Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day

Article excerpt

All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day. Edited by Robert Ellsberg. (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press. 2010. Pp. xxiii, 456. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-874-62010-0.)

Although Dorothy Day's The Long Loneliness (New York, 1952) has served as an autobiography, she stated that she had intended it to focus only on what had led her to God. For a more comprehensive portrait of Day's life and spirituality, one may turn to an outpouring of primary source anthologies and histories published since her death in 1980. One of the essential works is All the Way to Heaven, a collection of her selected letters, edited by Robert Ellsberg. Scholar, editor, and personal friend of Day, Ellsberg has produced an accessible and informative volume that will serve the needs of casual reader and serious researcher.

This well-designed volume begins with the editor's revealing introduction to Day as a letter writer. Each of the book's six chronological sections is organized around a broad theme. Ellsberg has written a brief introduction to each part and throughout the volume provides notes for historical context and identification. An index of personal names and book titles concludes the volume.

The letters date from the 1920s to several months before her death. Ironically, the anthology begins with a letter to Margaret Sanger that expresses Day's regret that the Birth Control League was unable to "afford a regular publicity director" (p. 3). Other early letters discuss Day's publication agenda and document the evolution of her relationship with her domestic partner, Forster Batterham. These colorful letters explore her social, emotional, and religious worlds. In particular, the graphic letters to him expose the dimensions of her emotional torment over the nature of their relationship after her conversion. The love letters convey the story of a struggle between equally stubborn partners and outline her turmoil as she alternately tried to convince him to marry or to distance themselves from their powerful allure. …

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