The Life of Emily Dickinson / Edition 1

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Overview

The life of Emily Dickinson, Richard B. Sewall's monumental biography of the great American poet (1830-1886), wont the National Book Award when it was originally publsihed in two volumes. Now available in the one-volume eidtion, it has been called "by far the best and most complete study of the poet's life yet to be written, the result of nearly twenty years of work" (The Atlantic).

R.W.B. Lewis has hailed it as "a major event in Americn letters," adding that "Richard Sewall's biographical vision of Emily Dickinson is as complete as humans cholarship, ingenuity, stylistic pungency, and common sense can arrive at."
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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times

[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

The Atlantic

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

New Republic

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 York Review of Books

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

Los Angeles Times - Robert Kirsch
[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.
The Atlantic - Richard Todd
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.
New Republic - R. W. B. Lewis
Richard Sewall's biographical vision of Emily Dickinson is as complete as human scholarship, ingenuity, stylistic pungency, and common sense can arrive at.
New York Review of Books - Irvin Ehrenpreis
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.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674530805
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1st Harvard University Press pbk. ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 924
  • Sales rank: 627,093
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 8.92 (h) x 1.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard B. Sewall was Professor of English at Yale University.
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Table of Contents

  • Volume One
    • Preface
    • Chronology
      • 1. The Problem of the Biographer


    • Forebears and Family
      • 2. The New England Dickinsons and the Puritan Heritage
      • 3. Samuel Fowler Dickinson
      • 4. Edward Dickinson
      • 5. Emily Norcross Dickinson
      • 6. William Austin Dickinson
      • 7. Lavinia Norcross Dickinson


    • “War between the Houses”
      • 8. Early Hostilities
      • 9. Mabel Loomis Todd and Austin
      • 10. Austin’s Marriage
      • 11. Susan and Emily
      • 12. Publication of the Poems: Mabel and Austin
      • 13. Last Phase of the Quarrel and a Late View of Susan
      • 14. The Dickinson Rhetoric and the Structure of a Life


    • Appendixes for Volume One
      • I. Vinnie as Stylist, Mimic, Reader, and Poet
      • II. “War between the Houses”: Documents


    • References for Volume One


  • Volume Two
      • 15. Childhood
      • 16. Schooling
      • 17. Early Friendships I
      • 18. Early Friendships II
      • 19. Brother and Sister
      • 20. Charles Wadsworth
      • 21. Samuel Bowles
      • 22. The Master Letters
      • 23. Thomas Wentworth Higginson
      • 24. Helen Hunt Jackson
      • 25. Dr. and Mrs. Josiah Gilbert Holland
      • 26. The Norcross Cousins
      • 27. Otis Phillips Lord
      • 28. Books and Reading
      • 29. The Poet


    • Appendixes for Volume Two
      • III. Charles Wadsworth as Husband, Father, and Poet
      • IV. Popular Poetry: Selections from the Springfield Republican, 1858–62
      • V. A Note on the Missing Correspondences


    • References for Volume Two
    • Bibliography
    • Index of First Lines
    • Index



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Customer Reviews

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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' reader...it 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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