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Letters of Emily Dickinson (Dover Books on Literature & Drama) [Paperback]

Emily Dickinson
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

25 May 2003 Dover Books on Literature & Drama
Lovingly compiled by a close friend, this first collection of Dickinson's letters originally appeared in 1894, only eight years after the poet's death. Animated by the same spirited sensitivity as her much-admired verse, Dickinson's correspondence vividly depicts characters and incidents from her reclusive life, and her famous wit sparkles from every page.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc.; New edition edition (25 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486428583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486428581
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,266,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

[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.

Book Description

A selection of the remarkable letters of Emily Dickinson in an elegant Pocket Poet edition. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your money 26 Sep 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Letters of Emily Dickinson The publisher endeavours to make a virtue of the fact that the text is not produced by OCR but rather by a photographic process. The dismal result of this is that the pages are far too small to be read comfortably on a Kindle. It is impossible to change the text size and each page has to be individually enlarged as an image before you can read it. (And, of course, if you wish to return to an earlier page you have to enlarge it all over again.) How many pages can you bear to fiddle around with before you give up altogether? Not many in my case. The method of production also means that, although text-to-speech is enabled, it won't work on the letters because they aren't produced in a readable format. The whole thing seems pretty pointless as a Kindle book. I am glad I only downloaded the sample and didn't pay good money for this frustrating nonsense. I shall be avoiding this publisher's output in future unless they change their method of production!
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Piece of the Dickinson Puzzle 7 Oct 2004
By Gianmarco Manzione - Published on Amazon.com
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. 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.
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A letter like immortality 19 May 2000
By Rosana Mendes Campos - Published on Amazon.com
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."
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Precious surviving fragments of a great oeuvre. 22 Jun 2001
By tepi - Published on Amazon.com
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.
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.'
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beware of deceptive paperback edition 14 Nov 2010
By Thomas A. Hanson - Published on Amazon.com
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!
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? 26 Aug 2010
By tepi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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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