sold or sent for review through 1921. The books which had been published by the Manas Press were turned over to Alfred A. Knopf in 1921 when Bragdon's success with a book on the fourth dimension made it impractical to continue his small publishing firm. A good business sense and an interest in the occult may well go together. Yeats credited his wife's automatic writings with the cones and gyres of his "Vision."
Claude Bragdon's statements appear models of accuracy when they are compared with one made by Jean Webster McKinney. Jean Webster and Adelaide Crapsey had remained close. In September 1911, Adelaide Trowbridge Crapsey's Journal (as extracted in the scrapbook) records that her daughter "went to Tyringham to visit Jean Webster." The cinquain entitled "Laurel in the Berkshires" in the 1915 edition has the title "Laurel in Tyringham" in the holograph copy found in the manuscript volume "Verse." Mary Elizabeth Osborn says that Jean Webster was one of the two friends who had looked after getting the poet's verse typed. In an article for the Vassar Miscellany in March, 1915, which was reprinted as a "Preface" to Verse in the Knopf editions, Jean Webster writes: "In spite of the fact that many of these poems were left only in their first rough draft, they are marvelously perfect." In truth, almost every one of the sixty-three poems in the first edition exists in at least one holograph fair copy. The bound manuscript volume "Verse" gives ample evidence of the poet's fondness for making meticulous copies of her finished poems. The poems which exist in anything resembling a "first rough draft," such as "Snow" or "Madness," are rare exceptions. Although Jean Webster was at the Crapsey home when Adelaide Crapsey died and is reported to have presented a typewritten copy of the poems to her mother, her obvious ignorance of the form in which the poems existed raises serious doubts about her traditionally accepted activities as an advisor or possible editor. These doubts are reinforced by the absence of her initials from the copies of the poems which bear the initials of the two other editors.
The only evidence in the Adelaide Crapsey Papers that Jean Webster had any connection with the poems is a note by Esther Lowenthal on a copy of the cinquain, "Why have/ I thought the dew." Both the copy and the note are in Esther Lowenthal's handwriting. The note reads: "Copy of cinquain found at end of sheet of analysis. Original sent to J.W." Papers at the University of Rochester thus show that the picture of Jean Webster as the editor of Adelaide Crapsey's poetry given by The Oxford Companion to American Literature must be false.
In spite of a family tradition, handed down to Arthur H. Crapsey, Jr., that Adelaide Crapsey, "fastidious as she was in all things," wrote her poems only as "work pieces," as "tests of her complex metrical theories," it seems certain on the basis of textual evidence, that she carefully prepared these poems for publication. Her "letter to the world" was readied for the public eye: the evidence of her intention and preparation includes her careful notes on the order of the poems described above, her notes on the Greenview copy, the notebooks and on other loose copies which indicate that certain poems had been submitted to magazines, and her envoi, the "Inscription for my Verse," entitled "The Immortal Residue." Friends and family to the contrary, it seems that her preparations for publication were remarkably complete for one sick unto death. She was her own first editor, carefully selecting her poems and arranging them very much as they appear in the first edition.
Two friends, however, exercised some editorial functions. They were Esther Lowenthal and Mary Delia Lewis, her colleagues at Smith. Their notes, often initialed, appear on the loose typewritten copies and on the Greenview copy. In a letter written May 1, 1969, Miss Lowenthal says that she knows "nothing of the alleged typed copy given Mrs. Crapsey after Adelaide's death" and that she does not "know anything of omitted poems." Her initials, however, appear frequently on the Greenview copy and her pencil "Not" or "I think not" seems to have resulted in the omission of several poems from the 1915 edition: "The Death of Holofernes," "Refuge In Darkness," "Narcissus," and "The Entombment." Miss Lowenthal writes that the "two added poems" ("Old Love" and "My Birds That Fly No Longer" which were not in the typewritten copy) "were sent by me with the advice of Mary Delia Lewis."
As the student attempts to make a master list of the poems and the forms in which they exist or tries to establish authentic forms of the text for one edition, the division of Adelaide Crapsey's poems along lines dictated by their publishing history at first seems convenient. This division along historical lines follows:
I. The sixty-three poems in the 1915 edition:
II. The seven poems added to the first Knopf edition in 1922 and reprinted in 1926:
III. The twenty poems added to the Knopf edition of 1934 and reprinted in 1938:
Total number of published poems: 90.
IV. The twenty-nine poems that have never been published. This figure does not include the poems on three leaves of French poetry, possible unattributed ones in the notebooks, poems appearing in school or college publications, or such occasional doggerel as "The Builders of the House." The total number of authentic serious poems, published and unpublished, is one hundred nineteen.
Such a division on historical grounds, however, obscures the issues raised by textual criticism of the poetry. As James Thorpe says in his excellent article, "The Aesthetics of Textual Criticism": "the intentions of the artist are of controlling importance over textual work." "The work of art," he points out, "is thus always tending toward a collaborative status, and the task of the textual critic is always to recover and preserve its integrity at that point where the authorial intentions seem to have been fulfilled." The problem of determining authorial intention becomes somewhat more difficult and yet particularly important when publication is posthumous. The only division of the poems of Adelaide Crapsey which has meaning for the textual critic is the division between those poems which she intended to publish and prepared for publication (whether or not these poems appeared in the posthumous first edition of 1915, or in 1922, or in 1934, or have never been published) and those poems which lack evidence of her having prepared them for publication. Thus, the form of a published poem becomes irrelevant except in the few cases where the printed version is the only extant form: "The Guarded Wound," "Fate Defied," and "Grain Field" in the 1915 edition. All publications were posthumous, and as Thorpe says: "the integrity of the work of art depends very much on the work being limited to those intentions which are the author's, together with those others of which he approves or in which he acquiesces. When these intentions have been fulfilled, the work of art has its final integrity or completeness."
What extant forms seem to fulfill the intentions of the author concerning those poems she intended for publication?
I. Many of the author's final intentions for the poems in her original selection seem to be represented by the Greenview copy described above. It contains cinquains such as "The Death of Holofernes" (published in 1934) and "Refuge in Darkness" (never published). Some of the poems listed on leaves 2 and 3 of the Greenview copy or in the holograph lists in the miscellaneous notes in Adelaide Crapsey's handwriting are missing from the body, leaves 5-72, of the Greenview copy. Two groups of the loose typewritten copies in the University of Rochester Adelaide Crapsey Papers may have corrections in the handwriting of the author and may supply some of the forms which fulfill the author's intentions for the missing poems.
II. Loose typewritten copies in the University of Rochester Adelaide Crapsey Papers. Leaves watermarked "Berkshire Type Writer Paper U.S.A.," seventeen leaves in elite type with two holes on the left of each leaf. These leaves are the same paper with the same type as those in the Greenview copy. Not only do paper and type appear to be similar, but the holes on the two groups of leaves are the same distance apart: (Physical separation of the two groups of materials has hampered exact comparisons.) It seems possible that these leaves were detached from the Greenview copy, particularly the leaves with such poems as‚ "Night Winds," "Arbutus," "Roma Aeterna," "Languor After Pain" which appear on the list (leaves 2 and 3) and not among the poems in the copy. The detachment theory gains support from evidence that the brass fasteners have been removed at some time to insert leaf 1 bearing Adelaide Trowbridge Crapsey's notice and from the present arrangement with some five poems ("On Seeing Weather-Beaten Trees," "Warning to the Mighty," "Oh, Lady Let the Sad Tears Fall," "Dirge," and "The Sun-Dial") placed after "The Immortal Residue" at the end. These five poems are out of place in an arrangement based on Adelaide Crapsey's lists.
Some of the other "Berkshire Type Writer Paper U.S.A." leaves probably represent the remains of a duplicate copy, since they appear in both this group and the Greenview copy: "John Keats (February 1820-February 1821)," "Madness," "The Warning," "Niagara," "The Grand Canyon," "On Seeing Weather-Beaten Trees," "Dirge," "Perfume of Youth (Girl's Song)," "Night," "Rose-Mary of the Angels," "Angelique," "Cry of the Nymph to Eros." Evidence for the duplicate theory perhaps lies in the circular indentations around the holes on the University of Rochester loose copy of "John Keats (February 1820-February 1821)," indentations such as those which would be made by a roundheaded brass fastener, suggesting that these leaves were once part of a fastened group.
III. Leaves watermarked "Imperiale Parchment." Three full-sized leaves and twenty half-sized leaves, both in elite type. The three full-sized leaves of Imperiale Parchment contain one poem, "The Mother Exultant" (also in the Greenview copy). The twenty half-sheets contain two copies of another early free-verse poem, "Birth-Moment" (also found in the Greenview copy) and another copy of "The Mother Exultant." The remaining eleven half-leaves contain cinquains, ten of which appear in the Greenview copy and the other "To a Hermit Thrush" (published in 1934) which appears on the list for Part I on the blue leaf of the miscellaneous notes, but not in the list at the beginning of the Greenview copy.
Consideration of each of these groups, especially the groups of typewritten copies which are in no way fastened together, involves the assumption that if notes in the hand of the author appear on one or several of the leaves of that group, the entire group represents the author's intentions. One must also question the degree to which even those forms which can be shown to be those of poems intended and prepared by the author for publication can be said to express the intentions of the author, and how much they represent intentions of which she merely approved or in which she acquiesced. These doubts arise because of the uncertainty about the extent to which she was incapacitated by the progress of her final illness.
One last group of poems prepared for publication must be mentioned. These are poems which were apparently submitted or prepared for submission to periodicals. Holographs and typewritten copies of various poems have pencil notes such as Century on "Susanna and the Elders" on leaf 19 in the Greenview copy) or McClure's on "Ah Me . . . Alas" (on leaf 30 r in the CO-OP notebook). The first of Adelaide Crapsey's poems to be published was the poem "The Witch" printed in the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, Vol. LXXXIX, November 1914, p. 128. Although this form is interesting as the first posthumous publication, it has no authority. The page torn from the magazine with the typed copies of the poems in the Adelaide Crapsey Papers at the University of Rochester has a correction in ink by Esther Lowenthal. Comparing the printed version with the holograph, Miss Lowenthal noted that the magazine version contained a misprint.
Those poems which the author either possibly or certainly never intended or prepared for publication present a different range of problems for the textual critic. In the matter of the poems not prepared by the author, the problem presented by Adelaide Crapsey's poems (whether they have subsequently been published or have remained unpublished), is analogous to that presented by the poems of Emily Dickinson. As R. W. Franklin, author of The Editing of Emily Dickinson: A Reconsideration, notes in his discussion of editing unfinished writing, "The principle of editing that a text exactly represent the author's final intention is inadequate, since finality cannot be established." Franklin feels that "any approach that is exclusively author-oriented will fail editorially" and calls for strong editorial intervention, at least in the creation of a reader's edition of such poetry: "Poems are neither self-generating nor self-maturing and those which lack completion by Emily Dickinson will have to be finished by an editor." Franklin's approach places great demands on the editor, demands which also exist for the editor of a "definitive" text. The editor makes a choice of copy-text but provides the reader with both his reasoned argument for that choice and all of the potentially relevant forms from which he chose.
With the poems of Adelaide Crapsey, as with the poems of Emily Dickinson, present-day students of the texts are obliged to make some attempt to understand and reconstruct the previous editorial work upon poems left unfinished by the author or not clearly prepared for publication. The student of both poets must consider the handwritten and typewritten transcripts which are in some cases the only extant copies of the poems. Wherever holograph forms of the poems not prepared by the author exist, these will be used as copy-text. In some instances, however, the various transcripts represent the only extant forms and the editor must have some way to estimate their accuracy. The editor must also understand the nature of the transcripts so that he may eliminate them confidently from his groups of authentic or relevant forms of the poems to be reported in a definitive edition.
The single group of handwritten transcripts will be described first. These are copies of twenty different poems, including two copies of several poems, in the handwriting of Esther Lowenthal. These copies are in ink and pencil on a variety of paper: sheets torn from small notebooks, personal stationery, and cards. This group provides the only extant forms for two poems published in the Knopf edition of 1922, "For Lucas Cranach's Eve" and "The Elgin Marbles." Because these transcripts provide the sole authority for the two poems, it is interesting to collate transcripts of other poems with holographs and to estimate their probable accuracy. Such comparison makes it clear that Esther Lowenthal cared little about reproducing exact punctuation and that she often omits it altogether. It also becomes clear that, for some of the poems, these copies probably do not represent transcripts but an effort to recall the poems from memory. In one copy of the poem "Safe," the first line was originally written "Force and bluster? Mighty blusterings?" and then "blusterings" was crossed out and the correct word, "threatenings" written above it. Although such slips are hardly conclusive evidence, it is more probable that they represent uncertain memory than pure carelessness in transcription.
One copy, that of "The Event," provides interesting evidence of editorial collaboration and hesitation. Esther Lowenthal writes in her letter to this writer dated May 1, 1969, that she selected the seven poems added in 1922 "with advice of Mary Lewis." A pencil note on the transcript of "The Event," in the handwriting of Esther Lowenthal reads: "Mary much more in favor of publishing this than I am. I don't favor it much." "The Event" was not published until 1934.
With the exception of "The Source" and "For Lucas Cranach's Eve," both published in 1922, the poems in this group of twenty Lowenthal transcripts were either published in 1934 or have never been published. Those published in 1934 are:
The spread of these handwritten copies resembles, although it does not duplicate, the distribution of two groups of typewritten copies among the groups of poems prepared for publication. Study of these typewritten transcripts provides important evidence about the selection and preparation of the twenty poems added in 1934.
The first group of typewritten transcripts consists of leaves watermarked "Hammermill Bond" in elite type, eighteen leaves original and seventeen leaves of carbon copy, of twenty-five different poems (some of the originals and carbons match, some do not) in the University of Rochester Adelaide Crapsey Papers.
The second group are copies in a "Scrantom, Wetmore & Co." blue, three-ring binder in the collection of Arthur H. Crapsey, Jr. of the thirty-two leaves in this binder, one is a blank sheet of white cardboard (leaf 1) and one is paper watermarked "Super Ringboo" to which a sheet of Esther Lowenthal's notepaper has been pasted (leaf 20). The remaining thirty leaves are watermarked "Hammermill Bond." All copies are in elite type, except for those on leaf 20, which are done in ink, in Esther Lowenthal's handwriting. Fastened to leaf 21 with a paper clip is a small piece of paper bearing a notice in elite type:
Written beneath this in pencil is a note: "From this point on." Arthur H. Crapsey, Jr. feels certain that this is another of Adelaide Trowbridge Crapsey's descriptions. The pencil note is inaccurate with respect to the present arrangement of poems in the binder; some of those published in 1934 precede it, some unpublished poems follow it.
Miss Lowenthal writes that Mary Delia Lewis is "since deceased," and the correspondence at the University of Rochester relating to the 1934 edition makes it clear that Esther Lowenthal, working with a Knopf editor, Raymond A. Preston, selected and prepared the twenty poems which appeared in that edition. Her original list of suggestions (counting two versions of "Fresher/ Than spring's new scents" as two poems) contained sixteen poems:
Apparently added later were:
Some indication of the nature of editing for the 1934 Knopf edition is given in Preston's letter to Esther Lowenthal on October 11, 1933. He suggests printing the variants in "Thou are not friendly sleep" as "interesting chips from the poet's workshop." "But if you decide," he continues, "to edit the poem into greater finish, I shall not object, since your judgment is no doubt better than mine." Adelaide Trowbridge Crapsey had also deferred to Esther Lowenthal's judgment, giving her complete authority over selection and arrangement in a letter dated September 6, 1933:
"The typed copies that you sent me" referred to by Mrs. Crapsey in her letter are undoubtedly the "Hammermill Bond" copies in the Scrantom, Wetmore 3-ring binder. Mrs. Crapsey writes that she has "all on your list but Narcissus, The Entombment, and The Death of Holofernes." "The Entombment" and "The Death of Holofernes" appear on leaf 20 of the Scrantom, Wetmore binder in ink in Esther Lowenthal's handwriting on her notepaper which has then been pasted to the larger sheet. Apparently a copy of "Narcissus" was never sent, for the only extant copy of this poem is leaf 45 in the Greenview copy.
The two sets of Hammermill Bond copies, originals and carbons, clearly represent transcripts used by Esther Lowenthal in selecting and arranging the poems to be added to the 1934 edition. Neither of the two groups of Hammermill Bond copies can be said to represent the intentions of the author. This is clear from the distribution of the copies: none of the poems in the 1915 edition appears in the two groups of copies; one of the poems added to the 1922 edition, "The Source," appears in both groups of Hammermill Bond copies; of the twenty poems added in 1934, fourteen are represented in the loose Hammermill Bond copies and carbon copies, nineteen appear in the Scrantom, Wetmore binder; the two groups of Hammermill Bond copies cover the same eight unpublished poems. This evidence, combined with Mrs. Crapsey's notice and the relevant correspondence, makes the nature of these two groups of transcripts clear. Collation of "Thou art not friendly sleep" with the three holograph copies shows the Hammermill Bond copies to be inaccurate and uncomprehending transcriptions of one holograph. Such a transcription certainly cannot be said to fulfill the intentions of the author, yet it is the version printed in 1934 and offers an excellent example of the sort of editing which cannot be said to be editing at all. In evading or abdicating the necessity and obligation to make choices, it succeeds only in destroying the integrity of the work of art.
Other groups in the loose typewritten copies of poems in the Adelaide Crapsey Papers, a total of thirty-three leaves with five different watermarks, "Berkshire Linen U.S.A." (nineteen leaves), "Ravelstone Bond" (nine leaves), "Mount Tom Bond" (two leaves), "Berkshire Parchment Linen U.S.A." (one leaf), "Washington Bond" (two leaves), and two leaves of unwatermarked paper, have no discernable relation to the transmission or editorial process as it is now understood.
For those poems prepared by the author for publication, the copy-text will be the holograph fair copy where one is extant or, failing this, the author-corrected typewritten copy. Such typewritten copies are found in the loose typewritten copies on paper watermarked "Berkshire Type Writer Paper U.S.A." or "Imperiale Parchment" (University of Rochester collections) or in the Greenview copy (most of which is watermarked "Berkshire Type Writer Paper U.S.A.").
When poems exist only in the first posthumous edition, as in the case of "The Guarded Wound," "Fate Defied," and "Grain Field," these forms will perforce become copy-text. The poems prepared for publication will be assumed to be those on the lists in Adelaide Crapsey's handwriting in the miscellaneous notes, or on the list on leaves 2 and 3 of the Greenview copy, or which bear notes indicating that they were prepared for submission to a periodical. The author-corrected typewritten copies may provide substantive variants to the holographs. For example, the title of the cinquain beginning "A-sway,/ On a red rose" appears as "Papillon hair" in the holograph copy in the manuscript volume "Verse" selected by Esther Lowenthal. In the copy on a half-leaf of Imperiale Parchment, however, the title has been changed in ink in Adelaide Crapsey's handwriting to "Shadow." This title appears on the Greenview copy (leaf 24) and is used in the 1915 edition. The corrected typewritten copies will also help with the problem presented by the poet's holograph capitals, which differ from her lower-case letters only in relative size and not in form.
Since the typewritten transcripts of poems not prepared by the author for publication prove to have no authority, the copy-text for these poems will be the holographs whenever possible. Esther Lowenthal's handwritten transcripts also cannot be considered relevant forms. When a form found in one of these groups of transcripts proves to be the only extant form, as in the case of "For Lucas Cranach's Eve" and "The Elgin Marbles," the reasons for doubting the authority of these forms will be made clear.
The holograph copies of the poems, where they exist, present problems for the editor of Adelaide Crapsey. The poet's spelling was always erratic; her capitalization seems to have been haphazard and, as mentioned above, is difficult to distinguish; her characteristic punctuation includes a strange two-dot ellipsis. (This ellipsis was preserved by Claude Bragdon in the 1915 edition, but was replaced by the conventional three-dot ellipsis in the Knopf editions. An argument for the retention of the author's unique form of punctuation might well be based on the way in which it typifies her consistent preference for spare forms stripped of superfluities. Two dots seemed to her to have the same significance as three, so she used only two, just what was necessary and no more. See "Snow.")
Another problem results from the existence of several holograph copies of a good many poems, obliging the editor to choose one form as copy-text and report all divergences from this form in the other relevant versions. In a few cases, there are two or more different poems, each of which constitutes another work of art. Two or more poems must then be printed in full. The cinquain "Fresher! Than spring's new scents," was indeed printed in two versions in the 1934 edition. Even this presentation, however, suppresses some possible choices revealed by an examination of the holograph copies.
The nature of the extant holographs proves disappointing to one interested in studying the development of Adelaide Crapsey's poetry, for most are fair copies and very few are working drafts or show more than minor revisions. Many of the poems in her original form, the cinquain, appear among the loose holographs or in the manuscript volume "Verse" assembled by Esther Lowenthal. Almost all of these are fair copies; "Snow" (Plate 2), "Madness," "The Warning," and "Winter" are exceptions. It is interesting to note that two cinquains, "Madness" and "The Warning," share the same loose leaf with a light-hearted, perhaps cynical example of vers de société entitled "The Changed Request." This unpublished poem is French in its shrug at lost illusions and is inspired by a French admonition. The three poems offer evidence that Adelaide Crapsey did not renounce all her light-hearted efforts or completely abandon one poetic vein when she discovered another.
A substantial group of holographs are carefully marked with accents and in some cases with a line-by-line syllable count and totals of accented and unaccented syllables. Such copies include several copies of "John Keats (February 1820-February 1821)" (Plate 1) and of "The Song of Choice" among the loose holographs and several copies of both "Aubade" and "Ah me.. Alas . ." in the holograph notebooks. Here the poet seems to have examined her own work according to her own system of metrical analysis. Such evidence, however, can neither prove nor disprove the family tradition that she constructed her poetry solely or chiefly as a test of these theories. It is unfortunate that no holograph of "Song" exists: this seems a poem constructed to work out or demonstrate a theory about contrasting vowel sounds:
Mary Elizabeth Osborn describes Adelaide Crapsey reading this poem to a friend in the spring of 1912 "then the vowel sounds alone to show the sequence of rising and falling tones."
Another interesting group of holographs in the University of Rochester collection are the three versions of "What news, comrades" in the loose holographs. These seem to be drafts; one version is written out as a paragraph (Plate 3) and then divided. Accent marks have been added to another version. It seems that Adelaide Crapsey's experiments in poetic form were not confined to the development of such tight, spare forms as the cinquain. This example indicates that she followed the lead of French poets in experiments with vers libre and"prose-poetry" as did contemporary Imagists Amy Lowell and Richard Aldington.
Biographical and textual study of the Adelaide Crapsey material in Rochester raises as many questions as it answers. Some answers must be tentative; some questions will probably never be answered. Such studies, however, can clear away inaccurate statements or assumptions about the poet and her work. Although hardly the breezy juvenile heroine of a Jean Webster story, Adelaide Crapsey kept her vigorous sense of humor to the end of a long illness. The deaths of two sisters and a brother, her own ill health, and the prospect of her death provoked acute poetic probings, not withdrawal from life, morbidity, or self-pity. Her absences from society resulted from her efforts to conserve her physical strength and her determination to continue her work on the study of English metrics. Stories of her unusual dress test the biographer's understanding of Adelaide Crapsey. Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote "it is the vice of distinctiveness to become queer." Adelaide Crapsey dressed beautifully—distinctively rather than queerly. "Dressed always in the lighter shades of brown, which harmonized with the golden brown of her hair; her lovely violet eyes very large in her small face" when she taught at Stamford, or always in gray at Smith. Her dress seems to have been dictated by a sense of style and a personal flair quite different from the impulses prompting the white dresses of Emily Dickinson. This delicate sense of the line between distinctiveness and queerness which governed her conduct reflects the same taste which ruled her poetry.
No amount of textual study will provide exact dates for most of the poems, but will give the student a truer idea of the extent and nature of her poetic career. Though a good many of her poems must have resulted from her unwilling suspension of her metrical studies at Saranac Lake, she had long been experimenting with poetic forms. As Winters notes, the work of Adelaide Crapsey "achieves more effectively than did almost any of the work of the Imagists the aims of Imagism." Further knowledge of her reading, especially of French and English poetry in the years after 1908, may aid students of literary influences and movements to explain her parallel but apparently separate development. A clearer picture of the poet and her work should bring critical recognition of Adelaide Crapsey's distinctive place in American poetry and enable more readers to enjoy her work.
Return to Top
Contact Rare Books & Special Collections
Border based on a design by Claude Bragdon (1866-1946), whose Papers are housed in the