Snow-bound: A Winter Idyll
- Whittier, John Greenleaf

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Commentary

With photographs ‘taken from American scenery’, John Greenleaf Whittier’s Snow-bound (1867) is the second American photopoetic work published by A. W. Bennett, the major British publisher of photographically illustrated poetry books in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The poem, in rhyming tetrameter couplets, recounts the story of a New England family trapped in a snowstorm. Stuck in their house, they tell each other stories around a fireplace and wait out the storm, which lasts for three days.

In a departure from Bennett’s first American volume, Longfellow’s Hyperion (1865), photograph and poem share the same page – something of a departure for photopoetry in general, too, given the common procedure in the nineteenth century of mounting photographs on opposite pages to the verse, a trend that persisted into the twentieth century. Arranged in this manner, the photographs do not enact so great a disruption of the reading experience: in Snow-bound, however, photographs occur between stanzas themselves on the same page, forcing the reader to pause and look – a much more coercive strategy in drawing attention to the photographs. The photographs themselves are unusual for photopoetry of this period in their inclusion of human figures; that said, they are also broadly illustrative of Whittier’s poetic descriptions of nature and are included, it would appear, as decorative gloss rather than stimulating visual accompaniment. Like Grundy’s Sunshine in the Country (1861), the size of the albumen prints perhaps prompted this arrangement of the text and image; the fact that there are only five illustrations also suggests that direct inclusion in the text gives them greater importance and prevents them from appearing a hurried afterthought on the part of the publisher.

Book Details

Author: Whittier, John Greenleaf
Title: Snow-bound: A Winter Idyll
Publication Year: 1867
Poets Featured: Whittier, John Greenleaf
Subjects: Winter, Seasons
Photographic process: Albumen prints

This book can be found in the University of St Andrews Library catalogue HERE

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