Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

May Sarton notes in her preface to A World of Light: Portraits and Celebrations that she carried this book in her mind for twenty years. Its purpose is to fill the gap in her autobiography between I Knew a Phoenix (1959), which covers her life from childhood to age twenty-six, and Plant Dreaming Deep (1968), which begins when she was forty-five. Sarton knew all the people described in the book by the time that she was forty, but by the time that she came to write the book, all but one were dead. The book is a joyful celebration of those deep and enduring friendships that shaped Sarton as a woman and as an artist. Its importance lies as much in what it reveals about her as in what it reveals about the friends whom she “celebrates.”

The twelve portraits, each introduced by a photograph, are divided into four sections, based on a loose chronology. The first section contains descriptions of Sarton’s parents, whom she had already sketched in I Knew a Phoenix. The most significant difference between the portraits is Sarton’s acceptance of and reconciliation with her father, which came only late in her life. Significant friends from her early womanhood, Celine Dangotte Limbosch and Edith Forbes Kennedy, are the subjects of the second section. The third section groups together friends from different times in Sarton’s life but is unified by the sense of place that rooted all four, a sense which Sarton acquired only...

(The entire section is 541 words.)