Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.04.22

Smith on Smith on Usher.   Response to 2002.03.40

Response by R. Scott Smith, University of New Hampshire (

I have asked, and the editors of BMCR have graciously allowed me to retract my review (2002.03.40) of M. D. Usher, Letters of Seneca: Selected, with Notes and Commentary. I made this request not because I feel that my review was fundamentally mistaken, but because communication with the author has revealed to me that the review ought never to have been written in the first place.

My harsh review marks the end of what must have been quite an ordeal for both the author and the publisher. After the initial printing of several hundred copies, numerous typographical errors were discovered in the text and commentary. The unhappy decision was then reached to distribute the copies that had already been printed with the inclusion of an errata sheet before producing a corrected edition, while withholding all copies for review.

Regrettably, BMCR did receive a review copy and sent it to me. My initial shock at the quality of the book was only aggravated by the fact that the typos in it were giving my students fits. Consequently, I wrote an unfavorable review of Usher's book, which did indeed show traces of haste and carelessness. But what I received should never have been released in that form. Moreover, I was myself guilty of sloppiness, including in my review comments based on items that were in fact already included on the errata sheet, and I regret their inclusion.

But there is good news to report in the end. The publisher is removing all erroneous copies from the marketplace, is in the process of correcting the text and will be reissuing the book. The author, too, deserves the credit he is due: he has produced an affordable and serviceable text of Seneca's letters and provided traditional, grammar-based notes in the commentary. And, while I have still have some quibbles--who doesn't?--about the handling of the notes, I see no reason why an instructor should not adopt this text for the third or fourth semester of Latin if she or he is inclined to choose Seneca for the classroom.

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