SINCE the publication, in 1924, of 'The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson,'1 edited by her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, followed by what were thought then to be 'The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson,' 2 the interest in the life and work of this unique poet, born - as she herself said - 'New Englandly,' has assumed such proportions that an additional presentation of the factors contributing to her personality and background by one who knew and loved her is peculiarly welcome.  The discovery of the 'Further Poems,' published in 1929, has increased the insistent desire of Emily Dickinson's readers to know her better.
      That this revival of Emily Dickinson's vogue by a modern public, amounting to a veritable resurrection, presents to the student, as well as to those of her own mental kin, a most intriguing phase in the history of American Letters, has excited widespread though convergent comment. 'The growing fame of Emily Dickinson one of the most remarkable events in American literary history,' declared one observer in 1930.'  'Known to a bare half-dozen intimates as an eccentric poet during her lifetime, she achieved re-

      1 Houghton Mifflin Company.                              2 Little, Brown & Company.

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 spect but only a meagre measure of admiration in the nineties.  During the poetic upheaval of a decade ago she was practically submerged under the deluge of free verse.  Today she rises triumphant.  Already she has been called the greatest woman poet of America.1  A brief résumé at this time, therefore, of the present-day response to her spell seems not out of place; for that there is a spell, a magic of personality in her work for many of her readers beyond the usually recognized charm of verse, has been apparent to the most casual. 
      Such of Emily Dickinson's poems as were given to the world by her sister Lavinia in the nineties aroused much curiosity and met a reception varying from reverence to mockery, from amazement and ridicule to an occasional recognition of an entirely new voice in American literature, powerful as original.  Nevertheless, by the dawn of the twentieth century, examination of contemporary criticism reveals that as a factor in critical consideration she had dropped from sight, remembered only by individual admirers, for the most part of her own generation.  Periodicals and works of reference made no allusion to her. By 1912 she was classed in the Forum with two other 'forgotten poetesses.'  As far as the 'authorities' went, she had already disappeared quite definitely into oblivion.  Yet there remained a little band of admirers, united

      1 Harry Hansen in The World.

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in their fervent loyalty, and within this she was still read and quoted, so that the appearance of 'The Single Hound,' those poems of a lifetime written by Emily Dickinson to her 'Sister Sue,' and presented by her niece, though they had been selected without regard for 'popular appeal,' and were unconciliatory and often blind except to the initiated, found a sensitive audience which acclaimed them as of the very essence of her own peculiar self.
      The poems in this volume, given without editorial embellishment, though many of them had been written fifty years before, caught especially the attention of those newly drawn by her condensation of thought and its untrammeled expression, as well as those older devotees and critics already impatient of any intermediary between themselves and Emily Dickinson's own words. It was this unimpeded voice of the poet that impelled Amy Lowell to declare: "'The Single Hound" is worth the other [earlier] three volumes put together.  One cannot help feeling that the editors of the first three series compiled the books with an eye to conciliating criticism.  The whole of Emily is not in them as it is in "The Single Hound"; in fact the most interesting part of her genius suffers eclipse at the hands of her timorous interpreters.'
      Gradually the critical interest rekindled by 'The

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 Single Hound' died down. The critics, and the general public as well, left her to the devotion of her self-styled initiates.  Encyclopædias and books of reference granted her a few patronizing lines, or, in the more important instances, ignored her entirely.1  In the eyes of the world at large Emily Dickinson was dead — and without hope of resurrection.
      Still, her individual enthusiasts, undeterred by public apathy, perpetuated her cult.  Among these she was still living and cherished.  Here and there a college professor or a high-school teacher — more aware than the rest — fired receptive young minds, or some zealot of her own generation repeated her lines to all who came within earshot.  Many of these even became pilgrims, visiting her old home in Amherst, hoping even yet to steep themselves in her atmosphere, reiterating meanwhile their insistence for some actual recreation of her as a woman in her own setting — no mere collection of reputed eccentricities or collated husks of facts from the outside.  The letters on file reveal the urgency of this desire for a more intimate acquaintance with the human Emily Dickinson.  All too often, it was felt, she had been misrepresented as a fantastic eccentric or as 'a genius throwing down cryptic utterances from her ivory

      1 Louis Untermeyer (in the Saturday Review of Literature, March 16, 1929), has strikingly commented on this early indifference of the 'authorities.'








tower.'  The demand for the personal Emily became difficult to ignore.
      Yet from the publisher's standpoint there was nothing to warrant an exhaustive biography at this time.  Despite the fact that a collection of the poet's letters with editorial and biographical comment had been offered to the public in the nineties, when the poems were at the height of their first popularity — thousands of copies of the poems being sold at that time — the venture had unhappily proved a commercial failure.  So strongly had this been impressed on the publishing mind that even twenty years later the publishers had written that the sales of Emily Dickinson's 'Letters,' with editorial explanations, as compared with that of the 'Poems,' had demonstrated that 'the interest of the reading public is in her verse rather than in personal anecdotes and selections from letters.'  And now, the readers even of the poems had dwindled to a handful.
      In 1921, the combined sales of all the various series of Emily Dickinson's poems amounted to but two hundred and fourteen copies.  What possible hope —it was pointed out — could there be for the success of such a book?
      But notwithstanding the apathy of publishers, or the indifference for thirty years of professional biographers, the faithful never ceased their urging.

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Some response to their insistence was represented by them as a duty to the only member of the poet's family still living, her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi; who yielding at last to their importunity — that before her death the last of the Dickinsons should write a sympathetic sketch, recording for those interested the personality of the poet, often found so elusive, and the unique background of her life as could only be possible to one who had a daily part in it — presented the familiar intimate study of her aunt, based upon her own recollections of the poet, her own experience of the habits, temperaments, and daily life of all the members of the Dickinson household, and the family letters and diaries hitherto unpublished, supplemented by the reminiscences of a wide circle of family friends.
      From the publisher's standpoint the letters of Emily Dickinson as brought out in 1894 had proved so disappointing as to discourage republication.  The records indicated that Roberts Brothers had printed two editions, the first being of one thousand copies, the second of fifteen hundred.  Of this second edition about twelve hundred copies were turned over to Little, Brown and Company, and 'practically all of these had to be sold as "a remainder."' The correspondence on file shows that, despite various devices to stimulate the sales, 'the expenses of publi-

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cation were never met, and the plates were melted in 1908.'  Those most concerned are on record as expressing the opinion that too many of the poet's letters had been included in this first collection.
      In view, therefore, of this discouraging failure of the public to purchase in paying quantities these letters as originally presented, it was decided, in addition to the scores of letters, notes, and quotations hitherto unpublished and now included in the text of this new study, to add the best and most characteristic of the already published letters without comment, letting the poet speak for herself.  They were accordingly rearranged into chronological order, without interpolation, and appended to the 'Life.'  For any zealous student of the letters, should such belatedly appear, the early collection was not only available at the public libraries, but could be bought at second-hand bookshops for a few cents.
      The result was a convincing surprise. The 'Life,' written at the instigation of and for those steeped in her poetry, to help them see more plainly the flesh-and-blood Emily Dickinson as she moved about in her own setting, interested as well an entirely new public that had never known her work.  The letters, nearly half of the entire number of which as earlier published had had to be disposed of as 'a remainder,' as now prefaced were more easily understood, and

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caught the fancy of many before indifferent or unaware of the woman who dwelt within a hedge her thoughts flew over.  Though rather expensively printed to meet the requirements of what was considered would prove merely a special public, the general public as well showed surprising signs of interest, and eight editions were required to supply the continuing demand; while the book was also brought out by Jonathan Cape in London, where it was received with unexpectedly serious consideration, the London Times Literary Supplement, for example, devoting its entire front page to a detailed study of the Amherst recluse.
      The awakening of this new public to Emily Dickinson, the woman, excited a corresponding interest in Emily Dickinson, the poet.  A sudden demand arose for a collected edition of her poems, which, at the request of the publishers,1 was supplied as rapidly as possible to companion the 'Life and Letters.'  This, too, appeared in London, being published by Martin Secker, provoking much discussion and far deeper consideration than had previously been granted the work of the elusive New England mystic.  On the other side of the Atlantic, Emily Dickinson was now admitted, not merely as an American exotic, but as a poet of rare and enduring quality.  This outburst of

      1 Little, Brown and Company.

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new interest was no mere temporary flare-up.  To her rapidly broadening public she was well on her way toward becoming an American classic.  Even the Revue des Deux Mondes devoted many pages to the consideration of 'La Vie Secrète d'une Puritaine,' in which Albert Feuillerat gave a Frenchman's impression of Emily Dickinson distinguished by some of the first translations of her poems into his own language.  That' Victory Comes Late to Emily Dickinson,' as declared in the Literary Digest International Book Review in 1925 had become self-evident.  The claim made for her by a few of her most comprehending critics was now generally granted to be fundamental, established, permanent.
      The thorough overhauling of the papers and letters of three generations of Dickinsons which then inevitably ensued, resulted in the finding of the hitherto omitted poems which formed the volume called 'Further Poems,' published in 1929.  These Youth hailed as its own, writing of her in its college publications, eagerly tracing her unaccredited influence upon popular favorites, seeking her familiar scenes —countless individuals expressing in fervent letters their sense of her belonging to them: while many older readers, who felt they had never fully caught her meaning before, declared now it 'sprang at them from these pages.'

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      The critics, too, were amazingly unanimous as to the value of these 'Further Poems' and their destined place in American literature.  'Emily Dickinson's most beautiful and, from every standpoint, most important book,'1 in the Saturday Review of Literature; 'No other recent book can be so important to American Literature,'2 ' in the Atlantic Monthly; and 'Places Emily Dickinson indubitably and permanently among the enduring poets of the English speaking race,' in the New York Times, typify the critical consensus at this time.  The 'forgotten poetess' of 1912 was now acclaimed thus in The Nation, 'Emily Dickinson is much the best of women poets and comes near the crown of all poetry.' 4
      In addition to a handsome de luxe edition, six large 'trade editions' were called for in as many months.  The book became a literary sensation. 'Extraordinary as biography, magnificent as literature,' these poems were pronounced by Louis Untermeyer.  And when subsequently brought out by Secker in London, J. C. Squire declared in The Observer, 'These poems are one of the important literary discoveries of our generation.'
      Volumes now began to be published about the poet.  Belated 'biographers' struggled breathlessly to com-

      1 Louis Untermeyer.           2 Robert Hillyer.
      3 Percy Hutchison.             4 Mark Van Doren.

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pensate, by conjecture and personal hypotheses, for the deficiencies of the customary biographical material in a life singularly devoid of outward incident. The columns of reviews, magazines, even the newspapers, carried quotations from her or comment upon her.  People who had lived obscurely in Amherst in their youth, and left it nearly half a century before, arose now in a reflected light, proclaiming themselves authorities, ready to supply the most intimate details concerning one they had never known.  Glib students, who after her death had come to Amherst College for a year or two, related her intimate likes and dislikes unhesitatingly, and were quoted in italics as reliable 'evidence' from 'her home town.'  The rank and file of the hopeful relived in vociferous memories that which they had never lived in life — all united in the chance of snatching a leaf from the laurel on her brow.  In short, none of the phenomena attending inevitably upon a fame safely posthumous, were wanting.
      Emily Dickinson, 'the shy little Amherst recluse,' 'the cryptic,' 'the incomprehensible' — of the 'ragged lines 'and' imperfect rhymes' — in her hundredth year had not only been convicted of immortality by her peers, but had even become a modern 'best-seller!'1

      1 The Further Poems of Emily Dickinson appeared second on the list of 'best-sellers' (non-fiction) in the New York Herald Tribune 'Books,' April 7, 1929, and again April 14, and was also included in the list for May 5.

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      That a natural revulsion from the attendant artificial 'ballyhoo' should occur, was to be expected.  Already it has been widely pointed out that the interest of scholars and her more familiar readers, wearied and worse by the overemphasis of her as a 'biographical enigma,' is now returning to the consideration of her art, and the simplicity of the life that fostered it.  It has been suggested that nothing as yet published affords a simple equation of her life and character — perhaps never will be — and it has been equally urged and insisted upon that to enter into the spirit of that life is to turn away from the complexities and brutal realities of a post-war world, to those days of monotony in a quaint New England village, sparse in outward happening, but quick with inward drama, where the din of the outside world was faint to disturb the conflicts and victories of the poet within her hedge.
— the real Emily Dickinson.









 IT IS in response to the desire of Emily Dickinson's own particular public, which has so strongly evidenced its feeling for her as one of personal friendship and affection, that, in addition to the letters and notes now published for the first time, these reminiscences and reflections of one who for nearly twenty years was part of her daily life are here set down.  At the request of students, genealogical and biographical notes and the records of local history contemporaneously published have been added.
      Inevitably to one of her own family, Emily Dickinson must appear at angles different from any possible to those who never knew her.  Yet again it must be reiterated to the literal-minded that her extravaganza, inconsistency, and contradiction — so often a stumbling-block to them — are but part of her whimsical and imaginative reality.  The fact that she relied on her intuition instead of her geography when she made Naples more afraid 'when Etna basks and purrs' — rather than the near-by Vesuvius — does not affect the degree of dread produced by that 'garnet tooth.'  Nor did it matter to her that she sometimes airily paraphrased her own poems in send-

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 ing copies to different people, to the later confounding of the scholarly.  All these characteristics have in time become part of the cloud she unconsciously drew between herself and the curious world.
      It is hoped that, to those interested, these very personal notes of a very personal family in a New England now almost legendary may throw some further light on her drollery, whimsicality, and on the glamour she had for us about her — of the aloofness from all time and place that was hers at will — and perhaps above all may serve to emphasize her almost abnormal sensitiveness to apprehensions mortal or mystic.  In this spirit they are offered by the one person now living who saw her face to face in her later years of seclusion.
      The chronicle of Emily Dickinson's posthumous publication belongs rather to the life of her sister Lavinia, and is being so considered in a study of her I now have in preparation, together with the treatment of the burden of inheritance falling upon her niece and heir — executed in strict accordance with her own instructions, even to the erection of the gravestones in the family lot of the old cemetery at Amherst to the memory of Edward Dickinson, his wife Emily Norcross, his daughter Emily, and finally his daughter Lavinia.
      Constant thanks are due the relatives and the fam-

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ily friends — many of three generations standing — for both impetus and suggestion toward giving to her readers this more inclusive acquaintance with Emily Dickinson, both in what has been undertaken and what is yet to be.
      Among those who must be warmly remembered are Abigail Seelye Scudder, Sara Colton Gillett, Annie and Jane Crowell, Virginia Dickinson Reynolds, Alice Cooper Tuckerman, Ruth Huntington Sessions, Ruth Bowles Baldwin, Elizabeth Troope Smith, Laura Stedman Gould, Sarah Jenkins Squires, Florence Howland Smith, Gertrude Graves, Elizabeth Smith Tyler, Alfred Leete Hampson, Judge Henry P. Field, Theodore Longfellow Frothingham, MacGregor Jenkins, Dr. B. Kendall Emerson, Theodore Stebbins; and especially Robert N. Linscott for his assistance and patience in going over the original manuscript of new material included, as well as Houghton Mifflin Company for their unfailing courtesy, and Little, Brown and Company for their gracious cooperation. To all the old-time dwellers in Amherst who have so warmly expressed to me their vivid memory of my family as they knew it in life, my continuing and affectionate inclusion.