The Passion of Emily Dickinson by Judith Farr is a 390-page cloth-bound hardcover published by Harvard University Press, 1992. The dust jacket is slightly shelf worn and the price is clipped. Inside, the book is clean with unmarked pages and tight, solid binding.
"How tame and manageable are the emotions of our bards, how placid and literary their allusions!" complained essayist T.W. Higginson in the Atlantic Monthly in 1870. "The American poet of passion has yet to come." He was, of course, unaware of the great erotic love poems such as "Wild Nights--Wild Nights!" and "Struck was I, not yet by lightning" being privately written by his reclusive friend Emily Dickinson.
In a profound analysis of Dickinson's life and work, Judith Farr explores the desire, suffering, exultation, spiritual rapture, and intense dedication to art that characterize Dickinson's poems, and deciphers their many complex and witty references to texts and paintings of the day. In The Passion of Emily Dickinson the poet emerges, not as a cryptic proto-modern or a victim of female repression, but as a cultivated mid-Victorian in whom the romanticism of Emerson and the American landscape painters found bold expression.
Farr's superb readings of the poems and letters call on neglected archival material and on magazines, books, and paintings owned by the Dickinsons. Viewed as part of a finely articulated tradition of victorian iconography, Dickinson's interest in the fate of the soul after death, her seclusion, her fascination with landscape's mystical content, her quest for honor and immortality through art, and most of all her very human passions become less enigmatic. Farr tells the story of a poet and her time.