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This review is taken from PN Review 186, Volume 35 Number 4, March - April 2009.

NOT A GLAMOROUS FIGURE Isaac Rosenberg, edited by Vivien Noakes (Oxford University Press: 21st-Century Authors)£50

Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918) produced a vast amount in his short life: poems, paintings and drawings, plays, letters, and short fiction. Had he lived to middle or old age, and carried on writing and painting at anything like the same rate, his output would have been gargantuan. Of course, much might have been cancelled or destroyed later. It is worth noting that a high percentage of the 364 pages of his collected works are fragments and there is clearly a lot of material in draft form. Moreover, key elements have survived by accident. His mentor and first editor, Laurence Binyon, was sent as many of Rosenberg’s surviving letters as he could trace to help him write the memoir that prefaced the 1922 edition of Rosenberg’s poems. Unfortunately these were then lost, Binyon imagining that he had returned them or sent them on elsewhere. In 1995 when the British Library moved from Bloomsbury to King’s Cross a package was discovered marked ‘Rosenberg Papers’, containing all the letters. Binyon,who worked as Keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings, had evidently put them away for safe keeping and then forgotten what he had done.

Rosenberg is an important and still undervalued poet. His reputation must, of necessity, depend on a small number of works. But throughout this comprehensive volume we can observe his restless intelligence at work, even in his juvenilia. Rosenberg was especially interested in and influenced by the Romantic poets. His favourite poet would appear to have been ...


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