Although the first part of the title of Alexander Riddiford’s book is not put within quotation marks, the phrase stands out, so that even the lay reader unfamiliar with Madhusudan Datta would guess that it is, in fact, a quotation. For the reader acquainted with Madhusudan’s oeuvre, the word ‘madly’ would seem typical of the exaggerated phraseology so beloved of him, and it is, in fact, taken from a letter to his friend Rajnarain Basu, describing his state of excited creative composition at the time. Alexander Riddiford’s book, however, is unique in that it is not so much concerned with the creative output per se as it is with weaving a web of interrelated connections between Madhusudan’s work and the Graeco-Roman classical tradition. In doing so, it shows us, in great detail and with great care and precision, the exact extent of Madhusudan’s investment in the western classics and how they informed his thinking and his work.
A Poetic Engagement
MADLY AFTER THE MUSES: BENGALI POET MICHAEL MADHUSUDAN DATTA AND HIS RECEPTION OF THE GRAECO-ROMAN CLASSICS by Alexander Riddiford Oxford University Press, 2013, 304 pp., $110.00
December 2013, volume 37, No 12