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Letters of Emily Dickinson (Dover Books on Literature & Drama) Reprint Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 080-0759428588
ISBN-10: 0486428583
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  • Letters of Emily Dickinson (Dover Books on Literature & Drama)
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Editorial Reviews


[These letters] present us with as inward a view of one of God's rarer creatures as we are likely to be given...The letters themselves are as no others. The briefest line can be a mystery (and, when fathomed, a communion), the formal note a sign...If [these letters] are put alongside those of...Coleridge and Keats, they will present the most striking contrast in a poet's reactions and sensibilities. But they will stand there unashamed. (The Times)

She was no solemn bookworm destined to grow into a crabbed recluse, but a lively original creature, fully participating in the joys and despairs of a busy circle of friends and relatives...Here was a woman capable of the most intense emotion who was forced, or forced herself, to crystallize her feelings into words and phrases. The letters and poems are all of a piece. The letters, in fact, read sometimes like the raw materials of the poems. (Listener)

Emily Dickinson's letters are among the major treasures of American literature...[In] this one-volume selection...virtually everything of interest to the general reader or nonspecialist has been retained. (Library Journal) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

This one-volume selection is at last available in paperback. It provides crucial texts for the appreciation of American literature, women's experience in the nineteenth century, and literature in general. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Literature & Drama
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint edition (November 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486428583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486428581
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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