A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain , Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade

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Penguin, Apr 17, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 304 pages
3 Reviews
The country's most noted writers, poets, and artists converge at a singular moment in American life, a great companion to fans of the film A Quiet Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson. 

At the close of the Civil War, the lives of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade intersected in an intricate map of friendship, family, and romance that marked a milestone in the development of American art and literature. Using the image of a flitting hummingbird as a metaphor for the gossamer strands that connect these larger-than-life personalities, Christopher Benfey re-creates the summer of 1882, the summer when Mabel Louise Todd-the protégé to the painter Heade-confesses her love for Emily Dickinson's brother, Austin, and the players suddenly find themselves caught in the crossfire between the Calvinist world of decorum, restraint, and judgment and a new, unconventional world in which nature prevails and freedom is all.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

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User Review  - gayla.bassham - LibraryThing

More like 3 1/2 stars. Interesting account of the connections among leading literary lights in the nineteenth-century US, but I think the hummingbird connection was a stretch. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - smilingturtle - LibraryThing

I enjoyed the meanderings of these acquaintances, discovering and searching out the paintings of Heade, insights into Emily Dickinson, and the unknown-to-me Florida and Brazil connections of some of ... Read full review

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About the author (2008)

Christopher Benfey is art critic for "Slate" magazine and Associate Professor of English/Chair of American Studies at Mount Holyoke College. He is the author of "The Double Life of Stephen Crane" (1992) and "Emily Dickinson and the Problem of Others" (1984). He is the recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships.

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