"Uncovers the complex, witty, cosmopolitan, imaginative Woolson, who appears more obliquely in her prose and poetry. Peopled by the famous, the infamous, and the unknown, the letters sparkle with intelligence and energy, providing insight into contemporary attitudes that Woolson sometimes shared, sometimes satirized, and sometimes defied, while they reveal an ample sensibility that anticipates today's concerns for the environment, regional and national identity, and global citizenship"--Karen L. Kilcup, author of Robert Frost and Feminine Literary Tradition
In recent years Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840-1894) has been fictionalized at least three times, perhaps most notably in Colm Tóibín's award-winning work The Master, a novelization of the life of Woolson's close friend Henry James. But Woolson was a literary star in her own right, publishing in the premier magazines of her day. She penned critically acclaimed novels, short stories, and poetry until her mysterious death in Venice at age fifty-three.
Sharon Dean has recompiled, dated, and, in many cases, physically reassembled all of Woolson’s extant correspondence from nearly forty sources. Dean's painstaking work presents the fullest picture we have of Woolson and functions as an important corrective to the fictional portrayals. In these letters one finds rich personal detail alongside ruminations on contemporary political and social conditions. A trenchant critic of the customs and mores of her age, Woolson, in her letters, offers a nuanced perspective on life as a woman and as a writer in the nineteenth century.
Sharon L. Dean is professor emerita of English at Rivier College in New Hampshire. One of the foremost experts on Constance Fenimore Woolson, her most recent publication is Constance Fenimore Woolson: Selected Stories and Travel Narratives.
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"Certain to stimulate additional scholarship, not only Woolson but also about the 19th-century American literary landscape…A superb resource…Highly recommended."
--Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries
“Provides access to a rich archive of letters written by a woman author with a distinctive voice and decided opinion.”
--Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers
“Speculation over the closeness of her friendship with [Henry] James and the motives for her suicide has dominated accounts of her. The publication of her surviving letters shifts the balance.”
--London Review of Books
“Dean has single-handedly advanced immeasurably the study of this remarkable author… It is an immense achievement that will spark new readings of Woolson’s life and works.”
--The Henry James Review