Cover of The Dante Club

The evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, it’s simply not the case that I select my leisure reading with a keen eye to the possibility of developing a theme for a blog post from it. And yet here I am again, with a copy of Matthew Pearl’s historical novel The Dante Club (2003) at hand. Set in Boston, Massachusetts, and its environs after the close of the Civil War, The Dante Club takes a historical episode of which I was ignorant—the controversial translation of Dante’s Divina Commedia by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with the aid of a circle of friends, including James Russell Lowell (later one of Darwin’s pallbearers)—and interweaves it with a fictional mystery involving the gruesome murders of a number of prominent Bostonians in ways reminiscent of the punishments accorded to the sinners in the Inferno. Honestly, I had no idea when I removed the book from the shelf at the library that it would afford any fodder for the Science League of America.

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