Reviving the Works of Charles Fenno Hoffman

Almost all the volumes created for Brom Bones Books have been proofread by Kelly Keener (among others). She shows astonishing precision, for instance, noticing in a tiny footnote that there’s a double-space when a single-space is correct. Like myself, Kelly feels a kinship with American authors of the 1800s, and not too long ago, the Edgar Allan Poe Review published her article describing an intriguing letter related to that author, a letter she had discovered!

Kelly has a particular interest in a great but largely forgotten writer named Charles Fenno Hoffman. I’ve been skimming over some tributes to Hoffman that appeared in 1884, the year he died. There’s a common thread. One says his “name will always be associated with the early triumphs of American literature,” and another says that name “once held a conspicuous place in American literature, and…is still held in high regard by reading people.” Reading his fiction today, one might be reminded of the weirdness of Poe or — since Hoffman enjoyed exploring the frontier — the wilderness of James Fenimore Cooper. That second obituary says that, upon his death, Hoffman was best remembered for his poetry and that his volumes thereof “are prized by collectors of American books.” Still, his renown has faded in this area, too, unlike Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, his contemporary, or Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, who came a bit later.

Charles Fenno Hoffman (1806-1884)

At some point, Kelly and I discussed the idea of having Brom Bones Books publish a collection of selected works by Hoffman. After all, a new generation of readers — including fans of, say, Poe or Cooper or Longfellow — might very much appreciate having a handy introduction to him. That’s exactly how we approached it, as sort of assigned readings for a Hoffman 101 class.

I’m pleased to announce that Tales, Sketches, & Poems of Charles Fenno Hoffman, edited by Kelly Keener, will be available for purchase by this summer. I’ll share more about what it includes — and probably more about Hoffman himself — in the coming weeks. Until then, click on cover below to learn more.

— Tim

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