E. E. Cummings:  A Miscellany Revised

(New York: October House, 1965; New York: Liveright, 2018)

Long out of print, E. E. Cummings: A Miscellany Revised has been republished by Liveright as E. E. Cummings: A Miscellany. Apart from being redesigned and reset in a new typeface, little has changed from the 1965 edition. As before, the book lacks a sorely-needed index, and has no new notes and no new introduction. (The publishers have retained Firmage's cursory 1965 introduction and Cummings' very short foreword to the first 1958 edition.) One welcomes the republication of the volume while regretting the lack of updated scholarly content. And curiously, the back cover of the new edition classifies this collection of essays and humorous squibs as "Poetry."

We present here the contents and the first three paragraphs of George Firmage's introduction to A Miscellany Revised, a book that collects almost all of Cummings' occasional prose pieces, most of which date from the 1920s and '30s. In addition, we offer here a few notes as well as links to edited and annotated versions of three essays that are in the public domain in the United States: "The New Art" (1915), "Gaston Lachaise" (1920), and "T. S. Eliot" (1920). (Links to the original appearances of the Lachaise and Eliot essays in The Dial may be found below.) In the table of contents and the notes below, the page numbers of the new edition are followed by the page numbers of the 1965 edition.

The two poems in the volume, "Ballad of an Intellectual" and Cummings' translation of Louis Aragon's "The Red Front," also appear in the Complete Poems

The anthology AnOther E. E. Cummings, edited by Richard Kostlanetz and John Rocco (Liveright, 1998) reprints the essays "The New Art," "Vanity Fair’s Prize Movie Scenario," "Seven Samples of Dramatic Criticism," "The Adult, the Artist and the Circus," "Coney Island," and "Foreword to an Exhibit: II." 

Portions of Cummings' essay on Krazy Kat ("A Foreword to Krazy") are available on Peter Campbell's now-archived Krazy site, Coconino County.

Maria Popova discusses the essay "The Agony of the Artist" in her blog post "The Agony of the Artist (with a capital A): E. E. Cummings on What It Really Means to Be an Artist and His Little-Known Line Drawings." 

Works Cited

  • Cummings, E. E. "Gaston Lachaise." The Dial 68 (Feb. 1920): 194-204. E. E. Cummings: A Miscellany Revised. 12-24. Rpt. E. E. Cummings: A Miscellany. 11-24.
  • ---. E. E. Cummings: A Miscellany Revised. Ed. George J. Firmage. New York: October House, 1965. 
  • ---. E. E. Cummings: A Miscellany. 1965. Rev. ed. Ed. George J. Firmage. New York: Liveright, 2018. 
  • ---. "T. S. Eliot." The Dial 68 (June 1920): 781-84. Rpt. in E. E. Cummings: A Miscellany Revised. 25-29. Rpt. E. E. Cummings: A Miscellany. 25-29. 
A Miscellany cover 2018  

Cover to the 2018 Liveright edition  of A Miscellany Revised
 

Contents:
[At right: Cover to the 1965 paperback edition of A Miscellany Revised] A Miscellany Revised cover (1965)

Introduction by George J. Firmage xi / vii 

Foreword by E. E. Cummings 1 /3 
The New Art  3 / 5
Gaston Lachaise  11 / 12
T. S. Eliot  25 / 25
The Soul Story of Gladys Vanderdecker  30 / 30
Vanity Fair’s Prize Movie Scenario  41 / 40
What Our Loving Subscribers Say  49 / 47
An Ex-Multimillionaire’s Rules for Success in Life  56 / 52
A Modern Gulliver Explores the Movies  63 / 59
When Calvin Coolidge Laughed  73 / 68
William Adams-Wiggley: Genius and Christian  80 / 74
Seven Samples of Dramatic Criticism  93 / 86
Unexpected Light on the Dawes Plan  98 / 91
Jean Cocteau As a Graphic Artist  106 / 98
How to Succeed As an Author  114 / 105
The Adult, the Artist and the Circus  118 / 109
The Very Latest School in Art  125 / 115
Helen Whiffletree, American Poetess  131 / 121
[end page vii (2018)]
 
You Aren’t Mad, Am I?  137 / 126
"I Confess!"  144 / 132
"I Take Great Pleasure in Presenting"  149 / 127
The Theatre: I  154 / 141
The Theatre: II  158 / 145
Coney Island  163 / 149
Conflicting Aspects of Paris  168 / 154
Vive la Folie!  173 / 159
How I Do Not Love Italy  178 / 164
[end page v (1965)]

The Tabloid Newspaper  184 / 169
The Secret of the Zoo Exposed  189 / 174
Frenzied Finance  194 / 179
Ivan Narb: Abstract Sculptor of the Cosmic  199 / 184
The Agony of the Artist (with a capital A)  205 / 189
Why I Like America  211 / 194
The New Mother Goose  216 / 199
Mr. X  222/ 205
Miracles and Dreams  228 / 211
A Book without a Title  233 / 215
Brief Biography  267 / 247
A Fairy Tale  269 / 249
The Red Front  272 / 252
And It Came to Pass  298 / 274
Ballad of an Intellectual  301 / 277
Weligion Is Hashish  304 / 280
In Memoriam 307 /  283
Exit the Boob  311 / 286
Burlesque, I Love It!  317 / 292
Speech from an Unfinished Play: I  317 / 296 
[end page viii (2018)]

Speech from an Unfinished Play: II  324 / 298
Speech from an Unfinished Play: III  327 / 300
Fair Warning  334 / 306
What about It?  335 / 307
Re Ezra Pound: I  340 / 312
Re Ezra Pound: II  341 / 313
Foreword to an Exhibit: I  342 / 314
Foreword to an Exhibit: II  344 / 316
Foreword to an Exhibit: III  346 / 318
Foreword to an Exhibit: IV  347 / 319
Is Something Wrong?  349 / 321
A Foreword to Krazy  351 / 323
Words into Pictures  357 / 329
Jottings  358 / 330
Videlicet  361 / 333
A Poet’s Advice to Students  363 / 335
[end page vi (1965), page ix (2108)]




Introduction

The prose and poetry of E. E. Cummings, as well as the life and times of the late poet-painter, have recently received the long overdue attention of several able critics and a biographer.[1] To add yet another introduction to this body of Cummings criticism is not the intention of the editor nor was it the wish of Mr. Cummings. His own brief foreword to the original edition of this book was all that he wanted said. However, a word or two about this volume’s history might not be out of place.

A Miscellany—as published in 1958 in an edition limited to seventy-five signed and less than a thousand unsigned copies—contained "a cluster of epigrams," forty-nine essays, a poem and three speeches from as many unfinished plays. All of these pieces had been written for or first published in magazines, anthologies or art gallery catalogues. A considerable number of them were published under pseudonyms; a few appeared anonymously.

The original Miscellany was intended to be a gathering of all the shorter pieces by Cummings that had not previously been published in book form by the author himself. This intention did not fall far short of total realization; only six known appearances were purposely omitted. Three fairy tales, first published in the Harvard Wake, were being held for publication in book form [2] and three other stories [3] were left out at the request of the author who did not consider them successful.



1. Charles Norman, The Magic Maker: E. E. Cummings (New York: 1958; revised edition, New York: 1964); Norman Friedman, E. E. Cummings: the art of his poetry (Baltimore: 1960) and E. E. Cummings: The Growth of a Writer (Carbondale: 1964); S. V. Baum, ESTI: eec—E. E. Cummings and the Critics (East Lansing: 1962); and Barry Marks, E. E. Cummings (New York: 1964). The Prose and Poetry of E. E. Cummings, by Robert E. Wegner, is scheduled for publication in 1965.

2. The three tales and a fourth, unpublished one are soon to be issued in an edition illustrated by the young Canadian artist John Eaton. [Ed. note: this volume, Fairy Tales, is still in print.]

3. "The King" (The Harvard Monthly, July 1915); "Everybody’s Mother, Anybody’s Mate," by "An Anonymous Author" (Vanity Fair, October 1925); and "Little Red Riding Hood," by "Eugene Heltai" (Vanity Fair, March 1926).



A Miscellany Revised: Notes

"Vanity Fair's Prize Movie Scenario" (41-48 / 40-46 )
C. E. Niltse = an anagram for "E. Estlin C[ummings]."

"The Adult, The Artist and the Circus" (118-124 / 109-114)
(123 / 114): DANGER DERIDING DEATH DEFYING DESPERATE DAREDEVIL DIAVOLO = loop-the-loop bicyclist "Diavolo." Several men performed this difficult stunt, which was very popular in the circus shows of the early 20th century. Most notable among the Diavolos are "J. C. Carter" (the stage name of one Conn Baker) and Robert (or George M.) Vandervoort. However, neither Carter (Baker) nor Vandervoort died while performing "at the motif, and in the execution of his art." In EIMI (1933), Cummings says that Diavolo "was killed in Havana” (430/410), but evidence for that claim is lacking as well. Vandervoort / Diavolo, who worked for the Forepaugh and Sells Brothers United Shows, was killed in November 1906, "in a freight wreck at Rome, N.Y., . . . while working as a freight brakeman on the New York Central" ("Robert Vandervoort"). Conn Baker (1871-1944) retired to become a landscape artist, living to the relatively ripe old age of 73. However, in 1902 the New York Times reported that one Diavolo performer fell in London on August 5 of that year.

As Cummings indicates, one or another Diavolo performer was likely also billed as "PORTHOS LEAPS THE GAP OVER FIVE ELEPHANTS." Research has uncovered a newspaper drawing of Porthos leaping the gap, but, alas, there are no elephants to be seen. Perhaps Diavolo/Porthos also performed as "Mlle D'Zizi." According to P. M. McClintock, "It wasn't discovered for years that 'Mlle. D'Zizi' was a man, though some customers noted 'her' big feet." (Scroll down to the "Boom and Bust" section of "The Cole Circus 'Curse'.") Advertisements depict "Mlle. D'Zizi " leaping over six (rather than five--or nine as claimed in EIMI) elephants. Perhaps Cummings conflated Porthos' bicycle leap with Mlle. D'Zizi's feat? 

"The Theatre: II" (158-162 / 145-148)
(158 / 145): Friedrich Kiesler (1890-1965), later Americanized to Frederick Kiesler, was an "Austrian-American architect, theoretician, theater designer, artist, and sculptor."
programme--Cummings quotes from Kiesler's article "Debacle of the Modern Theatre," which appeared in the Winter 1926 issue of The Little Review, which doubled as the program of the International Theatre Exposition, New York, 1926. For more on Kiesler and Cummings, see Allison Carruth's article "The Space Stage and the Circus."

"Coney Island" (163-167 / 149-153)
(166 / 151): The Little Review: the Winter 1926 issue of The Little Review with the program of the International Theatre Exposition, New York 1926.
Enrico Prampolini (1894-1956), Italian Futurist painter, director, set designer, choreographer, and architect.
THE ELECTRO-DYNAMIC POLY-DIMENSIONAL ARCHITECTURE: Cummings quotes from Rosamond Gilder's translation in The Little Review of Prampolini's "Futuristic Scenic Atmosphere" (105). Another translation of Prampolini's essay (by Victoria Nes Kirby) may be found in Michael Kirby's compilation Futurist Performance.

"The Agony of the Artist (with a capital A)" (205-210 / 189 -193)
Maria Popova discusses this essay in her blog post "The Agony of the Artist (with a capital A): E. E. Cummings on What It Really Means to Be an Artist and His Little-Known Line Drawings."

"A Foreword to Krazy" (351-356 / 323-328)
Krazy Kat was a comic strip cat beloved by Cummings, created by George Herriman (1880-1944). In "The Krazy Kat That Walks by Himself," an essay in his book The Seven Lively Arts (1924), Cummings' friend Gilbert Seldes wrote:

In one of his most metaphysical pictures Herriman presents Krazy as saying to Ignatz: "I ain't a Kat . . . and I ain't Krazy" (I put dots to indicate the lunatic shifting of background which goes on while these remarks are made; although the action is continuous and the characters motionless, it is in keeping with Herriman's method to have the backdrop in a continual state of agitation; you never  know when a shrub will become. a redwood, or a hut a church) . . . "it's wot's behind me that I am . . . it's the idea behind me, 'Ignatz' and that's wot I am." In an attitude of a contortionist Krazy points to the blank space behind him, and it is there that we must look for the "Idea." (234-235).

Cummings' essay was the preface to the first collection of Krazy Kat cartoons, published in 1946. The biographer of George Herriman, Michael Tisserand, writes that Cummings was responsible for editing this collection of Kat cartoons, citing as support a letter in which Gilbert Seldes offered to loan Cummings his collection of "masterpieces," along with "whatever clerical or other assistance" that might be necessary (430). See also Taimi Olsen's article " 'Krazies...of indescribable beauty':  George Herriman’s 'Krazy Kat' and E. E. Cummings." 

Works Cited

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