Document Type

Contribution to Books

Publication Date



Marriage can never be renewed except by that which is always the source of true marriage: that two human beings reveal the You to one another.
- Martin Buber

In a number of texts, both published and unpublished, Elizabeth Bishop addresses the themes of marriage, love, and courtship. Such issues were vexed ones for her. As a young woman, she rejected Robert Seaver’s marriage proposal (Millier, Elizabeth Bishop 112). Later, her friend Pauline Hemingway wondered in a letter whether she and Tom Wanning were engaged (Millier, Elizabeth Bishop 201), and Robert Lowell famously confessed to her that she was the one who got away (WIA 225-26). Given that Bishop’s most important romantic relationships were lesbian at a time when same-sex relationships (much less marriages) were not socially sanctioned, Bishop had to confront the issue of marriage and adopt a quasi-public stance toward it to pursue a career as a professional writer.In Frank Bidart’s words,

One must remember that for the vast majority of her life, in both social and literary terms, not to be in the closet was to be ghettoized; people might know or suspect that one was gay, but to talk about it openly in straight society was generally considered out-of-control or stupid.... Out of her distrust of the straight world she didn’t want people to know she was gay. (REB 327)

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License