- Paperback: 924 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (July 15, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674530802
- ISBN-13: 978-0674530805
- Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #364,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Life of Emily Dickinson Reprint Edition
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Winner of the National Book Award, this massively detailed biography throws a light into the study of the brilliant poet. How did Emily Dickinson, from the small window over her desk, come to see a life that included the horror, exaltation and humor that lives her poetry? With abundance and impartiality, Sewall shows us not just the poet nor the poetry, but the woman and her life.
[A] brilliant, massively detailed biography...Emily Dickinson emerges in these pages not only as...one of the two greatest poets of America's nineteenth century, but as an extraordinary and credible human being...Sewall is an exemplary biographer and critic, perhaps in some ironic way the kind of friend Emily sought unsuccessfully in her life. (Robert Kirsch Los Angeles Times)
By far the best and the most complete study of the poet's life yet to be written, the result of nearly twenty years of work...The story of a long-standing affair between Austin Dickinson and a woman twenty-seven years younger than he, Mabel Loomis Todd...has not appeared in print before, and it makes an entrancing tale...A plainly authoritative work. (Richard Todd The Atlantic)
Richard Sewall's biographical vision of Emily Dickinson is as complete as human scholarship, ingenuity, stylistic pungency, and common sense can arrive at. (R. W. B. Lewis New Republic)
Although Professor Sewall produces new material everywhere, it is in the account of the scandals that he has the most startling abundance, much of it in the form of primary documents...One must thank him for the fullness and impartiality of his presentation. (Irvin Ehrenpreis New York Review of Books)
Top customer reviews
The first “volume” in this book is not specifically about Dickinson herself but about her family. Individual chapters focus on her father, mother, brother, sister and her New England background. Much is made of the “war between the houses” which refers to the fact that Emily’s brother Austin and his wife Susan moved next door to the Dickinson family home. After a positive beginning the relationship between Susan and the rest of the family became difficult, spurred on by brother Austin’s long affair with Mabel Todd who subsequently became instrumental in publishing Dickinson’s poems after her death. We now know that Susan Dickinson’s life may have been more complicated than Sewall presents. Nevertheless, the point of these 240 pages of context is to show how the isolated Emily, as she is usually perceived, fit into the larger framework of life around her. Sewall does this well. The reader will find this first section not just useful in understanding Emily Dickinson but an insightful study of life in mid-19th century New England.
The second “volume” deals directly with Emily herself. Sewall ties many of Emily’s poems into the events in her life, from her educational experiences to her interesting (and one-sided) relationship with two of her potential publishers, Samuel Bowles and Thomas Higginson. Emily Dickinson did not have many personal relationships or friends but Sewall spells out all of them in detail, all the while bringing in Dickinson’s poems sent to them in letters or sent in hopes of publication. The combination of the poetry and the chronological development of Emily’s life helps the reader understand both the poems and the source of many of them.
After 700 plus pages (including about 75 pages of appendices) Sewall admits that Emily Dickinson is still a psychological enigma. But the reader will get as detailed and complete a picture of this isolated literary genius as he or she will find anywhere. The book is a tribute to one of America’s most original minds. This is a complete, well-written, and insightful discussion of Emily Dickinson.
Sewall's formula is brilliant, slowly introducing those Emily knew before bringing the reader nearly face to face with the poet, into an intimacy that surprises.
The only annoyance, there is no Kindle version. I bought the soft edition and wrestled.
P.S. As another reviewer mentioned, my book is also falling apart.
He got a lot wrong, in large part because he was a man writing with the prejudices of his time. And, as Lyndall Gordon points out in her biography, "Lives Like Loaded Guns," he got mentally seduced by Millicent Todd Bingham, the daughter of ED's brother's mistress, Mabel Todd, into writing horrible and untrue statements about Austin' wife and ED's close friend, Susan.
But if you're interested in ED, this book essential, not only because it has so much useful information, but also because it strongly colored ED scholarship.