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[Archive]: Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Lost Letters to Martha (1882-1889)
(Providence, R.I.; Pasadena, C.A.). A large cache of handwritten letters from Charlotte Perkins Gilman to Martha Luther Lane, Charlotte's dearest friend and confidante. The correspondence, thought to have been destroyed or lost, consists of 52 letters (47 complete and 5 incomplete) totaling 323 manuscript pages, along with a separately signed and illustrated four-page insert, and a humorous autograph poem. The letters date from the most important, formative period in Gilman's life: beginning in October 1882 through 1889, they document her youthful happiness, ambition, and flourishing love for Martha; and her subsequent struggle to overcome post-partem depression and mental illness.It was during this seven-year period that Gilman became engaged and married Charles Walter Stetson, gave birth to their daughter Katherine, and wrote "hot" letters to Martha as a means to break-out of her ensuing "wild" post-partum depression and an unhappy marriage. Many critics consider this period the crucible which forged Gilman's uniquely modern voice and directly informed her masterwork: The Yellow Wallpaper. The letters reveal the extent to which Charlotte adhered to her pact of "mutual understanding" with Martha, in which the two bound themselves to complete honesty in "word and deed". The depth of Charlotte's despair and anger is thus revealed in all of her intimate correspondence with Martha: in one letter (Sept. 30th, 1885), she admits to striking her baby; and one gets a glimmer of Martha's reactions in the subsequent letters that the distraught Gilman references.Charlotte's relationship with Martha is recognized as perhaps the most important in Gilman's life, beginning while both were adolescents in Providence, Rhode Island, and continuing throughout their lives. In many letters Charlotte employs tongue-in-cheek baby talk and humorous rhymes directed at Martha, along with numerous terms of endearments. One letter from August 1885 includes a limerick Gilman wrote for Eddie Jackson, a child she served as governess. There are also examples of word games and other forms of levity, but it is Gilman's often brutal honesty that stands out in all of her letters. She did not soften her words for the sake of Martha's more gentle nature and conservative views, nor did she shrink from the implications of her most radical views.Several of the letters are illustrated with pen & ink drawings by Gilman, including some with ironical and humorous drawings Martha, of Martha and her husband, and also of herself and Martha. One depicts a sapling bent and tethered to the ground, drawn to illustrate the depth of her depression. In total there are about 20 individual drawings, both large and small, most drawn within the body of the text.A remarkable collection of letters that will render all existing biographies of Gilman obsolete, and fully deserving publication. A detailed list of the letter is available upon request. .
      [Bookseller: Between the Covers- Rare Books, Inc. ABA]
Last Found On: 2016-11-29           Check availability:      Biblio    


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