Academic journal article Historical Journal of Massachusetts

A Hedge Away: The Other Side of Emily Dickinson's Amherst

Academic journal article Historical Journal of Massachusetts

A Hedge Away: The Other Side of Emily Dickinson's Amherst

Article excerpt

A Hedge Away: The Other Side of Emily Dickinson's Amherst. By Daniel Lombardo. Northampton, MA, 1997 (Daily Hampshire Gazette Press, Northampton, MA 01060.) $15.95.

In A Midsummer's Night Dream, the play's wise father figure, Theseus, brings a semblance of order to the evening's delightful madness by holding up for everyone's sake what sets a poet apart from "lunatics and lovers":

The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,

Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;

And as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen

Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.

In the uniquely late nineteenth New England manner, Emily Dickinson fully understood how similar "lunatics and lovers" are to a poet with such a fertile imagination.

Mr. Lombardo seeks to envision that "local habitation" of Amherst about which she "lived and moved and had her being." He leaves no stone unturned, revealing a shadowy world of townsfolk coping with a burgeoning college in their midst. Locals and cosmopolitans both brush up to and bruise one another. Famous writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe breeze into town causing great excitement as well as infamous sorts like the so-called Count Bianci (brief husband to the Belle of Amherst's niece) who seemingly lurks behind doors in rooms thought empty. But of all the social vignettes, the most telling, and disturbingly visceral, is the actual hanging of a certain Allen Adams. Lombardo carefully exposes the cold raw scene of the morning: "At 6:30 in the morning he eagerly ate his last meal - eggs, doughnuts, crackers, and mince pie. He remarked to his jailer that he wanted a square meal to go on `as he was going on the Morning Glory'."

A Hedge Away collects so many romantic, medical, political, and even theological snapshots that a small group could gather and have a fascinating evening explaining which story most fascinated them and, of course, why. …

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