Customer Reviews for

The Life of Emily Dickinson

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2008

    Valuable and Engrossing

    Emily Dickinson's poetry is often local and quite personal. The more you know about her times and the people around her, the more meaning you find in her writing. (And it's well worth the effort.) Sewall brings this material forward - her letters, observations of people who knew her, what she read and how she lived - to illuminate allusions that must otherwise elude the reader. Thorough, exhaustive, and written with passion, this book is a frequent reference for most subsequent authors.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2001

    Almost certainly, the best treatment we'll ever have...

    Richard Sewall labored for 20 years on and off creating this comprehensive look at Emily, her family, her town, and her time. His achievement cannot be overstated. His subject remains mysterious, with many alternative theories circulating as to why she lived as she did, and who she loved, and who she feuded with and why, and what her poetry means and where her genius came from. Professor Sewall, to his great credit, mentions all the possibilities, but clearly demonstrates that the probable answers are not as dramatic as the wildest of the theories. Yet the truth is dramatic enough. This massive work was the first to reveal the true picture of the relationships between her survivors, which led to publication of her poetry, and then long interruptions in such publication and a change of editors. That tale is almost as interesting as Emily's own life was. This is not for the 'casual' takes the first half of the huge book just to get Emily born, but the preliminaries are vital to a competent understanding of ED's life and art. Professor Sewall is a wonderful writer, an honest and objective scholar, a thorough researcher. If he 'advocates' for anything, it is for common sense in approaching the fascinating saga of Emily and all the Dickinsons. I am proud to say that for several years after he published this prize-winning volume, he gave generously of his time and thought to correspond with me while I was researching a play about the publication of the poetry. I found him to be modest and brilliant, secure in his own accomplishments yet still open-minded. There seem to be many Dickinson scholars who fall short in that area. If you have a serious interest in Emily, you must own this book. It is the starting point for everything else, an absolute essential.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An Excellent Book, but There's Another Good New One on Dickinson

    Though Richard Sewell's book is marvelously researched and excellent, there is another book, newly published, titled WILD NIGHTS, WILD NIGHTS; THE STORY OF EMILY DICKINSON'S MASTER; NEIGHBOR AND FRIEND AND BRIDEGROOM which solves the greatest mystery in American literature: Who the master figure of Dickinson's poems, particularly her erotic love poems, was. Based on a non-fiction afterword; NEIGHBOR AND FRIEND AND BRIDGEGROOM, the book by Daniela Gioseffi is also a must read for all Dickinson fans and readers. Gioseffi is listed with the Dickinson Scholars Registry and she is a fine poet and novelist in her own right. She has made the life of Dickinson palpable and her book is revelatory, undoing the mythology surrounding this iconic poet. An American Book Award winning author of 14 books of poetry and prose, Gioseffi has shined a whole new light on Dickinson's life and work. The Sewell book is a must, but so is GIoseffi's new book a must read for all Dickinson lovers and students of her poetry.

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