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THE DOLPHIN LETTERS

Elizabeth Hardwick
Robert Lowell

  • Original Title: THE DOLPHIN LETTERS
  • Publication date: December 2019
  • Publisher: FARRAR, STRAUSS AND GIROUX
  • Country: US
  • 560 print pages
  • Factual/Memoirs

Information

  • Epoch: Historical
  • Time Period: 20th century
  • Location setting: United States
  • Themes: FAMILY, Couple, Marriage, Divorce, Maternity, Paternity, PEOPLE facing life, Life choice, Looking back on one's life, Moral dilemma, Facing failure, SOCIAL CHRONICLES, Friendship

Pitch

The correspondence between one of the most famous couples of twentieth-century literature - Elizabeth Hardwick and Robert Lowell - chronicling the story of the dramatic breakup of their twenty-one-year marriage and their extraordinary, but late, reconciliation.

Comments

Elizabeth Hardwick (1915-2007) was an American literary critic, a novelist, and one of the founders of The New York Review of Books. She is the author of SLEEPLESS NIGHTS and two other novels, a biography of Herman Melville, and four collections of essays, including SEDUCTION AND BETRAYAL, a study of women in literature.

Robert Lowell (1917 - 1977) was an American writer, the renowned and controversial author of many books of poetry, including DAY BY DAY (1977), FOR THE UNION DEAD (1964), AND LIFE STUDIES (1959).

Summary

The correspondence between one of the most famous couples of twentieth-century literature.

THE DOLPHIN LETTERS offers an unprecedented portrait of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick during the last seven years of Lowell’s life (1970 to 1977), a time of personal crisis and creative innovation for both writers. Centered on the letters they exchanged with each other and with other members of their circle - writers, intellectuals, friends, and publishers, including Elizabeth Bishop, Caroline Blackwood, Mary McCarthy, and Adrienne Rich - the book has the narrative sweep of a novel, telling the story of the dramatic breakup of their twenty-one-year marriage and their extraordinary, but late, reconciliation.

Lowell’s controversial sonnet-sequence THE DOLPHIN (for which he used Hardwick’s letters as a source) and his last book, DAY BY DAY, were written during this period, as were Hardwick’s influential books SEDUCTION AND BETRAYAL: Essays on Women in Literature and SLEEPLESS NIGHTS: A Novel. Lowell and Hardwick are acutely intelligent observers of marriages, children, and friends, and of the feelings that their personal crises gave rise to.

THE DOLPHIN LETTERS, edited by Saskia Hamilton, is a debate about the limits of art - what occasions a work of art, what moral and artistic license artists have to make use of their lives as material, what formal innovations such debates give rise to. The crisis of Lowell’s THE DOLPHIN was profoundly affecting to everyone surrounding him, and Bishop’s warning to Lowell - “art just isn’t worth that much” - haunts.

go further

  • Author’s biography

    Elizabeth Hardwick (1915-2007) was an American literary critic, a novelist, and one of the founders of The New York Review of Books. She is the author of SLEEPLESS NIGHTS and two other novels, a biography of Herman Melville, and four collections of essays, including SEDUCTION AND BETRAYAL, a study of women in literature.

    Robert Lowell (1917 - 1977) was an American writer, the renowned and controversial author of many books of poetry, including DAY BY DAY (1977), FOR THE UNION DEAD (1964), AND LIFE STUDIES (1959).