Emily Dickinson's Confederate Uncle:
"Clad in Victory" by Virginia Dickinson Reynolds

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which I heard as a child--things my grandmother and parents
had said about Emily and Lavinia, Austin and Uncle Edward.
Emily died just about the time I was born, so that what I
knew about her came to me from the older ones, who had
known her or who had come in contact with Lavinia.  My
grandfather paid occasional visits to his brother Edward, and
memories of sayings, connected with his journeys to Amherst,
almost forgotten, came to life when I saw Martha.  I can re-
member that he said of his brother's household that it was
"a house of high talk and gracious living."  I knew that he
entertained a profound admiration for his brother Edward.
   I think that the Dickinsons have nearly always regarded
life with a "furious" seriousness.  They held high ideals, and
found human performance very disappointing.  Perhaps that
may be said of anyone who is possessed of imagination and a
sense of the fitness of things.
   Weighed against the background of their age and way
of life, considering the stress of those tragic years of conflict,
the story of that Amherst family should be interpreted with
more understanding than most people seem to be capable of
giving it.
   To me, Martha Dickinson Bianchi seemed the epitome of
uncompromising ideals and courage.  She made staunch friends
and bitter enemies as well.  Unlike her aunt Emily, she loved
the world from the outside, as well as the secret things of the
spirit.  She faced the world without fear, but with a lance to
break against the unseen antagonist, and human tyrannies.
   One of her greatest talents resided in her epigrammatic
speech.  She was one of the most brilliant conversationalists I
ever met.  It was difficult to match her wit, and her flashing
repartee and great high spirit never seemed to falter.
   I think of her sailing out against the distant horizon, burn-
ing on her funeral pyre as the old Vikings went to meet their
   My world appears much more dead for lack of her living in it.
                    Virginia Dickinson Reynolds


from Guests in Eden (New York: Zeta Chapter, Phi Delta Gamma, 1946)

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Transcription and commentary copyright 1998 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
Last updated on February 22, 2008
Maintained by Lara Vetter