EMILY DICKINSON

from LETTERS TO T. W. HIGGINSON*


7 June 1862 (Johnson L265)

"My dying Tutor told me he would like to live till I had been a poet, but Death was much of Mob as I could master - then - And when far afterward a sudden light on Orchards, or a new fashion in the wind troubled my attention - I felt a palsy, here - the Verses just relieve -"

"I smile when you suggest that I delay 'to publish' - that being foreign to my thought, as Firmament to Fin -"

"You think my gait 'spasmodic' - I am in danger - Sir - You think me 'uncontrolled' - I have no Tribunal."


July 1862 (Johnson L268)

"You said 'Dark.' I know the Butterfly - and the Lizard - and the Orchis - Are not those your Countrymen?"

"Perhaps you smile at me. I could not stop for that - My Business is Circumference - An ignorance, not of Customs, but if caught with the Dawn - or the Sunset see me - Myself is the only Kangaroo among the Beauty."


August 1862 (Johnson L271)

"Are these more orderly? I thank you for the Truth - I had no Monarch in my life, and cannot rule myself, and when I try to organize - my little Force explodes - and leaves me bare and charred - I think you called me 'Wayward.' Will you help me improve? I suppose the pride that stops the Breath, in the Core of Woods, is not of Ourself - You say I confess the little mistake, and omit the large - Because I can see Orthography - but the Ignorance is out of sight - is my Preceptor's charge - Of 'shunning Men and Women' - they talk of Hallowed things aloud - and embarrass my Dog - He and I don't object to them, if they'll exist their side. I think Carl[o] would please you - He is dumb, and brave - I think you would like the Chestnut Tree, I met in my walk. It hit my notice suddenly - and I thought the Skies were in Blossom - Then there's the noiseless noise in the Orchard - that I let persons hear -"

"You say 'Beyond your knowledge.' You would not jest with me, because I believe you - but Preceptor - you cannot mean it? All men say 'What' to me, but I thought it a fashion - When much in the Woods as a little Girl, I was told that the Snake would bite me, that I might pick a poisonous flower, or Goblins kidnap me, but I went along and met no one but Angels, who were far shyer of me, than I could be of them, so I hav'nt that confidence in fraud which many exercise."

"I marked a line in One Verse - because I met it after I made it - and never consciously touch a paint, mixed by another person-"

* ED wrote letters to Higginson, the literary editor of the Atlantic Monthly who had written an open letter to aspiring contributors and to whom she responded and then corresponded with all her life.

[Emily Dickinson. The Letters of Emily Dickinson, Thomas H. Johnson, ed., 3 vols. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1965.]