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Beyond the Garden Gate

Celia Thaxter

Just released

Following the release of One Woman’s Work in 2001, Norma Mandel's new biography is the second major study of Celia Laighton Thaxter in three years. Enormously popular in her lifetime, the poet of the Isles of Shoals is regaining her fame. Since we run the only Celia Thaxter web site -- we're pleased as punch to welcome this new book.


SEE: Norma Mandel’s “Life of Celia timeline” on
VISIT: Celia Thaxter web site

The Life of Celia Laighton Thaxter
By Norma H. Mandel

The first new biography in twenty years of a beloved New England writer.

From the publisher::

Celia Laighton Thaxter was an author, painter, gardener, and one of the most popular New England poets of the late nineteenth century. Her nonfiction works, An Island Garden and Among the Isles of Shoals, continue to engage readers; "her prose," Smithsonian Magazine has said, "has a timeless quality that makes delightful reading today."

Much of Thaxter’s writing was inspired by the Isles of Shoals, an isolated cluster of islands off the coast of New Hampshire, where she was raised and spent much of her life. As a result, she is often thought to have lived a circumscribed existence, but as Norma Mandel demonstrates in this new biography, Thaxter was an active participant in Boston’s vibrant cultural life. Her close friends included Sarah Orne Jewett, John Greenleaf Whittier, and James and Annie Fields, and she moved in a literary circle that included such figures as Hawthorne, Emerson, Longfellow, and Holmes. Thaxter was also the hostess of a vibrant summer salon on Appledore Island where artists Childe Hassam and William Morris Hunt and musicians Julius Eichberg and William Mason were among the frequent visitors.

Drawing on previously unexamined letters and family papers as well as Thaxter’s own writings and other sources, Mandel not only reveals new details about the author’s life but also places her in a broader literary and cultural context. From Thaxter’s isolated childhood and early marriage, to her embrace of the Aesthetic Movement and her fascination with spiritualism, to her lifelong struggle to secure a steady income and care for a disabled child, Mandel offers the most comprehensive biography yet written about a writer whose books about the natural world continue to resonate.

NORMA MANDEL is a lecturer in the Education Program at Barnard College and was a contributor to One Woman’s Work: The Visual Art of Celia Laighton Thaxter. She received a Ph.D. in English from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

University Press of New England
Hardcover, 192 pp. 6 x 9"

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