The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson

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The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson  (1924) 
by Martha Dickinson Bianchi and Emily Dickinson


THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF
EMILY DICKINSON

BY MARTHA
DICKINSON
BIANCHI



THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF
EMILY DICKINSON


E. Dickinson

THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF
EMILY DICKINSON

by her niece
MARTHA DICKINSON BIANCHI


With Illustrations

Houghton Mifflin Company logo (1913).jpg

BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
The Riverside Press Cambridge
1924



COPYRIGHT, 1924, BY MARTHA DICKINSON BIANCHI
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Riverside Press
CAMBRIDGE • MASSACHUSETTS
PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.



FOR THEIR ENTHUSIASM, INTUITIVE UNDERSTANDING, AND CRITICAL ASSISTANCE, MY GRATITUDE TO FERRIS GREENSLET, CURTIS HIDDEN PAGE, AND ALFRED LEETE HAMPSON

M. D. B.


"A Mystic akin only to Emerson." W. P. Dawson, the English critic, in his own anthology states without apology: "Among the American poets I have named two—Poe and Emily Dickinson." And it was another Englishman, Martin Armstrong, writing of her poetry in the London "Spectator" last January (1923), who concluded: "Mr. Conrad Aiken in his recent anthology of modern American poets calls Emily Dickinson's poetry 'perhaps the finest by a woman in the English language.' I quarrel only with his 'perhaps.'"

However the present volume may lift the veil, or presume to lead her shy reality into the light of mortal dawns again, Emily alone supplies the only clue to herself, the articles of her Faith—

The Soul's superior instants
Occur to Her alone,
When friend and earth's occasion
Have infinite withdrawn.

Or she, Herself, ascended
To too remote a height,
For lower recognition
Than Her Omnipotent.

This mortal abolition
Is seldom, but as fair
As Apparition—subject
To autocratic air.

Eternity's disclosure
To favorites, a few,
Of the Colossal substance
Of immortality.

The essential difficulty in presenting a Life of Emily Dickinson has been enhanced by the sacred pact observed with her chosen few, that all letters should be burned after her death. This excludes exactly those which might have held together the frail external incidents of her days, which seem so scantily supplied to those ignorant of the thronging events of the Spirit which eternally preoccupied her.

This present record is made up from family letters hitherto withheld, deathless recollections, and many sentences overheard from her own lips and scrupulously set down as too unique to be squandered upon the passing moment. The Letters formerly printed have now been chronologically arranged, and as far as of intrinsic value, retained; others have been added from my article in the "Atlantic Monthly," and "The Single Hound," a volume composed entirely of poetic flashes sent to her brother's wife, my mother, on every gust of impulse.

A high exigence constrains the sole survivor of her family to state her simply and truthfully, in view of a public which has, doubtless without intention, misunderstood and exaggerated her seclusion—amassing a really voluminous stock of quite lurid misinformation of irrelevant personalities. She has been taught in colleges as a weird recluse, rehearsed to women's clubs as a lovelorn sentimentalist—even betrayed by one American essayist of repute to appear a fantastic eccentric.

On the other hand, she has been named "the Feminine Walt Whitman" in at least one of the great universities; in another—

Of the Colossal substance
Of immortality.

Martha Dickinson Bianchi

THE EVERGREENS
AMHERST MASSACHUSETTS



CONTENTS

Part I:
Life
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
1
I.
Ancestry
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
3
II.
Childhood
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
12
III.
School Days
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
22
IV.
Social Life at Amherst Seventy Years Ago
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
33
V.
"The End of Peace"
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
43
VI.
"A Hedge Away"
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
52
VII.
Later Years with Friens and Books
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
66
VIII.
Her Religion
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
88
Part II:
Letters
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
107
Index
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
383



ILLUSTRATIONS

Emily Dickinson
 
Photogravure frontispiece
From a photograph retouched by Laura Coombs Hills
 
 
Edward Dickinson
 
6
Emily Norcross Dickinson
 
10
Lavinia Dickinson
 
14
The Dickinson House, Amherst, Massachusetts
 
18
"A little path just wide enough for two who love"
 
52
Susan Gilbert Dickinson
 
64
Judge Lord
 
68
Maria Whitney
 
76
Fascimile of a Note of Emily Dickinson's
 
156
Fascimile of a Poem
 
240
J. G. Holland
 
336
Helen Hunt
 
372

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.


The longest-living author of this work died in 1943, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 79 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.