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Adah Isaacs Menken was the most highly paid and most scandalous stage performer of the 1860s. She is also one of the most fascinating and unconventional writers in American literary history, and the first to follow the revolution in poetry started by Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. This edition presents, for the first time, a generous selection of Menken’s uncollected poems and essays, along with the first edition of Infelicia (1868), her only book.
Also included is a range of carefully selected appendices that help contextualize Menken’s writings in terms of theater, Judaism, Bohemianism, women’s rights, and women writers.
“With fascinating introduction, notes, and bibliography, Gregory Eiselein clarifies the conflicting accounts of Menken’s enigmatic biography and interprets her personal and literary scandals; his appendices set her poems into a literary and historical context. This superb edition makes the powerful voice of Adah Isaacs Menken come alive for twenty-first century readers.” — Kathryn Hellerstein, University of Pennsylvania
“Gregory Eiselein’s concise writing and thorough research provide the necessary framework for situating Menken’s writings in relation to the American Civil War era, a world so rife with conflict and contradiction that we may scarcely recognize it as the heart of the Victorian period.” — Renee M. Sentilles, Case Western Reserve University