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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Beauty crowds me till I die", June 27, 2004
Emily Dickinson continues to fascinate the literary world, not only because of her unique, eerily beautiful poetry, but also because of the delicious mystery that cocoons her life well over one hundred years after her death. Some have painted her as a looney eccentric, some as a recluse shrouded in sexual ecstasy: she has been seen on theatre stages throughout the world as the Belle of Amherst, and her works have been incorporated into songs and symphonies - the most poignant being John Adams' "Harmonium".
Yet few investigators have the quaint, informed pique as the highly admired Dickinson scholar, Judith Farr. This book THE GARDENS OF EMILY DICKINSON maintains the level of biographic study that began with her THE PASSION OF EMILY DICKINSON in 1994 and continued with the elegant, aptly eccentric epistolary novel I NEVER CAME TO YOU IN WHITE in 1996. Like the previous books, Farr does not confine her writing to academia (though she obviously has consumed every bit of available information on her subject and footnoted these books extensively): Farr prefers to open doors and windows of imagination to make the factual data supplied have a semblance to the radiance of Dickinson's gifts to posterity.
During Emily Dickinson's lifetime (1830 - 1886) the poet was better know for her commitment to the oh-so-proper Victorian art of gardening. Books on Botany from that period held dominion over reading tables and bookshelves and Dickinson was as astute a garden scholar as the best of them. Flowers are frequently referenced in her poetry, her letters, her life, and Farr has used this other half of Dickinson's life as a means to explore the meanings of her poems. 'Flowers - Well - if anybody/Can extasy define -/Half a transport - half a trouble -/With which flowers humble men:...' She divides her writings into chapters 'Gardening in Eden' (the more spiritual aspect of the garden), 'The Woodland Garden' (the exploration of her natural garden on the grounds of the Homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts), 'The Enclosed Garden' (the conservatory where exotic looms were coddled), and 'The Garden in the Brain'. In each of these chapters Farr takes almost every reference to flowers in Dickinson's poems and discusses their significance both herbally and philosophically and passionately. The characters that played significant roles in Dickinson's odd life are all addressed (Susan Dickinson, Bowles, Higginson, etc) by referencing letters to and poems about each , and each bit of evidence breathes floral dimensions. Almost as an intermission to this theatrical diversion, Farr has placed a chapter by Louise Carter "Gardening with Emily Dickinson" which is well written and serves to ground the ongoing growing tales of the Belle of Amherst with a sophisticated diversion on the techniques of the Victorian Gardener - a chapter which could easily find its way into all Garden books! And aptly, in a manner that would no doubt find Dickinson's approval, Farr ends her book with an Epilogue, which indeed places all of her information in perspective and is enlightening to both the scholar and the occasional reader of the Poetry of Emily Dickinson. Judith Farr is a solid scholar, a fine writer, and if at times she cannot resist the tendency to 'personalize' her data, then that is merely her style and for this reader is only additive. The preface page of her book quotes the words of Thomas Wentworth Higginson: "There is no conceivable/beauty of blossom/so beautiful as words -/none so graceful,/none so perfumed." This lovely thought is a fitting introduction to the writing of Judith Farr, too. I wonder which aspect of Emily Dickinson she will explore next....
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20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Tour de Force from Judith Farr, April 3, 2004
By A Customer
Judith Farr is the preeminent Emily Dickson scholar alive today. This is a worthy companion to The Passion of Emily Dickson, also published by Harvard Press. If you are unfamiliar with Farr's work and love Emily Dickinson, you owe it to yourself to read both works. Farr's insights are bold, well-defended and entirely convincing. Her writing is crisp, direct and immensely readable. Also, this is without a doubt one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen in presentation. The color plates are worth the price of the book alone. Better than 5 stars.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Award Winning Prose, January 24, 2010
This review is from: The Gardens of Emily Dickinson (Paperback)
This scholarly, beautiful and original book by Judith Farr, with Louise Carter, also won the 2005 Rosemary Crawshay prize, awarded by the British Academy, United Kingdom, "to a woman of any nationality who, in the judgement of the Council of the British Academy, has written or published within three years next preceding the year of the award an historical or critical work of sufficient value on any subject connected with English Literature, preference being given to a work regarding one of the poets Byron, Shelley and Keats".
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The Gardens of Emily Dickinson
The Gardens of Emily Dickinson by Judith Farr (Paperback - October 31, 2005)
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In stock on July 15, 2014
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