Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-2012

Department

English

Language

English

Publication Title

Modernism/modernity

Abstract

Among the letters published for the first time in Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell is a 1970 missive from Bishop. She is reading about Thomas Carlyle, she tells Lowell, and may try to "finish" a "poem about him I've had around for years." She never did finish it, however, and the poem is not exactly about "him." A draft appears posthumously as "Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle," and it narrates an incident taken from Jane Carlyle's correspondence, in which Thomas meets his wife in a busy street after missing her at "The Swan With Two Necks." Bishop's worksheets hail that place-name in what seems to be a final stanza, affirming the doubled bird as a symbol of the Carlyles' relationship---and the epistolary dynamics of that relationship in particular. Bishop suggests the "Swan With Two Necks" as a model of correspondence when she rewrites Jane's letter's anecdote about returning with the" mail from Liverpool" at a mail-coach inn.

Comments

This published version is made available on Dickinson Scholar with the permission of the publisher. For more information on the published version, visit Johns Hopkins University Press's Website.

DOI

10.1353/mod.2012.0043

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