Amy Levy

Amy Levy (1861 – 1889) was a British poet and novelist.

Biography

Levy was born in Clapham, London, the second daughter of Lewis Levy and Isobel Levin. Her Jewish family was mildly observant, but as an adult Levy no longer practised Judaism; she continued to identify with the Jews as a people.

She was educated at Brighton High School, Brighton, and studied at Newnham College, Cambridge; she was the first Jewish student at Newnham, when she arrived in 1879, but left after four terms.

Her circle of friends included Clementina Black, Dollie Radford, Eleanor Marx (daughter of Karl Marx), and Olive Schreiner. Levy wrote stories essays and poems for periodicals. some popular and others literary. Her writing career began early, her poem "Ida Grey" appearing in the journal the Pelican when she was only fourteen. The stories "Cohen of Trinity" and "Wise in Their Generation," both publshed in Oscar Wilde's magazine "Women's World," are among her best. Her second novel "Reuben Sachs" (1888) was concerned with Jewish identity and mores in the England of her time (and was consequently controversial); Her first novel "Romance of a Shop" (1888) depicts four sisters who experience the pleasures and hardships of running a business in London during the 1880s. Other writings as well, including the daring "Ballad of Religion and Marriage", reveal feminist concerns. "Xantippe and Other Verses" (1881) includes a poem in the voice of Socrates's wife; the volume "A Minor Poet and Other Verse" (1884) has dramatic monologues too as well as lyric poems. In 1886, Levy began writing a series of essays on Jewish culture and literature for the Jewish Chronicle, including "The Ghetto at Florence", "The Jew in Fiction", "Jewish Humour" and "Jewish Children". Her final book of poems, "A London Plane-Tree" (1889), contains lyrics that are among the first to show the influence of French symbolism.

Traveling in Europe, she met Vernon Lee in Florence in 1886, and it has been said that she fell in love with her. Vernon Lee (Violet Paget), the fiction writer and literary theorist, was six years older, and inspired the poem "To Vernon Lee".

Despite many friends and an active literary life, Levy had suffered from episodes of major depression from an early age which, together with her growing deafness, led her to commit suicide on September 10, 1889, at the age of twenty-seven, by inhaling carbon monoxide. Oscar Wilde wrote an obituary for her in "Women's World" in which he praised her gifts.

Works

*"Xantippe and Other Verse" (1881)
*"A Minor Poet and Other Verse" (1884)
*"The Romance of a Shop" (1888) novel
*"Reuben Sachs: A Sketch"(1888) novel
*"A London Plane-Tree and Other Verse" (1889)
*"Miss Meredith" (1889) novel
*"The Complete Novels and Selected Writings of Amy Levy: 1861-1889"

External links

* Some [http://www.cordula.ws/a-levya.html Amy Levy poems] on [http://www.cordula.ws Cordula's Web] .
* [http://www.poemhunter.com/amy-levy/ Poems by Amy Levy]
* [http://www.allinfoaboutenglishculture.com/amy-levy.html Amy Levy - Short Bio]
* MP3 recording of Levy's novel [http://www.archive.org/details/reubensachs_ap_librivox Reuben Sachs: A Sketch] from Librivox.org.
* [http://www.enotes.com/nineteenth-century-criticism/levy-amy Critical analysis of Levys's work]

Sources

* Linda Hunt Beckman, "Amy Levy: Her Life and letters," Athens: Ohio, 2000;
* Judith Flanders. "Inside the Victorian Home: a Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England." New York: W. W. Norton, 2006
* Susan Bernstein, ed., "Reuben Sachs" [with introduction and other readings by Levy and others] , Broadview, 2006


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