Levy, Amy

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LEVY, AMY (1861–1889), English poet and novelist. The daughter of a London stockbroker, Amy Levy became the second Jewish woman to attend Cambridge University, entering in 1879. She published her first book in 1881, while still an undergraduate. This was Xantippe and Other Verse, the title poem being a defense of the wife of Socrates. Her best-known work is probably A London Plane Tree (1889). Throughout her life, Amy Levy suffered from melancholy, and her second volume, A Minor Poet and Other Verses (1884), conveys her despair. As a novelist, she wrote the experimental The Romance of a Shop (1888) and, in the same year, the more competent Reuben Sachs, which was criticized for its unsympathetic portrayal of the wealthier Jewish classes. More genial, but slight, was her Miss Meredith (1889), the story of a governess. Cohen of Trinity, published in The Gentleman's Magazine (1889), a story arresting in its psychological delineation, was written a few months before she committed suicide. Her position as a keen but non-religious Jew, and as an early Jewish feminist of great talent but also an apparent manic-depressive who committed suicide at the age of only 27, have led to a considerable revival of interest in her work during the recent past. The Complete Novels and Selected Writings of Amy Levy, 18611889, edited by Melvyn New, was published in 1993. Her novel Reuben Sachs was reprinted in 2001 with an introduction by Julia *Neuberger.


M.F. Modder, Jew in the Literature of England (1939), 261, 317–8, 323–4, 380. add. bibliography: odnb online; L.H. Beckman, Amy Levy: Her Life and Letters (2000).

[William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]