Emma Lazarus in Her World: Life and Letters

Bette Young, Author, Bette Roth-Young, Author, Francine Klagsbrun, Foreword by Jewish Publication Society of America $34.95 (298p) ISBN 978-0-8276-0516-9
Young has unearthed more than 100 letters by American poet Emma Lazarus that, tucked into this biographical study, shed new light on her activities and personality. Best remembered for her sonnet ``The New Colossus,'' engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, Lazarus (1849-1887) was an ardent spokesperson for eastern European Jews fleeing anti-Semitism in czarist Russia. She founded a society to help Jewish exiles resettle in Palestine and advocated a Jewish homeland in Palestine 13 years before Theodor Herzl coined the term Zionism. Nevertheless, the wealthy, genteel Sephardic poet and essayist--assimilated and never fully comfortable with her Judaism--based her concept of Jewish renewal on a return to an idealized biblical past. Previous biographers have portrayed a reclusive spinster who suddenly became pro-Semitic at the age of 33, but these intimate, gossipy letters reveal a vital woman who actively participated in cultural life, meeting in Europe with Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. Freelance writer Young shows that Lazarus's reclamation of her Jewishness was an evolutionary process, as reflected in her earliest writings. Photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
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