The Unpublished Creative Works of Walter Hart Blumenthal

There is something melancholy about an unpublished typescript.
Walter Hart Blumenthal (1883-1969), a writer and editor, compiled two. Although Blumenthal had a successful career and published dozens of scholarly articles, his creative writing never attracted much attention. Flipping through Exit Laughing, and Perspectives: Stories of This Brief Tenement Wherein the Spirit Dwells, Blumenthal’s collections of poetry and short stories, one can begin to understand why.
Perspectives is not without humor (Blumenthal describes one character as having the “brain of an earwig and the soul of a parched pea”) yet its stories tend to digress into aimless musings or lengthy chains of rhetorical questions. A sample, from Satan’s Red Shadow: A Grim (Not Grimm) Fairy Tale:

Was it fantasy? Who can say? It was so long ago. What is fantasy? How long is long ago? Is Heaven real and Hell a torment of the spirit? Is nightmare a blind alley of the macabre mind?
…two more paragraphs of questions removed…
Are all legends lies? What is fantasy and what is fact? Can one realize only reality? Were Tristan and Iseult flesh or figment? Were Karen’s kisses as unreal as the caresses of Cinderella for her Prince Charming?

Some of Blumenthal’s poetry has a certain charm to it, however most of the pieces in Exit Laughing oscillate oddly between moralistic maxims and poems expressing certain dubious sentiments and outdated attitudes towards women.
An example of the former category is A Birchbark Motto:

Be taught, O Life, to love Tranquility,
And seek the Beauty that is in the bough;
These two, bestowed upon the slender tree,
Can likewise, Friend, thine own Content endow.

The latter of Blumenthal’s genres is exhibited in Threes:

All earthly blessings come in threes
The ancient sages said;
What good a maiden, if you please,
Without a man and bed?

Or in A New Leaf for Eve:

Maid or mistress, be submissive
To the ardor of the swain,
For unless you are permissive
Nature says you live in vain

However, and to his credit, Blumenthal remained undaunted by the limited interest his creative writing received (although a few of his stories and poems appeared individually in various magazines). In an impressive display of his energy and ambition even late in life, Blumenthal sent both Exit Laughing and Perspectives to publishers in 1965, when he was eighty five years old. Moreover, this submission of the collections to publishers came after decades of accomplished scholarship, attesting to the strong creative impulse that must have motivated Blumenthal. Painstakingly arranged and lightly annotated in his characteristic green ink, Exit Laughing and Perspectives were never available to the public but are accessible today in his collection at the Kislak Center.

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