Poems of Emily Dickinson, Variorum Edition
was published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press in
1998. The edition serves as a compelling point of entry into any
discussion of Franklin's editing practices and his perception of the
poet. Appealing to a specifically academic audience, Franklin's Variorum
explores Dickinson's experience as both a writer and an editor of her
poetry. In the Introduction, he chronicles her productivity
throughout her literary career and provides an exhaustive analysis of
her fascicle constructions and their significance. He also provides a
detailed analysis of the history of Dickinson editing, illuminating
other editors' contributions with his perception of both their
strengths and weaknesses. He describes the aim of his edition as
"a comprehensive account, not a selection for a specific
Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson
was published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press in
1981. As he states in the Introduction, "This edition makes the
manuscript books of the poet available for the first time, restored
as closely as possible to their original order and, through facsimile
reproductions, presented much as [Dickinson] left them for Lavinia
and the world" (ix).
book concerning Dickinson studies, The
Editing of Emily Dickinson: A Reconsideration
was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 1967. He is
also the editor of The
Master Letters of Emily Dickinson
(Amherst College Press, 1986).
Acknowledgments section of his Variorum, Franklin recognizes
the staff of various institutions and repositories of Dickinson's
manuscripts for their support. He also acknowledges several
colleagues and friends among them LaVerne Goman, Margaret A.
Powell, Richard B. Sewall and G. Thomas Tanselle. He further thanks
other Dickinson scholars, stating that "an editor of Dickinson's
work is the beneficiary of many predecessors, in particular those
who, beginning with Lavinia Dickinson, Susan Dickinson, Mabel Loomis
Todd, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, then continuing with Martha
Dickinson Bianchi, Alfred Leete Hampson, Millicent Todd Bingham, and
Thomas H. Johnson, preserved Dickinson's manuscripts, arranged them,
transcribed or photostated many now lost, and, as they were able,
published the poems and letters" ( [section not yet excerpted,
link forthcoming[ 1594). He also mentions Thedora Van Wagenen Ward,
Myra Himelhoch, Joel Myerson, Karen Dandurand, and Ellen Louise Hart
for various contributions.
Franklin acknowledges a number of friends and colleagues, among them
LaVerne Goman, Dirk Straton, G. Thomas Tanselle, and Mary L. Hampson.
He names Richard B. Sewall and Jay Leyda as "two distinguished
Dickinson scholars." He concludes by declaring that, "like
all other Dickinson studies since 1955, [his] work is indebted to the
fundamental contributions of Mr. Johnson and his colleague Theodora
Franklin discusses Emily's life as one of "isolation and poetic
silence" (ix). He also
describes a period of Dickinson's life when "her poetic drive
(was) somewhat spent" (xiii).
Passages such as these imply that Franklin knew the poet directly --
that he has effectively and definitively deciphered Dickinson's
motives, beliefs, and opinions. Franklin furthers this image in the Variorum,
where he argues that "at times Dickinson may have surprised
herself to find poetry becoming verse" (34).
This is just one of many examples in which he takes away Dickinson's
agency as producer and editor of her own work entirely, replacing her
agency with his own. This is reminiscent of Johnson, whose also
portrayed Dickinson as a woman astounded at her own poetic talents
(see "Johnson" discussion). Dickinson thus becomes the
unconscious author of her own writings, while Franklin comparably
becomes her conscious editor. Despite these examples, Franklin's
discussion of Dickinson as a serious writer and his focus on her
editorial methods and practices do much to revise stereotypical
images of Dickinson as a virginal New England recluse who happened to
scribble some verse over the course of her life.
In the Variorum,
Franklin cites Henry Vaughan Emmons a member of the class of
1854 at Amherst College as "perhaps foremost" among
those she circulated her poems to. He also acknowledges Higginson as
a central figure in her life. His focus on masculine influences is
furthered in the Variorum
by a discussion of her "Master" letters and their intended
male recipient. This argument stands in direct contrast to Hart and
Smith, whose Open
argues that Susan Huntington Dickinson was Emily's primary recipient
(See "Hart and Smith" discussion for further comparison).
While he does recognize Susan as an active participant in Dickinson's
poetry-making, he does not directly explore the nature of their
relationship. Rather than acknowledging the significance of Susan to
Emily's life and writings as other editors have done he
highlights a supposed decrease in the number of poems actually sent
to Susan. Despite his silences around Susan, his choice to
acknowledge her at all, especially considering her complete absence
in the Manuscript
is a step in the right direction.
Introductions to Franklin's Variorum,
Editing Practices of Emily Dickinson
all open with basically the same doctrine: Emily Dickinson did not
"publish." In the Variorum
specifically, he describes Dickinson as an unpublished poet who left
her poems unprepared for public reception. Nevertheless, there is
ample evidence in her various correspondences to prove that she was
circulating her poems among friends. This is a form of publication,
albeit for a relatively small audience. What Franklin fails to do is
to make a distinction between publishing and printing. Interestingly,
in the Manuscript
Introduction, Franklin later acknowledges Emily's sending copies of
her poems to friends as "a form of publication" (x).
This contradiction to his earlier statement suggests that he has not
made the distinction between printing and publishing for himself.
Theories and Assumptions
Franklin acknowledges that "A facsimile edition is of
particular importance to Dickinson studies, for the manuscripts of
this poet resist translation into the conventions of print" (ix).
This comment stands in direct contrast to many of his arguments in
While he argues in the Introduction that his edition "seeks to
intrude minimally and therefore turns again to the manuscripts,
accepting them as their own standard, almost the only record we have
of her intentions," other statements he makes directly refute
this assertion (emphasis mine, 27).
In describing the editorial assumptions on which his bases his
arguments, he states, "[T]his edition is based on the assumption
that a literary work is separable from its artifact, as Dickinson
herself demonstrated as she moved her poems from one piece of paper
to another. Even the fascicles, her most formal organization of her
work, were the source for further copies" (27).
Of course Dickinson transcribing one of her poems is entirely
different from one of her editors choosing to do so. Franklin
continues, "There can be many manifestations of a literary work.
Hers was manuscript, this one is typographical . . . Although this
edition is a printed codex, it has an electronic database - the poems
are in bits and bytes; other outputs are possible, including other
printed editions, organized or presented differently"(27).
With this statement, Franklin has moved far away from Manuscript
presenting Dickinson's work instead as an abstraction - a Platonic
ideal. And, if Dickinson's manuscripts are not important to him, why
does he produce many of them as facsimiles in the Introduction?
stemma he includes in his Introduction to the Variorum
to his "Codes for Editions," he presents his editorial
theories in a seemingly logical, scientific, and professional manner.
This approach to editing Dickinson, while appearing scientific,
suggests that Franklin can definitively describe Emily's motives and
process of fascicle making (which, of course, is impossible). He
employs a similar approach in his first book, The
Editing Practices of Emily Dickinson,
which proves that this belief has remained largely the same
throughout his career. The book is replete with tables and charts
that make his editorial practices appear definitive and scientific.
By describing her compositional processes as fact, he takes away her
agency in this process and implements his own in its place.
Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson,
Franklin attempts to establish an internal sequence in the
fascicles. Much like Smith and Hart do in Open
he draws largely on the manuscripts themselves (stains, pinholes
etc.) to explore Dickinson. Franklin also acknowledges that others
besides Dickinson herself have written on the manuscripts and
provides a detailed and convincing analysis of what editors made what
markings. In particular, he acknowledges Susan as having made many of
the crosses and letters on the manuscripts. Unlike Hart and Smith,
however, he argues that, using evidence from the manuscripts, he can
definitively recognize Emily's process of editing and organizing her
correspondences. Franklin moves away from this editorial approach in
where he talks about the physical aspects of the manuscripts as
supporting Emily's fascicle making as a process rather than as
arguing for her relationship with Susan. While Franklin states that
he will focus on the manuscripts when comparing himself to other
editors' approaches, he emphasizes Dickinson's correspondences as
idealized texts that are easily transferable rather than as material artifacts.
his works, Franklin describes Emily's literary process as a
"workshop," exploring the order with which she wrote poems,
transcribed and edited them, often placed them into fascicles, and
destroyed earlier drafts. In doing so, Franklin acknowledges periods
of both immense productivity and periods of supposed obscurity
throughout Dickinson's poetic career. In his Introduction to the Variorum,
he presents a basic stemma "for Dickinson's workshop when
fascicles were involved" (19).
Dickinson's first draft he defines as a worksheet [X], which she
would then transcribe with emendations onto an intermediate draft
[Y]. Oftentimes she would send a copy of this intermediate draft in a
correspondence (A); otherwise she would retain it (B). Dickinson then
would place the poem into a fascicle or set (C). Copies of many the
poems that were included in (C) would be sent as correspondences (D)
or again retained (E). Other copies often were revised, thus
establishing a new draft of the poem [Z]. From [Z], many copies were
either sent (F) or retained (G). Franklin also asserts that Dickinson
would destroy many earlier versions of a poem once it was entered
into a fascicle or set. While he admits that "particular
instances may vary," the stemma he establishes regarding
Dickinson's process appears definitive and authoritative (19).
bases all of his editorial decisions in the Variorum
on Dickinson's fascicles. Even the book itself is organized by
dividing the poems into two sections: those found in fascicles and
those not. In addition, Franklin describes the fascicles as
"always private documents" with "no evidence that
[they] . . . left her hands" (20).
Nevertheless, there is no way to substantiate this claim simply
because there is no evidence that they did not circulate among her
intimate friends etc. Franklin argues that Dickinson's goal in
preparing her earliest fascicles was "to have been a finished
product" (20). He establishes
this argument by citing that, before 1860, she did not revise them.
Beginning in 1862, however, he argues that she did begin to revise
and "the goal was no longer finished poems &ldots; her method
had changed" (22). He further
states that "[m]any of the variant copies that could have
resulted from such revision are not extant, whether because Dickinson
sent none or they are now lost, or she was revising simply for
herself, turning the fascicles into worksheets with no other purpose
in mind than her own interest in the poems" (20).
of Franklin's Texts and Paratext
is divided into three volumes. Volume I includes his extensive
Introduction, Locational Symbols, Editorial Symbols, Short Titles for
Editions, Codes for Editions, and Poems 1-526. Volume II contains
Poems 527-1287, and Volume III has Poems 1288-1789, 14 Appendices (on
topics ranging from "Distribution by Year" to
"Recipients" to "Word Division"), a Bibliography,
his Acknowledgments, an Index of Johnson's Numbers, and an Index of
First Lines. He defines the aim of this edition as "a
comprehensive account, not a selection for a specific end. Within
individual entries, the texts are presented without priority,
sequenced chronologically. When sequence is not clear, as when
manuscripts are missing and the text is incomplete, convenience of
presentation may be followed instead" (29).
A new section is presented for every year. Each entry begins with a
description of the material qualities of the "Manuscript"
of that particular poem, followed by the poem itself, then the
"Publication" history of the poem, and finally Franklin's
notes on variations of the poem throughout its publication history.
with Johnson, Franklin does not privilege what he views as the
"final" variant in a number of variants of a poem by
re-producing it with a larger font, although the way he sequences
them may be privileging to some extent.
Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson
is organized in two volumes. Volume I contains an Introduction,
Fascicles 1-29, and Notes on those particular fascicles. The
Introduction ends with a bibliography that chronologically cites the
principal editions of Dickinson's poems and letters and related
works. Volume II includes Fascicles 30-40, Sets 1-15, Notes, 11
Appendices (on topics ranging from a "History of the Fascicle
Manuscripts" to "Paper Measurements" to "Excluded
Manuscripts"), and three Indexes, organized by manuscript
number, by poem number, and by first lines. The Notes in each section
"cite related literature, identify some of the markings on the
manuscripts, and provide special explanation" (694). The first
page of each Fascicle section lists the poems in that particular
group by their first line and number. The following page gives the
Formula (folio and number of leaves), Contents (number of poems), and
Description (approximate date and paper type).
In his Variorum,
Franklin makes a clear distinction between Dickinson's poems and
letters. He states in the Introduction, "For inclusion in this
edition, passages from the letters meet one or two conditions. They
have independent verification as poetry by having other appearances
confirm it, or they were incorporated as poetry in Dickinson's
customary way, or both. These conditions, which rely upon her own
indicators, omit passages with qualities of verse: cadence, rhyme,
metaphor, apostrophe, poetic genre and heightened statement are some
of them" (32). Although he
argues for evidence of "Dickinson's customary way," he
provides no evidence that such a way exists. He continues by using
Dickinson to justify his claim: "The distinction between genres
was Dickinson's own. She maintained a workshop for the production,
distribution, and recording of poetry, but separated letters from it
. . . [S]he recognized letters as a separate genre, basically prose,
but admitting of known poems and, on occasion, impromptu verse" (34).
In this argument, Franklin is making a critical (albeit many editors
would argue wrong) assumption about Dickinson's genres and how to
distinguish among them. He also cites the conditions in which he
includes passages from letters in his Variorum as poems. In
this same section of the Introduction, however, he also contradicts
himself. Franklin explains that there is "no definitive boundary
between prose and poetry in Dickinson's letters" (32-34)
since "the distinction between boundaries was Dickinson's
own," which refutes his earlier statements regarding