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The Gardens of Emily Dickinsonby Judith FARR
Synopses & Reviews
In this first substantial study of Emily Dickinson's devotion to flowers and gardening, Judith Farr seeks to join both poet and gardener in one creative personality. She casts new light on Dickinson's temperament, her aesthetic sensibility, and her vision of the relationship between art and nature, revealing that the successful gardener's intimate understanding of horticulture helped shape the poet's choice of metaphors for every experience: love and hate, wickedness and virtue, death and immortality.
Gardening, Farr demonstrates, was Dickinson's other vocation, more public than the making of poems but analogous and closely related to it. Over a third of Dickinson's poems and nearly half of her letters allude with passionate intensity to her favorite wildflowers, to traditional blooms like the daisy or gentian, and to the exotic gardenias and jasmines of her conservatory. Each flower was assigned specific connotations by the nineteenth century floral dictionaries she knew; thus, Dickinson's association of various flowers with friends, family, and lovers, like the tropes and scenarios presented in her poems, establishes her participation in the literary and painterly culture of her day. A chapter, "Gardening with Emily Dickinson" by Louise Carter, cites family letters and memoirs to conjecture the kinds of flowers contained in the poet's indoor and outdoor gardens. Carter hypothesizes Dickinson's methods of gardening, explaining how one might grow her flowers today.
Beautifully illustrated and written with verve, The Gardens of Emily Dickinson will provide pleasure and insight to a wide audience of scholars, admirers of Dickinson's poetry, and garden lovers everywhere.
Cuttings from the book: "The pansy, like the anemone, was a favorite of Emily Dickinson because it came up early, announcing the longed-for spring, and, as a type of bravery, could withstand cold and even an April snow flurry or two in her Amherst garden. In her poem the pansy announces itself boldly, telling her it has been 'resoluter' than the 'Coward Bumble Bee' that loiters by a warm hearth waiting for May." "She spoke of the written word as a flower, telling Emily Fowler Ford, for example, 'thank you for writing me, one precious little "forget-me-not" to bloom along my way.' She often spoke of a flower when she meant herself: 'You failed to keep your appointment with the apple-blossoms,' she reproached her friend Maria Whitney in June 1883, meaning that Maria had not visited her . . . Sometimes she marked the day or season by alluding to flowers that had or had not bloomed: 'I said I should send some flowers this week . . . [but] my Vale Lily asked me to wait for her.'" "People were also associated with flowers . . . Thus, her loyal, brisk, homemaking sister Lavinia is mentioned in Dickinson's letters in concert with sweet apple blossoms and sturdy chrysanthemums . . . Emily's vivid, ambitious sister-in-law Susan Dickinson is mentioned in the company of cardinal flowers and of that grand member of the fritillaria family, the Crown Imperial."
About the Author
Judith Farris Professor of English Emerita, <>Georgetown University.Louise Carteris a professional landscape gardener and horticulturalist.
Table of Contents
1. Gardening in Eden
2. The Woodland Garden
3. The Enclosed Garden
4. The "Garden in the Brain"
5. Gardening with Emily Dickinson
Epilogue: The Gardener in Her Seasons
Appendix: Flowers and Plants Grown by Emily Dickinson
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