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The Dolphin Letters, 1970-1979 Reviews

The Dolphin Letters, 1970-1979 by Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Saskia Hamilton

The Dolphin Letters, 1970-1979

Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell and Their Circle

Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Saskia Hamilton

Score pending

1 review

Imprint: Faber & Faber
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication date: 16 Jan 2020
ISBN: 9780571357413
4 stars out of 5
Peter Conrad
29 Dec 2019

"provides a riveting study of ethics and betrayal"

Now that a decade of agitated correspondence about the case has been reassembled by Saskia Hamilton, it’s clear that Lowell’s ethical lapse was aggravated by his aesthetic meddling. Often he helped himself to Hardwick’s words verbatim, but when he changed them, sometimes for metrical convenience, he cruelly misrepresented her. Hardwick, for instance, wrote “I don’t entirely wish you well”; Lowell changed that to “not that I wish you entirely well”. Her wry phrase acknowledged the muddled state of her feelings. Lowell transferred the emphasis to his own physical and mental health, which she now seems to be wishfully harming. In another letter, Hardwick spoke of herself as “a wife” who did “everything for the man she loves”. Lowell, with a sadistic smirk, appropriated the sentence and made her call herself “a slave”, content to “kneel and wait upon you hand and foot”.