Hart and Smith Title Pages

Hart and Smith Contents




PARIS PRESS hopes that this collection of Emily Dickinson's "letters" to Susan Huntington Dickinson helps to enhance and perhaps change your understanding of Emily Dickinson's life as well as her work.  Dickinson lived like many of the great writers throughout history: Ensconced in literature, philosophical and spiritual concerns, the natural world, current events, and family, Emily Dickinson managed to integrate solitude into the demands of nineteenth-century responsibility in order to think and to write.  She felt deeply and lived her desire, vision, humor, and pain onto the page.  Her work was inspired by all the components of daily life, including the deeply intimate and passionate relationship with her friend, neighbor, and sister-in-law, Susan Huntington Dickinson.  For thirty-six years, Susan Huntington Dickinson was a primary source of solace, intellectual challenge, and love for Emily Dickinson.  It is with great pride that Paris Press offers you a pivotal collection of writings from our most beloved American poet to her most beloved and inspirational companion.
     This selection of Emily Dickinson's letters, letter-poems, and poems to Susan Huntington Dickinson is presented as precisely as possible.  We have followed the dating, line breaks, spacing, capitalization, spelling, and punctuation of documents as they were compiled and presented to us by Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith, authors of the Introduction, Section Openers, Bridge Notes, and End Notes. We offer our deepest gratitude to these ground-breaking scholars.
  Paris Press extends heartfelt thanks to the many individuals and organizations that made the publication of Open Me Carefully possible. We







are grateful for the guidance and advice of Cathy N. Davidson, Daniel Lombardo, Patricia McCambridge, Ken Wissoker, Eleanor Lazarus, and David Wilensky.  For generous financial support we thank Laura Slap Shelton, the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, the Sonia Raissiz Giop Charitable Trust, the Lydia B. Stokes Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, and the Xeric Foundation; we are grateful to an anonymous contribution made in memory of EG. Many thanks to Ivan Holmes and Judy Sieck for their elegant designs, to Jeff Potter for the fine composition of the book, and to Susan Kan and Maryellen Ryan for their hard work and loyalty.  Thanks also to Elspeth and Nick Macdonald for use of their quiet retreat during the editing of this book.

Jan Freeman






IN JUNE 1852, Emily Dickinson sent a letter to her friend Susan Huntington Gilbert, who was away from home teaching mathematics at Robert Archer's school for girls in Baltimore, Maryland.  The letter was carried and delivered to Susan by Emily's father, Edward Dickinson, on his way to Baltimore to serve as a delegate to the national Whig convention.  "Why cant I be a Delegate to the great Whig Convention?" asks Dickinson in the letter's postscript. "Dont I know all about Daniel Webster, and the Tariff, and the Law?  Then, Susie, I could see you, during a pause in the session."  Placed for Susan to see when she first unfolded the letter is Emily's tender instruction, "open me carefully - "
      Over the next four decades, Emily Dickinson would write to Susan more frequently than to any of her other ninety-nine known correspondents, including editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson.  The voluminous correspondence with Susan constitutes one of two major bodies of work that Dickinson bequeathed to the world — the other being the more than eight hundred poems that she collected in her handbound manuscript books, or fascicles.
      Open Me Carefully presents a selection of this extensive body of correspondence, inviting a dramatic new understanding of Emily Dickinson's life, creative process, and poetry. These intimate letters tell the story of a passionate and sustained attachment between Dickinson and the beloved friend who was her central source of inspiration, love, and intellectual and poetic discourse.







      Dickinson's poems, letters, and letter-poems to Susan give us a rare glimpse into the poet's process of writing and revising.  They also indicate that Susan, herself a published writer of poems, reviews, essays, and stories, was Emily's primary reader, the recipient of both drafts and finished poems.  Yet, in spite of the sheer volume of correspondence between Susan and Emily, and despite compelling evidence of an ongoing literary dialogue between the two women, the relationship between Emily and Susan has been neglected, distorted, and obscured.  Whereas pages and pages of academic speculation have been devoted to a mere three letter-drafts that Dickinson wrote to a mysterious real or fictional character identified only as "Master," the correspondence between Dickinson and Susan has received disproportionately little attention.

Audience and Muse, Confidante, Collaborator, and Critic
Emily Dickinson died in 1886, and her poems were not introduced to the reading public until 1890, when editors Thomas Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd released the first edition of Poems by Emily Dickinson. In the hundred years since that first publication, the story of Emily Dickinson and Susan Huntington Dickinson has only gradually emerged in the annals of Dickinson scholarship. In fact, most readers of Dickinson are unaware of the intense and long-lived relationship that was at the very core of the poet's emotional and creative life.
      Susan Huntington Gilbert and Emily Elizabeth Dickinson were born within days of each other in December 1830.  They may have known each other from girlhood; they certainly knew each other from adolescence; and they had begun to correspond by the age of twenty.  Their relationship spanned nearly four decades, and for three of those decades, the women were next-door neighbors. Together, Susan and Emily lived through the vicissitudes of a life closely shared: Susan's courtship, engagement, and eventual marriage to Emily's brother, Austin; Susan and Austin's setting up home next door to the Dickinson Homestead; the births of Susan and Austin's three children, and the tragic death of their youngest son, Gib; anonymous individual







publication of at least ten of Dickinson's poems; and the deaths of parents and many friends.
      Open Me Carefully includes, for the most part, only Emily Dickinson's side of this correspondence.  Nearly all of Susan's letters to Emily were destroyed at the time of the poet's death. This would have been the result of a routine "house cleaning," reflecting the common practice in the nineteenth century to either destroy or return to the senders all letters received by the deceased.  That even a handful of Susan's letters to Emily have been preserved, when letters from all other correspondents were irretrievably disposed of, is itself a testament to the vital nature of this correspondence.

A Story Left Untold
The correspondence reproduced in Open Me Carefully debunks much of the common Dickinson lore served up for decades by high-school literature textbooks, television sitcoms, song lyrics, and literary biographies.  According to these tenacious popular legends, Dickinson was an inaccessible, ethereal hermit, too rare for this earthly plane, and probably undone by unrequited love for any or all of several male suitors whose identities have been the stuff of speculation for countless readers.
      But why has this important correspondence — which lasted until Dickinson's death in 1886 and preoccupied Susan until her own death in 1913 — been relatively ignored, if not suppressed?  Emily Dickinson's writings to Susan were certainly not unknown; they have long been recognized as passionately literary, and many scholars have bickered and argued over the nature of Dickinson's obvious devotion to her sister-in-law.
     Two cultural factors may have contributed to the discounting of this pivotal relationship. The first is the stereotypical nineteenth-century vision of the "Poetess" as a tortured, delicate woman dressed in virginal white, pining away in seclusion, removed from the vibrant nit, grit, and passion of normal life.  It is this stereotype, encouraged by Dickinson's early editors — particularly Mabel Loomis Todd — that has







preserved the popular image of Emily Dickinson as the recluse spinster belle of Amherst.
      The second factor is the view of intimate female friendships in the nineteenth century.  According to this view, women of Dickinson's time often indulged in highly romantic relationships with each other, but these relationships were merely affectionate and patently not sexual.  Such same-sex attractions, so the popular wisdom goes, had the character of an adolescent crush rather than a mature erotic love.  As this correspondence shows, however, Emily and Susan's relationship surpasses in depth, passion, and continuity the stereotype of the "intimate exchange" between women friends of the period.  The ardor of Dickinson's late teens and early twenties matured and deepened over the decades, and the romantic and erotic expressions from Emily to Susan continued until Dickinson's death in May 1886.

The Makings of a Myth
Though details of Emily and Susan's relationship were known to their contemporaries, much of the information about the two women has been passed along through sometimes questionable testimony.  The strongest testimonies, and the ones that have been most pivotal in determining the presentation of the relationship until now, have been provided by two controversial sources.  The first is Martha Dickinson Bianchi, Susan's daughter and Emily's niece. Bianchi, who compiled The Single Hound (1914) and dedicated it "as a memorial to the love of these 'Dear, dead Women,'" then continued to carry out her mother's plan by presenting extracts from letters in The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson (1924) and Emily Dickinson Face to Face (1932).  For various unfair and unfounded reasons, many scholars have characterized Bianchi as an always unreliable source.  However, we believe otherwise, and we have cited her comments and observations about Susan and Emily throughout this book.
      The second source is Mabel Loomis Todd, editor (along with Thomas Higginson) of the first three volumes of Emily's poems.  In her desire to hide Susan's central role in Dickinson's writing process,







Loomis Todd went to great lengths to suppress any trace of Susan as Emily's primary audience.  Much of the reason for this is obvious: the young Mabel Loomis Todd, born the year Susan and Austin wed, had become Austin's mistress; she was the "other woman to Susan's "wife forgotten." The affair continued until Austin's death in 1895 and was quite public, an inexpressibly painful situation for Susan.  Loomis Todd made no mention of Susan when she produced the Letters of Emily Dickinson in 1894.  There is even evidence in Emily's letters to Austin that someone, probably Loomis Todd, sought to expunge affectionate references to Susan.
      When the Dickinson fascicles were turned over to Mabel Loomis Todd, Susan's crucial position as primary audience for Emily's poetry became an inconvenient and irrelevant piece of information that did not jibe with the popular image of a nineteenth-century poetess.  To editors of the time, the most marketable image of Dickinson the poet was that of the eccentric, reclusive, asexual woman in white.  This mysterious figure necessarily wrote all alone, harboring some "secret sorrow" that no one else could understand or be privy to.  There was simply no place in the official Dickinson biography for the revelation of an immediate confidante and audience for her poetry — particularly not one who lived next door.  Loomis Todd was therefore willing to play up this "solitary spinster" characterization of Emily Dickinson in her editorial productions, and thus the role of Susan went entirely unmentioned in the earliest publications of Dickinson's works.  Loomis Todd even refused Higginson's recommendation that Susan's obituary of Emily (which emphasized that although she kept her own company she was "not disappointed with the world"2) serve as the introduction to the 1890 Poems. Instead, Loomis Todd used a three-paragraph introduction by Higginson that proclaimed that Emily was "a recluse by temperament and habit,"3 and hence the mythology of Emily Dickinson, the "recluse of Amherst," was cast.








Susan's Book of Emily's Writings
Between Dickinson's death in 1886 and the first printed volume of her poems four years later, Susan began to work on an inclusive volume of Emily's writings.  Seven months after Dickinson's death, Susan submitted to an editor of The Century "a poem of Miss Emily Dickinson's on the 'Wind' thinking you might like to print it."4 That letter's reference to "a novice's attempt at typewriting" shows that Susan was already at work transcribing Emily's poetry. Susan was determined to depict Dickinson in her complexity, making a collection that was "rather more full, and varied."5 than the conventional presentation in Poems by Emily Dickinson (1890).  Rather than separating the poems from their original contexts and dividing them into the predictable subjects that audiences of the time expected ("Life, Love, Time & Eternity, and Nature"), Susan wanted to showcase the entire range of Emily's writings: letters, humorous writings, illustrations — in short, everything left out of the Loomis Todd and Higginson edition.
      Forty fascicles, or manuscript books, and scores of poems on loose sheets had been found after Dickinson's death, and Emily's sister Lavinia (Vinnie) wanted poems from that trove to be incorporated into a printed volume.  Vinnie turned to Susan to accomplish the task.  Susan struggled with the problem of making a book from those fascicles, reading through the astonishing production of her friend and marking individual lyrics with initials (D, F, L, N, P, S, W) and "X's" in order to categorize them. In doing this, Susan was not only deferring to Vinnie's wishes but also bowing to Higginson's market judgment that the kind of "more full and varied" volume she had first imagined was "un-presentable."6 Susan tried to make her book of Emily's writings conform to Vinnie's and Higginson's vision, but she could not accomplish the task because it went against her better judgment, informed by decades of her creative work with Emily.  Distracted and grieved both by the loss of Emily and her husband's flagrant affair with Mabel Loomis Todd, Susan moved slowly.  Vinnie, growing impatient, demanded that the fascicle poems be returned so that another editor, one who could get the job done more quickly, could work on the project.







Though Susan continued to work on designs for her book of Emily's writings until her death in 1913, she returned the fascicle poems to Vinnie, knowing that they would be given to Loomis Todd and edited into an acceptable printed volume that would not amply reflect Emily's genius or her goals as a writer.

Solitary, But Not Removed
Understanding of Dickinson's life and her utterly original and daring poetry has been obscured by a combination of deliberate suppression, easy stereotyping, and convenient but misleading categorization.  In Open Me Carefully, we see that Emily was not the fragile, childlike, virginal "bride who would never be" writing precious messages about flowers, birds, and cemeteries from the safety and seclusion of her bedroom perch in Amherst, Massachusetts.  Dickinson was devoted to her craft, and she was dedicated to integrating poetry into every aspect of her day-to-day life.  She was engaged in philosophical and spiritual issues as well as all the complexities of family life and human relationships.  She knew love, rejection, forgiveness, jealousy, despair, and electric passion, and she lived for years knowing the intense joy and frustration of having a beloved simultaneously nearby, yet not fully within reach.
      While it is true that Dickinson went to extraordinary measures to preserve her privacy, the facts of her solitude have been taken out of context.  Like many artists, she needed a great deal of time alone for reading, contemplation, and writing — a requirement that has rarely been questioned when enjoyed by male writers.  However, in the case of Dickinson, the need for solitude and contemplation has been interpreted as a pathological reclusiveness and an indication of intense vulnerability and wounding, not as a consciously chosen way of life.

The Subject Matter of Daily Life
Dickinson's most intense and constant relationship moved from "Emilie" to "Emily" and "E." and from "Susie" to "Sue" and "Susan." Focus on any other single correspondent cannot possibly offer the







 diverse array of insights rendered by scrutiny of these writings to Susan, for no other addressee was as intimate with Emily for as long a period of time, and no other was privy to such a range of her work.  The comfort and informality of the correspondence (reflected in the content and in the types of paper used for the missives, as well as by the "rough draft" style of handwriting), reveal the "dailiness" of the intimacy between these two women.  Emily did not rely on special occasions such as birthdays, holidays, or deaths to inspire the need for contact; the most ordinary and extraordinary events alike could prompt a poem or letter to Susan.  Every aspect of their lives is deemed worthy subject matter in their correspondence, from shared meals and just-read books to personal unveilings about desire and loneliness; from mundane family matters to political situations reported in the newspaper, which both read every day.
      Literary and biblical references abound in the correspondence, and many of Emily's favorite writers, such as George Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Shakespeare, are mentioned and quoted.  Frequently, characters and situations in novels and plays are referred to in a manner that suggests a "masking" function, implying that Susan and Emily related their secrets through the personalities of literary and biblical characters with whom they were both familiar.
      Within the documents, Emily frequently refers to family members, and a Chronology following this Introduction presents the people, places, and important events that the correspondence refers to directly or indirectly.  For the most part, Emily writes to Susan from the Homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts, and Susan receives the letters during visits with family members and friends from Manchester, New Hampshire to Grand Haven, Michigan — but most often the letters travel directly next door, to the Evergreens.
      Infused with eroticism, the poetry exchanged between Emily and Susan was part of the texture of their daily life.  They simultaneously lived and screened their passion.  However much the love between Emily and Susan has been overlooked or diminished by commentators, one thing is clear: the letters and poems are standing proof of a devoted







correspondence that has had a profound impact on the history of American literature.  Though popular Dickinson lore has veered far from the romantic and intellectual essence of this primary relationship, the work can now, more than a hundred years later, finally speak for itself.







IN PREPARING Open Me Carefully, there were two main challenges before us. The first was to make a book that, although arising from academic research, would be appealing and informative to the general reader, as well as to Dickinson scholars.  The second challenge was how to make a cohesive book that would most effectively relate the human story behind this most generative of literary and emotional unions.  Thus, a great deal of thought and effort went into such overarching issues as which principles should serve as a guide to selection of materials to be included; how the chosen writings should then be contextualized, and how the documents should he organized.

A Comfortable, Everyday Correspondence
Even as attention to Dickinson's manuscripts has increased in the past decade, the assumption has been that any knowledge discovered through analyses of the original documents is of primary interest only to specialists.  Yet the textual body of the correspondence — Dickinson's manuscripts and all their material facts — forms a powerful witness to Susan's involvement in Emily's writing practices, and is therefore of importance to anyone interested in the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson.
      Emily wrote to Susan on different types of paper (graph, scrap, and formal embossed paper of all sizes), while with other correspondents she almost always used more formal, gilt-trimmed stationery, in effect dressing her texts like a gift edition of poetry or a deluxe edition







of biblical scripture.  Sending writings in one's casual script (as Emily does to Susan), in the handwriting more similar to one's private notes for developing expression, is an act that speaks of trust, familiarity, routine.  Using less formal stationery for those writings — scraps of paper lacking gilt edges or elegant embossments — likewise signals the intimacy of comfortable everyday exchange, a correspondence not bound by special occasions, but an everyday writing habit that takes as its subject any element of life, from the monumental death of a loved one to the negligible nuisance of indigestion.

Poems Newly Associated With Susan
Emily's expressions to and about Susan — uttered in pencil and ink, on elegant stationery and on small torn squares of paper — were powerful enough to drive Susan herself to destroy those "too personal and adulatory ever to be printed."7 Other individuals, most likely Mabel Loomis Todd, erased Susan's name and affectionate references to her; identifying some of these erasures for the first time has enabled us to identify poems not previously known to have been sent to Susan.
      Twenty poems and one letter not previously associated with Susan are reproduced in this collection. These include the late 1850s letter to "Susie" discovered in 1992 and the new copy of "The feet of people walking home" addressed to "Darling" (both housed at Amherst College), a new version of "The Overtakelessness / of Those" addressed to "Dollie" (at Princeton), and a new version of "Two – were immortal – / twice –" (at the Morgan Library in New York City).  We include manuscripts that editor Thomas W. Johnson did not link to Susan, though material evidence (Susan's markings, paste marks, pinholes, and/or folds) shows that according to his editorial principles, they should have been.  We also include drafts of poems.  Although Johnson asserted that Dickinson "never sent rough or semifinal drafts to her friends,"8 we have found drafts we believe were sent to Susan.
      For letters and poems that are not actually addressed to Susan, we have a variety of evidence to support our claim that the documents belong in this correspondence, including physical characteristics, paper







types, signs of handling, notes written on the manuscripts, transmission and publication history, and work by previous editors.

The Importance of Manuscript Study
Over the past decade, technological advances in textual reproduction — such as photographic representations of the manuscripts and the creation of electronic archives providing digital images of Dickinson s writing — have worked hand in hand with critical advances such as feminist analyses to reveal more clearly Susan's immense importance as a participatory reader of Dickinson's works.  Open Me Carefully makes use of facsimile reproduction. By studying Emily's writings to Susan in manuscript, readers can examine Dickinson's development from girlhood to advanced middle age, and the parallel maturation in her creative practices.  We have made our selections with an eye toward presenting a wide range of textual forms, and in arranging these documents we have emphasized chronology.
      All of Dickinson's letters and poems are handwritten, and certain manuscript features — calligraphic orthography, punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks — help to convey meaning.  After the late 1850s, Dickinson's letters and poems came to look alike, both with short lines, and rarely any indentation or spacing to separate lines of poetry and lines of prose in a letter.  Therefore, in Sections Two, Three, and Four we present Dickinson's line lengths, while previous editors have joined her lines of poetry according to schemes of rhyme and meter and disregarded the lineation of her prose.  For consistency, we provide transcriptions, showing line breaks, for Susan's letters of the 1860s.  Dickinson does not indent paragraphs in her letters but indicates their start and finish in other ways. In Section One we leave lines of space between passages to represent paragraphing.
      Dickinson used the page itself, and the placement of words in relation to embossments, attachments, and margins to convey meaning, and in ways that typography cannot sufficiently transmit.  We describe such poetic designs in the End Notes.  Other aspects of Dickinson's







handwriting which influence our editing and interpretation cannot be fully translated into type.
      In reproducing her unusual capitalization, editors' decisions will vary since Dickinson's lower and upper case letters are difficult to distinguish.  She generally has four or more sizes of an individual letter in a single piece of work. We call it as we see it, acknowledging that some of the fun of working with this writer's manuscript art, translating it into print, is the pleasure of interpretation and debate.  Punctuation is another matter of translation. Dickinson's famous "dashes" are often angled, pointing up or down, curviform or curving with a dot to look like a bird's eye, but for simplicity we show all these "pointings" as short, standard en-dashes, with the exception of one mark that angles up and frequently appears in the later writing.  This we translate as an apostrophe, a near approximation, in order to give readers a feel for its pronounced angular difference from other dashes.  The calligraphic orthography (unusually shaped "S's," extravagantly crossed "T's," etc.) is described in the corresponding Notes at the back of the book. In our translation of a draft poem, a word that appears in brackets is a word Dickinson crossed out.
      Not surprisingly, as Susan's poems echo Emily's in choice of subject, so the physical characteristics of her compositions often reflect Emily's.  Any one of these compositional habits may be fairly common, and any one is not enough to argue for significant similarities.  But the fact that many of their habits of abbreviation and punctuation mirror one another's is suggestive: like Emily's, Susan's shorthand to reorder words is to place numbers above them to indicate their position in a series (for example, "2" above the word or phrase to be placed second); Susan's quotation marks "sashay" like Emily's, and her dashes are sometimes directed decidedly up or down. Taken all together, and with the fact that in the 1870s and 1880s, Susan begins to space her alphabetic letters as Emily does, such similarities suggest at the very least Susan's intimate familiarity with, and appreciation of, Emily's work.
      Descriptions of material elements of the documents, their subsequent handling and publication, are all primary parts of the story of Susan and Emily's writing exchange and are provided in the Notes.







      Editions by Thomas H. Johnson and Theodora Ward, and by Ralph W. Franklin incorporate, amend, and sometimes radically revise work of earlier Dickinson editors (Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Mabel Loomis Todd, Millicent Todd Bingham, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, and Alfred Leete Hampson).  Our editorial, critical, and biographical presentation also builds on the work of others, most specifically The Letters of Emily Dickinson edited by Johnson and Ward.  We revise and correct errors in Johnson and Ward's painstaking transcriptions, and impart more information than they about the material elements of the documents, while benefiting from their research and commentary.  We also benefit from the research and commentary of literary historian Jay Leyda.  Open Me Carefully is engaged in a critical conversation with other editorial endeavors, past and present, including those of Ralph W. Franklin, Marta Werner, Edith Wylder, Susan Howe, Sharon Cameron, Jerome McGann, and Jeanne Holland, and we welcome ongoing discussion and debate about ways of reading and representing Dickinson's manuscripts.

The Question of Genre
Some editors have used genre distinctions as the dominant way of organizing Dickinson's writings, and so the Dickinson corpus has often been divided into separate volumes of poems and letters.  Open Me Carefully breaks with this method of presentation by integrating various genres in which Dickinson wrote: poems, letters, and the genre identified by Susan as the "letter-poem."9
      The letter-poem, a category that includes signed poems and letters with poems or with lines of poetry, will he seen here as a distinct and important Dickinson genre. Johnson arranged lines in letters to separate poems and make them look the way we might expect poems to look.  We do not do this here. Neither do we divide the correspondence into "Poems to Susan" and "Letters to Susan." Instead, we follow Dickinson's commingling techniques, mindful that conventional notions of genre can limit our understanding of Dickinson's writing practices.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of Dickinson's literary







 heroes, called Aurora Leigh, one of Dickinson's favorite works, her "Novel in Verse."  We see Dickinson's blending of poetry with prose, making poems of letters and letters of poems, as a deliberate artistic strategy.

The Accuracy of Dating
It is impossible to date and order most of the Dickinson manuscripts with precision, particularly the correspondence of the middle and late periods.  Rather than using Johnson's dates, we have attempted to situate each document based on Emily's handwriting, the paper used, and particular references within each missive.  These methods of dating result in a grouping of the documents into four categories: 1850 to mid-1850s; mid-1850s to mid-1860s; mid-1860s to mid-1870s; mid-1870s to Dickinson's death on May 15, 1886.  With the exception of some early letters, which can be more specifically assigned a month, year, and sometimes even a day, the dating of most individual manuscripts is approximate.  Our dating calls into question the supposed gap in the writings from Emily to Susan during 1856 and 1857 — a time during which the Dickinson family returned to the Homestead and Austin married and set up home with Susan next door at the Evergreens.  Susan's marriage to Austin was no doubt bittersweet for Emily; while it ensured that her dear friend would be close to the family, married life occupied much of Susan's time.  But it is obvious that this transition in their lives never put an end to their correspondence. Because we believe that some documents of the mid-1850s may have been destroyed, we do not concur with Johnson and Ward that Emily did not write to Susan during these years; in fact, we regard the gap in previous editions of letters as an editorial construction.

Marks by Other Hands and Other Telling Details
Marks on the manuscripts made by Susan, by her daughter Martha Dickinson Bianchi, and by her children include editing notes, commentary, and signs of household use.  Susan marked many poems and







letters with an "X" indicating a selection process; she recorded dates and events associated with the writing for editorial purposes, as did Martha Dickinson Bianchi, and she made notes to herself to read various poems to friends.  Penciled lines drawn through or beside passages of early letters, also likely to be Susan's editorial markings, resemble lines penciled in books in the Dickinson households, probably made by Susan as she read.  On the versos of these manuscripts are word games, shopping lists, mathematical calculations, children's drawings, bearing witness to the fact that these documents had their place in family life.  Physical aspects of the manuscripts tell the story of how these letters and poems were delivered, handled, and preserved.

      Folds.      Rather than placing a letter or a poem in a sealed envelope to be delivered to Susan, most often Dickinson folded the manuscript into thirds or quarters, wrote Susan's name on the verso, and then handed the letter to Susan face-to-face or, alternatively, had a family member (one of the children) or someone who worked in the households carry the letter next door to Susan's house.  Of all Dickinson's correspondence to others, only writings to Susan are on very small pieces of paper (11.2 x 12.5cm.) and when folded, small enough to fit into the pocket of her dress.
      The fact that many manuscripts have multiple folds suggests that they were unfolded and refolded in the process of being read and reread by Susan.  Some letters were certainly shared with Susan's friends and family members.  Since manuscripts in library collections are not stored folded, we can be reasonably sure that a manuscript with worn folds and more than one configuration of folds was handled during Susan's lifetime and that the wear is not the result of handling by scholars.  (In contrast, the wear to a sheet's central fold created by paper manufacturers to produce two leaves, four pages, is likely to have resulted from scholarly and editorial handling.)
      When a manuscript is not addressed, the fact that it has been folded does not necessarily mean that it was ever sent to a reader. Evidence







 suggests that Dickinson folded paper before writing on it to avoid writing directly over folds.  Thus, in determining which manuscripts were actually sent to Susan, we do not consider the presence of folds alone to be sufficient evidence; there must also be other markings or signs of handling, use, and preservation unique to this correspondence.
      The multiple folds and worn folds are consistent with Martha Dickinson Bianchi's statement that Susan read and reread these letters, letter-poems, and poems late in her life as she made preparations with her daughter for an edition of Emily's writings to be published after her death.  Folded manuscripts were often pasted into scrapbooks, so the process of unfolding, reading, and refolding would be repeated.  The care Susan took in keeping these manuscripts attests to the value she placed on them.  When Susan reread the letters and poems pasted down in this way, she would have been recreating the experience of unfolding, opening, and reading them for the first time.
      Paste marks.       Many manuscripts to Susan were once pasted onto sheets of paper, as indicated by residue remaining on the verso when sheets were removed.  Occasionally, pasty fingerprints appear on the manuscripts.  In the 1890s, Susan and Martha may have been compiling an edition, or their work may have been done closer to Susan's death in 1913 and the publication of The Single Hound in 1914.  Some paste marks show traces of blue-ruled sheets, the tablet paper on which Susan and Martha pasted manuscripts and on which Martha recorded information received from her mother about a document.  Some manuscripts appear to have been pasted onto sheets of stationery by Susan, perhaps to be placed among loose sheets kept in a scrapbook or notebook.
      Pinholes.      Many of the manuscripts to Susan show that they once were pinned to some other surface.  Pinholes may indicate a variety of uses and handling.  Susan pinned manuscripts in scrapbooks.  A slip of paper with Susan's name could have been pinned to a poem or letter when it was sent.  A folded manuscript may have been pinned inside Dickinson's clothing until she had the opportunity to deliver it to the Evergreens.  Or, a sheet may have been pinned to a piece of cloth on a







 tray or to one covering a gift of bread, candy, or fruit.  In addition, before the invention of paper clips, manuscripts were pinned together.  The pinholes with traces of rust may mean manuscripts were pinned for a long period of time, stored and preserved.
      These salient material facts all argue for embodying Dickinson's most important correspondence, her writings to Susan, in a book all its own.  By presenting this most passionate and diverse of all of Dickinson's correspondences, Open Me Carefully relates Emily and Susan's devotion to one another and to the craft of poetry.  Through all the decades of poems, letters, and letter-poems from Emily to Susan, we are constantly reminded that for these two remarkable women "Poetry" and "Love . . . coeval come.








December 10, 1830

 Birth of Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, daughter of Emily Norcross and Edward Dickinson, sister of Austin Dickinson (b. 1828), in Amherst, Massachusetts.

December 19, 1830

Birth of Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson, daughter of Harriet Arms and Thomas Gilbert, the youngest of six children, in Deerfield, Massachusetts.


The Gilbert family moves from Deerfield to Amherst, where Thomas Gilbert becomes proprietor of the Mansion House, an inn and stagecoach stop.

February 28, 1833

Birth of Lavinia (Vinnie) Norcross Dickinson, Emily's sister.

March 1833

Samuel Fowler Dickinson, Emily's grandfather, sells half of the Homestead to General David Mack and moves to Ohio.

late spring 1833

Emily lives with her aunt Lavinia Morcross in Monson, while her mother recuperates from childbirth.

September 7, 1935

Emily begins four years at the district Primary School.

February 13, 1837

Harriet Arms Gilbert, Susan's mother dies, of consumption.


Susan Gilbert and her sister Martha (b. 1829) move to Geneva, New York, to live with their aunt Sophia Arms Van Vranken.







late 1830s-1840s

Susan attends Utica Female Seminary.  

January 1838

Edward Dickinson assumes his first term in the Massachusetts General Court.

April 1840

Edward and Emily Norcross Dickinson and their three children move from the Homestead on Main Street to "the Mansion" on South Pleasant Street.

September 1840

Emily and Lavinia Dickinson begin education at Amherst Academy.

December 23, 1841

General Thomas Gilbert, Susan's father, dies.

June 22, 1841

Susan's eldest sister Harriet (b. 1820) and William Cutler are married in Aschfield, Massachusetts, and move to Amherst.

early 1840s-early 1850s

Susan and Martha Gilbert live in Amherst with Harriet and William Cutler as well as in Geneva, New York.

September 1847-August 1848

Emily attends South Hadley Female Seminary (Mount Holyoke College).

fall 1847

Susan attends Amherst Academy for one term.


Emily sends first known letter to Susan.

February 1850

Amherst College Indicator prints Emily's "Magnum bonum" Valentine Eve letter.

September 1851-early July 1852

Susan teaches mathematics at Robert Archer's school in Baltimore, Maryland

February 20, 1852

Emily's first printed poem, "A Valentine," appears in the Springfield Daily Republican.

December 17, 1852

Edward Dickinson is elected to Congress, Representative of Tenth Massachusetts District.

March 23, 1853

Susan Gilbert and Austin Dickinson are engaged at the Revere Hotel in Boston







mid-November 1855

The Dickinson family moves back into the renovated Homestead.  

July 1, 1856

Susan and Austin are married in the home of Susan's aunt Sophia Arms Van Vranken in Geneva , New York, then move to the Evergreens, next door to the Homestead.

late 1850s

Emily sends poems regularly to Susan; Emily begin to make her "fascicles" or manuscript books.


Emily publishes eight poems in the Springfield Republican, Drum Beat, Round table, Brooklyn Daily Union, Boston Post.

June 19, 1861

Birth of Edward (Ned) Dickinson, Susan and Austin's eldest child.

April 1862

Thomas Wentworth Higginson's "Letter to a Young Contributor" appears as the lead article in the Atlantic Monthly.

April 15, 1862

Emily writes to Higginson and sends four poems.

April-November 1864; April-October 1865

Emily receives medical care from a Boston ophthalmologist and lives with cousins Fanny and Louise Norcross in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts.

November 29, 1866

Birth of Martha (Mattie) Gilbert Dickinson, Susan and Austin's second child.

spring 1872

Emily and Susan are seen attending church together.

November 5, 1873

Edward Dickinson re-elected to the Massachusetts General Court.

June 16,1874

Edward Dickinson dies.

June 15, 1875

Emily Norcross Dickinson, Emily's mother, suffers stroke.

August 1, 1875

Birth of Thomas Gilbert (Gib) Dickinson, Susan and Austin's youngest child.







February 8, 1882

Susan introduces Mabel Loomis Todd to Emily's poetry. 

November 14, 1882

Emily Norcross Dickinson, Emily's mother, dies.

October 5, 1883

Gib Dickinson, Susan and Austin's youngest child, ides of typhoid fever; Susan and Emily go into seclusion.

May 15, 1886

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson ides from Bright's disease. Susan prepares Emily's body for burial and writes the obituary that appears in the Springfield Republican.

December 31, 1886

Susan submits "A Poem of Miss Emily Dickinson's on the 'Wind'" to The Century.

August 16, 1895

Austin Dickinson dies.

May 3, 1898

Ned Dickinson dies of angina.

August 31, 1899

Lavinia Dickinson dies.

May 13, 1913

Susan Huntington Dickinson dies.


The Single Hound: Poems of a Lifetime, edited by Martha Dickinson Bianchi, published by Little, Brown and Company.







      IN OCTOBER 1986, we took a long walk beneath the sweet mountains of northern California and realized that we had been dreaming the same book separately for several years.  Since that time, we have been dreaming and making the book together that you now hold in your hand, and our first thanks must go to our perspicacious and deft editor, Jan Freeman. Without her faith in the project and understanding of its depth and breadth, there would be no volume to open carefully.
      We especially thank Leslie Morris, Curator of Manuscripts in the Harvard College Library; without her conscientious assistance and that of the Houghton Library staff this book would not have been possible. And we thank John Lancaster, Special Collections Curator, and staff at the Amherst College Library, and Mark Brown, Curator, and staff of Special Collections, Brown University Library, as well as Barton St. Armand for access to papers in the The Barton Levi St. Armand Collection of Dickinson Family Papers. We are also grateful to the curators and staff at the archives and special collections at Yale University, Princeton University, Smith College, and the Morgan Library in New York. Ellen Louise Hart is grateful to the Houghton Library for a Stanley J. Kahrl Fellowship that enabled her to complete much of the research for this volume. For early support of research that led to Rowing in Eden and this volume, Martha Nell Smith gratefully acknowledges the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities: And, for enabling that research to continue, the General Research Board of the University of






Maryland. And we are thankful to the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities for a generous grant which helped usher this volume into print.
      The work of Ralph Franklin and Thomas H. Johnson, and the collegial advice of Ralph Franklin, deserve special mention.  For her enthusiastic support and editorial insights, we thank Marta Werner. Numerous friends and colleagues have believed in this project's importance and possibility, and for their unstinting support we thank Vivian Pollak, Margaret Dickie, Polly Longsworth, Dan Lombardo, Sandra Gilbert, Susan Stanford Friedman, Katie King, Deb Price, Bart St. Armand, Jerome McGann, Ruth Stone, and Alicia Ostriker.  Ellen Louise Hart is indebted to friends, family members, and colleagues for their interest in this project, and wishes to thank Priscilla W. Shaw and Theresa Louise McRae for their wisdom and long-term support.  And for her enthusiasm, incisive critiques, endlessly generative discussions, as well as for her fulfillment of a promise to render a joke a day to realize Emily Dickinson's beatitude — blessed are those that play — Martha Nell Smith is ever and devotedly indebted to Marilee Lindemann.