“This journal is not only rich in the love of nature and the love of solitude. It is an honorable confession of the writer's faults, fears, sadness, and disappointments. . . . On the surface, Journal of a Solitude
is a quiet book, but if you will read it carefully you will be aware of violent needs and a valiant warrior who has battled every inch of the way to a share of serenity. This is a beautiful book, wise and warm within its solitude.”
About the Author
A wonderfully prolific poet, novelist, memoirist, and journal-writer, May Sarton
has always enjoyed an extremely wide and loyal readership. Though she considered poetry to be her life's work, it was her novels and journals that made her famous. Plant Dreaming Deep
, a memoir published in 1968, tells the story of her decision at forty-five years old to buy a house in a small New Hampshire village and to live and write in it alone. Journal of a Solitude
(1973), the first of a series of journals about her life in a different house on the Maine coast, brought her many new readers-particularly women-who identified with her efforts to carve out and describe a life of chosen solitude in all its rewards and contrary vicissitudes.
Sarton's journals chronicle the dailiness of the life of a woman artist. She struggles to establish a structure whereby she can both protect the time for creativity and stay in necessary touch with the world. The house must be orderly and aesthetically pleasing, the garden bountiful and beautiful. Animals provide companionship and demand care; music is both solace and inspiration. The state of the world is exhilarating and depressing. Friends and lovers are emotionally imperative and emotionally draining. Visitors and fan letters enrich her days, but solitude is necessary for the muse to appear. Though to her sorrow, major critical acclaim is denied her, the continuing expansion of her readership affirms her worth as a writer. She fears her openness about her love for women may have cost her some of that critical acclaim, but knows it is that very openness about her emotional life-its highs and lows-that gives her readers hope and encouragement. And as she grows older, Sarton does not shrink from describing the miseries of old age, even as she continues to find pleasure in the small things of life. It is Sarton's great achievement in these journals that she shares with her readers with such honesty and immediacy her joys and despairs, her failures and triumphs.
Sarton was born in Belgium in May 1914, three months before Germany invaded Belgium at the beginning of World War I. Leaving everything behind, her family emigrated to America when Sarton was four years old and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Much of Sarton's writing reflects both her European roots and her attachment to her New England upbringing. Instead of going to college (a circumstance she considered "a great piece of luck"), Sarton joined Eva Le Gallienne's Civic Repertory Theatre as an actress at seventeen, and founded her own theater company in the 1930s. She published sonnets in Poetry magazine as a very young woman, and her first book of poems, Encounter in April, was published in 1937. To support her writing, Sarton for a time lectured at colleges, where her striking and passionate personality gained her great success. Her first of many novels, The Single Hound, was published in 1938, and she continued to alternate publishing poetry and novels thereafter. Until World War II, Sarton traveled to Europe every year, where she met Virginia Woolf and became a friend of Elizabeth Bowen.
May Sarton is the author of seventeen books of poetry, twenty novels, and ten memoirs and journals. She received eighteen honorary degrees, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She died in 1996.