A Summer of Hummingbirds

A Summer of Hummingbirds

Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Jo

By Christopher Benfey

Penguin Books, Paperback, 9780143115083, 287pp.

Publication Date: March 31, 2009

The country's most noted writers, poets, and artists converge at a singular moment in American life
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 protege 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.

About the Author
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.

Praise For A Summer of Hummingbirds

"A highly engaging and deftly written sequence of intertwined vignettes. . . . [A Summer of Hummingbirds] reads like a dream sequence, and should not be missed."
-Michael Kammen, The Boston Globe