White Heat is the first book to portray the remarkable relationship between America's most beloved poet and the fiery abolitionist who first brought her work to the public.
As the Civil War raged, an unlikely friendship was born between the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a literary figure who ran guns to Kansas and commanded the first Union regiment of black soldiers. When Dickinson sent Higginson four of her poems he realized he had encountered a wholly original genius; their intense correspondence continued for the next quarter century. In White Heat Brenda Wineapple tells an extraordinary story about poetry, politics, and love, one that sheds new light on her subjects and on the roiling America they shared.
By restoring [Higginson] to what now seems his rightful positionas a courageous, principled radical who was Dickinson's chosen reader, admirer and advocateWineapple throws what she describes as "a small, considered beam" upon the work and life of these two "seemingly incompatible friends," the recluse and the activist. That "beam," when directed by a writer as thorough and intuitive as Wineapple, brightens not only the pale figures of the poet and the hitherto elusive colonel but the poems for which, upon occasion, Dickinson drew inspiration from Higginson's more active life.