The Long Shadow. Clark Griffith. Princeton, 48s.

Griffith demonstrates that Emily Dickinson was a tragic poet. He draws our attention away from her better-known verses, whose facile optimism and empty grace he shows to be quite untypical of her best work. He concentrates instead on analyzing those poems which express her search for a Hidden God and her dread at the idea that the God for whom she searches may not exist. He reveals her to be, at one level, an ironist and, at another, a tragedian. The true Emily Dickinson was not the tinkling Transcendentalist, but the tragic poet, utterly discontented with the Transcendentalism with which she had been imbued. The connection between the concept of the Hidden God and tragedy is familiar to marxists from the work of Goldmann: Griffith echoes much of Goldmann’s critical achievement, but makes no attempt to relate Emily Dickinson to her class background or to the consciousness of her class. Had he done so, his work might well have been a classic critical text. He does seem aware of an insufficiency in his approach and tries to remedy this, rather shame-facedly, by some Freudian conjectures in an over-long coda to the book. It is a pity that it was this kind of incidental idea which he chose to develop: some of his other ideas—about time, for instance, or about the post-romantic notion of childhood—are much more interesting. But any work of criticisim which insists that a coherent world-view structures a poet’s work and demonstrates how the key ideas of this world-view determine the imagery and tempo of important single poems is very welcome—especially when the important poems have previously been neglected in favour of the easily assimilated. Griffith has restored to its true value, not only Emily Dickinson’s poetry, but also the labour of criticism. l.r.