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The reader is still left looking wistfully at the firmly closed door of Emily Dickinson's elusive mind and heart and genius.But no biographer can unlock that chamber, and Habegger is wise enough not to try.
Emily Dickinson, probably the most loved and certainly the greatest of American poets, continues to be seen as the most elusive.
One reason she has become a timeless icon of mystery for many readers is that her developmental phases have not been clarified.
Although many aspects of her life and work will always elude scrutiny, her living, changing profile at least comes into focus in this meticulous and magisterial biography. I'd have given this 2 stars were it not solely for the massive amount of research and collecting of letters, dates, history, etc. However, Emily Dickinson remains just as an elusive figure as before this (or any other attempt at her biography) was written.
In the introduction, a literary critic addressed the fact that sometimes a poet's works were written for personal reasons and were never meant for others' eyes at all.
Habegger also illuminates many of the essential connection sin Dickinson's story: between the decay of doctrinal Protestantism and the emergence of her riddling lyric vision; between her father's political isolation after the Whig Party's collapse and her private poetic vocation; between her frustrated quest for human intimacy and the tuning of her uniquely seductive voice.
The definitive treatment of Dickinson's life and times, and of her poetic development, My Wars Are Laid Away in Books shows how she could be both a woman of her era and a timeless creator.The maximum nerditude postscript: Although I found this book incredibly helpful in my research, I still don't know why Habegger dislikes Martha Dickinson Bianchi, Emily's niece, so much.I'm about to start reading Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds, in the hope of learning more about the copyright battles that went on after Dickinson's death.It is fair to say that Dickinson is a tough cookie for any biographer, so credit is due where credit is due; but there’s nothing in this volume that adds to enjoyment of Dickinson as a writer and thinker or that fleshes her out into a real human being with three full dimensions.(I begin to fear that such a task will remain forever impossible.) But what is laid away more than anything in this biography is the Dickinson of joy and delight."Tell al This is the best Dickinson biography I've read, though Sewall's is very thorough, and the best from 1974-2001 or so."Tell all the truth but tell it slant," like many of ED's later poems, was written on found paper--as was the Gettysburg address--; for instance, a graduation program from Massachusetts College of Agriculture, which her father also helped found. Higginson, who led the first federally organized black regiment in the Civil War, perhaps found his courage failing in his famous encounter with the poet in 1870, "I never was with any one who drained my nerve power so much... He may have felt in almost a medieval joust, which despite his military training and bravery, he had not won.Habegger includes the newly discovered daguerreotype acquired by Gura, of Dickinson not age 16 (the universally familiar portrait, in Amherst College collection).Besides the photos, his narrative is fine, even moving: Habegger's account of Dickinson's response to being chided by Helen Hunt Jackson for not publishing, and his account of Dickinson's funeral in the house.Dickinson herself struggles to appear in Habegger's version of her life, in part because she is obscured by such a mountain of minutiae and of scholarly score-settling (Habegger’s pedantic and persnickety comments regarding other writers’ bad research or unsubstantiated interpretations became a dead weight long before I’d gotten through a third of the book).There’s a very great deal of gleeful myth-busting here (myths at least by Habegger’s lights) and an equal amount of what can only be called Dickinsonian High Trivia.