In 1847 Edward Dickinson's daughter Emily was seventeen, a student at Mary Lyon's female seminary (now Mount Holyoke College) in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Thrilled by the challenges of her education, yet repressed by the school atmosphere, she began writing letters home and to the friends she felt lonely for----passionate letters that reveled in bubbling and irreverent mischief and declared the affectionate intensity of the budding poet. Later, after her death at the age of fifty-five, friends and relatives exchanged misunderstandings of the woman they had known----and of the poetic treasure that they had no sure way of evaluating.
Out of these sixty-six imagined letters, Judith Farr, herself a poet and Dickinson scholar, has created a brilliant novel, which, written in the language of Emily Dickinson's contemporaries, lays out the entire emotional spectrum of her life. We see the young Emily groping toward poetic expression. We share the bewilderment of her teachers and friends as the girl reacts with the ingenuity of genius to people, books, and events. We marvel at her private letters "To a Mysterious Person." We smile with her at the confusion of others as they struggle to keep up with the poet's imagination, at those who try to "correct" her mode of expression. We share the experience of the first man to take her photograph. We watch her die, dreadfully and prematurely. When we are done, we have shared in a wondrous mystery, for we are the only ones allowed to know who Emily Dickinson was: these letters are written to us.
As Diane Wood Middlebrook has written, "This work of fiction---meticulously researched, delicately attuned to the language of the times---provides an explanation more persuasive than any biography ever will, of what happened to the girl on the brink of womanhood to make her the person who wrote those poems. A startling good read."
"Peculiar, incandescent, astonishing"
-"The New Yorker"
I Never Came to You in White
A Novel about Emily Dickinson