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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Piece of the Dickinson Puzzle
An appraisal of this great figure's work is incomplete without a good look at these selected letters. As fascinating to the Dickinson scholar as they are to the casual enthusiast, Dickinson's letters -- along with those of Keats or Hopkins -- prove that this is every bit as legitimate a genre as fiction or poetry. Some of Dickinson's most gorgeous and enduring statements...
Published on October 6, 2004 by Gianmarco Manzione

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beware of deceptive paperback edition
Like most customers of Amazon, I am always on the lookout for a bargain. You can understand why I salivated when I saw that a paperback edition of this mammoth collection of Dickinson's letters was available for only $8.93 -- far less than the expensive hardcover edition. Well, once again the adage of getting what you pay for is proved true. The book that arrived in the...
Published on November 14, 2010 by Thomas A. Hanson


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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Piece of the Dickinson Puzzle, October 6, 2004
By 
An appraisal of this great figure's work is incomplete without a good look at these selected letters. As fascinating to the Dickinson scholar as they are to the casual enthusiast, Dickinson's letters -- along with those of Keats or Hopkins -- prove that this is every bit as legitimate a genre as fiction or poetry. Some of Dickinson's most gorgeous and enduring statements are here, and to read these in chronological order is to map the gradual development of America's premier woman poet. Even in a letter she wrote at 12-years-old, the idiosyncratic dashes with which she distinguished her poetic voice are abundant, and already have that effect of forcing the reader to savor clusters of words as they unravel down the page. Similarly, Dickinson's mind-blowing instinct for the staggering metaphor is in full gear throughout ("Vinnie came soft as a moccasin") and, for all her great death poetry, it is in a letter regarding the death of her father where we find perhaps her most vulnerable and moving confrontation with mortality:

"Father does not live with us now -- he lives in a new house. Though it was built in an hour it is better than this. He hasn't any garden because he moved after gardens were made, so we take him the best flowers, and if we only knew he knew, perhaps we could stop crying."

Perhaps most fascinating of all, though, is the mixture of extremes Dickinson's personality manifests throughout these letters, a crude bluntness that mingles with the most tender innocence. She at once condemns a cousin's valentine as "A little condescending, & sarcastic, your Valentine to me, I thought" and begins another missive with the exuberant mysticism of a child speaking as if out of some fairytale: "I wanted to write, and just tell you that me, and my spirit were fighting this morning. It isn't known generally, and you musn't tell anybody." Of course, this book also includes that characteristically bizarre and unforgettable final letter, which she wrote while suffering from the illness that would take her life just days later: "Little Cousins, Called Back. Emily." Especially enjoyable about this particular volume are the endnotes with which the editor follows up most letters. These brief but informed observations offer a fascinating and thorough glimpse into Dickinson's reading life, while also helping to illuminate her more obscure autobiographical allusions. This book is as fascinating an odyssey as Dickinson's complete poems, and I think readers do themselves a great service by delving into these letters alongside that more celebrated aspect of her genius.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A letter like immortality, May 19, 2000
By 
Rosana Mendes Campos (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) - See all my reviews
...
If you are, like me, an Emily Dickinson's great admirer you will be genuinely drawn into this book. Emily Dickinson has bewitched and perplexed everyone with her extremely profound poetry disguised in apparent simplicity. However, in her book of letters we uncover the woman (and not the author) behind her work, whose main assets were acute sensitivity and lovingness. This collection, unlike other books of the genre, such as Elizabeth Bishop's One Art or Keats's book of letters, do not reveal much of her poetry, as her mental struggle with the work, her intentions, or choice of words. Even so, the reader is allowed into her family relationships, into her care and love for her few friends, and above all into her deep-set feeling of solitude. Besides, throughout her letters she discloses her main existential concerns, which are inevitably reflected in her poems. This book makes it possible to discover the books she read and the ones that offered her the greatest pleasure. As the collection includes from her juvenile writings to her latest letters when already living in social "exile," they form a most engrossing reading, with the characteristics of an autobiography, without the intention by the author to write one. In her very words, "my letter as a bee, goes laden."
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Precious surviving fragments of a great oeuvre., June 22, 2001
EMILY DICKINSON SELECTED LETTERS. Edited by Thomas H. Johnson. 364 pp. Cambridge, Massachusetts : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971. SBN674-25060-5 (hbk).
Emily Dickinson was a great letter writer, in all senses of the word. In fact one gets the impression that she actually preferred writing to people, than meeting and conversing with them, and for her the arrival of a letter was a great event. A letter was something she looked forward to with keen anticipation, and which she savored to the full whenever one arrived.
The present selection of letters represents only a small proportion of the letters Emily Dickinson actually wrote. She was an inveterate letter-writer, had many correspondents, and wrote thousands of letters. And people in those days collected letters just as today.
Unfortunately it was the custom, whenever anyone died, to make a bonfire of all of their correspondence, probably because of its personal and confidential nature. In this way thousands of pages of Emily Dickinson's writings have been lost to posterity, and we would know much more aboute the details of her day-to-day life, and be able to date her poems more accurately, if it hadn't been for this tragic loss.
Just how great the loss is may be gaged by taking a look at the way Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith have treated her letters in 'Open Me Carefully : Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson' (1998). Whereas Thomas Johnson prints all of ED's letters as straight prose, which of course leads us to read them as straight prose, Hart-Smith give us their particular letters as they actually appear in the original draft - not as continous lines of prose but as very short lines with numerous line breaks - in other words, as poetry.
It would seem that at least some of ED's 'letters' are not so much letters as 'letter-poems,' and when read as poems produce a remarkable range of effects that are lost when all line breaks are removed and the 'letter' is regularized as straight prose. The loss of her letters now begins to look much more serious, for there seems to be a growing feeling among readers that her letters were every bit as great an artistic achievement as her poems.
Given this, the present book becomes something that should interest all serious students of ED, although before reading it they might (if they haven't already) take at look at the Hart-Smith, and keep it in mind while reading the Johnson. One wonders how much poetry may be lurking unrecognized in the regularized lines of 'Emily Dickinson's Selected Letters.'
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beware of deceptive paperback edition, November 14, 2010
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Like most customers of Amazon, I am always on the lookout for a bargain. You can understand why I salivated when I saw that a paperback edition of this mammoth collection of Dickinson's letters was available for only $8.93 -- far less than the expensive hardcover edition. Well, once again the adage of getting what you pay for is proved true. The book that arrived in the mail contains a small portion of the complete correspondence, and the format is not reader-friendly. No footnotes, not even a clear demarcation between the text of the letters and any explanatory information. Out-of-date is the kindest way to describe this edition. Don't fall into the trap that sucked $8.93 from my wallet!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Were ED's letters every bit as great an artistic achievement as her poems?, August 26, 2010
Emily Dickinson was a great letter writer, in all senses of the word. In fact one gets the impression that she actually preferred writing to people, than meeting and conversing with them, and for her the arrival of a letter was a great event. A letter was something she looked forward to with keen anticipation, and which she savored to the full whenever one arrived.

Although the present collection of letters may seem large, the truth is that it represents only a small proportion of the letters Emily Dickinson actually wrote. She was an inveterate letter-writer, had many correspondents, and wrote thousands of letters. And people in those days collected letters just as today.

Unfortunately it was the custom, whenever anyone died, to make a bonfire of all of their correspondence, probably because of its confidential and personal nature. In this way thousands of pages of Emily Dickinson's writings have been lost to posterity, and we would know much more aboute the details of her day-to-day life, and be able to date her poems more accurately, if it hadn't been for this sad loss.

Just how great the loss is may be gaged by taking a look at the way Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith have treated her letters in Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson. Whereas Thomas Johnson prints all of ED's letters as straight prose, which of course leads us to read them as straight prose, Hart-Smith give us the letters as they actually appear in the original draft - not as continous lines of prose but as very short lines with numerous line breaks - in other words, as poetry.

It would seem that many of ED's 'letters' are not so much letters as 'letter-poems,' and when read as poems produce a remarkable range of effects that are lost when all line breaks are removed and the letter is regularized as straight prose. The loss of her letters now begins to look much more serious, for the feeling seems to be growing amomg readers that the letters were every bit as great an artistic achievement as her poems.

Although there have been a number of books offering selections from ED's letters, so far as I know, Thomas H. Johnson, the well-known editor of the first Variorum edition of 'The Poems of Emily Dickinson (3 vols, Cambridge, 1955), is the only person to have given us a fairly complete edition of the letters.

As such, this becomes a book that belongs in the collection of all serious students of ED, although before reading it they might (if they haven't already) take at look at the Hart-Smith, and while reading the Johnson keep it in mind. One wonders how much poetry may be lurking unrecognized in the regularized lines of 'The Letters of Emily Dickinson.'
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1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly digitized book, difficult to read, October 31, 2013
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Adapted from another edition, the pages are divided in two, making it hard to follow the flow of these wonderful letters. Better to find another edition.
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2.0 out of 5 stars bad digital copy, May 25, 2013
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Whoever made the digital version of this book did not check for errors produced by the scanners. You cannot easily click on table of contents or search for key items. Many words were switched with other words, and some were even spliced with punctuation and symbols. I was forced to assault my eyes with the violations of language for a paper. This meant I could not put it down. I also had to carefully page through looking for dates gathered from other sources, making the process painful rather than enjoyable.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The softcover edition is very nice, December 23, 2006
By 
Jacob (St. Louis, Mo.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Letters of Emily Dickinson (Dover Books on Literature and Drama) (Paperback)
This edition of Letters of Emily Dickinson is a lot better than I expected after reading some reviews. It's actually really nice. The pages are of good quality. The correspondences are arranged chronologically by when they began and a few are accompanied by an image of the original, hand-written letter.

Overall, it's a solid edition.
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Letters of Emily Dickinson (Dover Books on Literature and Drama)
Letters of Emily Dickinson (Dover Books on Literature and Drama) by Emily Dickinson (Paperback - November 30, 2011)
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