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      This edition of the poetry of Emily Dickinson includes all the seventeen hundred seventy-five poems, together with the variants, that she is known to have written.  Since the greater part of her manuscripts survive, it has been possible to assign to most of the poems a relative chronology.  The dating of them is conjectural and for the most part will always remain so.  Dates have been adduced by all scraps of evidence, associative and direct, including painstaking studies of handwriting and of stationery.
      Emily Dickinson was born to her talent but she felt no dedication to her art until she was about twenty-eight years old, in 1858.  By 1862 her creative impulse was at flood tide, and by 1865 the greater part of her poetic energies were spent.  She continued to write poetry until her death in 1886, when she was fifty-five years old, and many of the later verses are among her great creations. But after 1870 her poems are relatively few in number and were often composed for an occasion and for the friends to whom they were sent.
      Throughout her life people were of the utmost importance to her, but direct contacts exhausted her emotionally to such an extent that she shrank from all but the most intimate.  Thus her seclusion became nearly absolute in the last decade of her life.  This is not to say that she withdrew from the outside world. On the contrary, she associated steadily with the friends of her selection through the medium of letters. Her correspondence was voluminous and the letters of her later years share a measure of the permanence of her poetry.
      But poetry was the art for which her life was set apart and to it all else was ancillary.  So unwilling was she to be diverted from her calling, from her own originalities which those capable of evaluating only dimly understood, that she made deliberate choice of obscurity in her own lifetime.  She was right in her assurance that if fame belonged to her, she could not in the end escape it.





Seldom can a publisher of books write with the wholehearted satisfaction that is mine a prefatory statement for a new work about to be issued.  The publication of this edition of the poems of Emily Dickinson is an epoch-making event, the culmination of more than a half-century of effort by Dickinson students, and thus a source of pride to all concerned.  Here in these three volumes are united all the poems known to have been written by ED, with all their variants, and with the poet's own preferred text of each poem identified.  The years spent by Thomas H. Johnson on this undertaking have resulted in an out-standing work of literary scholarship, indispensable for students of American intellectual history and forever to be cherished by lovers of poetry.
      Harvard University, through its Press, is proud to publish Mr. Johnson's definitive edition of The Poems of Emily Dickinson and glad to acknowledge its great debts to two of its sons whose generosity has made the publication possible: Gilbert H. Montague by his gift to Harvard University Library provided funds for the purchase of the poet's manuscripts and other papers from the heir to the literary estate; and the late Waldron Phoenix Belknap, Jr., by his bequest for scholarly publishing created The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, the imprint under which this edition is now published.  In accomplishing the purposes of these two benefactors, the publishers have been notably assisted by the unselfish devotion of Mrs. Waldron P. Belknap, mother of the founder of The Belknap Press.  It is a pleasure to record our thanks to her here, in the first pages of one of the great publications to bear her son's name.
      The thanks of the publishers are also due to the staff of Harvard University Library for unfailing and intelligent collaboration throughout an arduous task of editing and publishing.  In particular we are indebted to William A. Jackson and Keyes D. Metcalf by whose efforts the Houghton Library has become a center of Dickinson materials







 and Dickinson scholarship, and this present publication has been made possible.
      Grateful and general acknowledgment is made hereby, for the University, to Little, Brown and Company and Houghton Muffin Company for permission to print in these volumes the Dickinson poems and other documents which are under copyright and have been published by these firms.  The details of our borrowings from the publications of these houses are stated elsewhere by Mr. Johnson in his presentation of the poems themselves, and formal acknowledgment of copyright is made on the verso of the title page.
      It must be stated here that The President and Fellows of Harvard College claim the sole ownership of and sole right of possession in all the Emily Dickinson manuscripts now in the possession of Mrs. Millicent Todd Bingham, and all the literary rights and copyrights therein, by virtue of Harvard's purchase agreement in 1950 with Alfred Leete Hampson, heir of Emily Dickinson's niece, Mrs. Martha Dickinson Bianchi.

                                                            THOMAS J. WILSON
June 1955                                          Director, Harvard University Press







      I wish to express thanks for the help rendered by those who have served this undertaking in an advisory capacity: Mr. Frederick B. Adams, Jr., Mr. Edward C. Aswell, Mr. Julian P. Boyd, and Mr. Robert E. Spiller.  I acknowledge the courtesy of Mrs. Millicent Todd Bingham in making available for study and photostating all of the large number of manuscripts of Dickinson poetry in her possession.  She gave of her time, and placed in my hands for study the great number of transcripts of the poems that had been made by her mother, Mabel Loomis Todd, during the years 1887-1896 when Mrs. Todd was undertaking the first editing of the poetry of Emily Dickinson.  Mrs. Raymond W. Jones gave material aid by the loan of books and family papers.  Mr. William H. McCarthy permitted me to draw freely upon his intimate knowledge of the Dickinson papers.  Mr. Russell S. Smith placed at my disposal a copy of his unpublished thesis "A Dickinson Bibliography" (Brown University, 1948), together with an unpublished study of Dickinson's use of the Bible. Mr. Michael A. Weinberg spent many scores of hours analyzing the stationery.
      I wish to thank the following individuals and institutions for permission to study and make use of the manuscripts in their possession: Dr. J. Dellinger Barney, Mr. Clifton Waller Barrett, Dr. Mary A. Bennett, Mrs. Graham B. Blame, Mr. Francis Bowles, Mrs. John Nicholas Brown, Mr. Orton L. Clark, President Charles W. Cole, Mr. H. B. Collamore, Miss Elizabeth S. Dickerman, Miss Marion E. Dodd, Miss Julia S. L. Dwight, Mrs. William Esty, Mrs. Howard B. Field, the Rev. John Fletcher, Mrs. Leon Godchaux, Mrs. William L.Hallowell, Mr. Richard Hooker, Mr. M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Mr. Parkman Howe, Miss Helen Jackson, Miss Marcelle Lane, Mr. Josiah K. Lilly, Mr. Samuel Loveman, Mr. Thomas 0. Mabbott, Mr. Julian E. Mack, Mrs. William Tyler Mather, Miss Katherine Morse, Mr. A. Norcross, Mrs. Hervey C. Parke, Mrs. Frederick J. Pohl, Miss Edith







L. Pinnick, Mrs. Fairfield Porter, Mrs. J. Frederic Scull, Mrs. Doheny H.Sessions, Mrs. Susan H. Skillings, Mrs. Grant Squires, and Mrs. Elizabeth S. Walcott:
      The American Antiquarian Society; The Boston Public Library; Colby College Library; The Converse Memorial Library, and the Edward Hitchcock Memorial Room, Amherst College; Goodell Library, University of Massachusetts; The Houghton Library, Library of Harvard University; The Huntington Memorial Library, Oneonta, New York; The Iowa State Department of History and Archives, Des Moines; The Jones Library, Amherst; The Library of Congress; The Pierpont Morgan Library; The New York Public Library; Princeton University Library; Smith College Library; Wellesley College Library; Williston Memorial Library, Mount Holyoke College; and Yale University Library.
      It is a pleasure to acknowledge the help extended to the enterprise by those librarians whose assistance has been extensive.  Mr. Charles R. Green, of The Jones Library, not only took special pains to make his collections available but also assisted by putting me in touch with owners of manuscripts and memorabilia.  Mr. Newton F. McKeon, director of the Amherst College Library, and Mr. Zoltan Haraszti, curator of manuscripts in the Boston Public Library, both allowed the Dickinson papers in their collections to be submitted to special study.  Mr. William A. Jackson and the members of the staff of the Houghton Library at Harvard, where most of the labor was performed, have eased the editorial burdens on all occasions with enlightenment and with an unobtrusive thoughtfulness for which I feel warm gratitude.
      On certain points touching upon Dickinson associations I have been aided by those who have supplied their reminiscences.  For such kindness I am especially in debt to the late Margaret (Mrs. Orton L.) Clark, to Miss Louise B. Graves, to Mr. Robert P. Esty, and to Dr. Kendall Emerson. 
      Most helpful too have been those who have volunteered or responded to requests for information: Mrs. Helen H. Arnold, Mr. Alvan Barrus, Mrs. William Penn Cresson, Miss Margaret P. Hamlin, Mrs. Alfred Leete Hampson, and Mrs. Stuart Reynolds.  Constantly








useful has been Miss Louise K. Kelly's unpublished thesis, "A Concordance of Emily Dickinson's Poems" (Pennsylvania State College, 1951).  Mr. Willard Thorp graciously consented to read portions of the introduction.
  The grant of a fellowship by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation gave assurance that this undertaking, complex and ramifying, could be brought to a successful conclusion.

  I wish especially to own with gratitude my debt to three persons. The late George Frisbie Whicher from the moment this task was begun let me share his expert knowledge and partake his enthusiasm; all his personal files he placed at my disposal. Jay Leyda generously offered material that he has gleaned in preparation for a documentary record of the life of Emily Dickinson on which he is engaged; his researches have corrected errors of fact and his evaluations have on occasion altered my judgments. The editorial assistance of Theodora Van Wagenen Ward has immeasurably lightened the task of preparing this edition.  She has acted as counselor in all matters of plan and execution, while devoting her time chiefly to the letters, now being prepared for publication. She wrote the section in the introduction on "Characteristics of the Handwriting," and compiled the subject index.

Lawrenceville, New Jersey                    THOMAS H. JOHNSON
27 April 1955








      On April fifteenth, 1862, Emily Dickinson wrote a professional man of letters to inquire whether her verses "breathed." She was then thirty-one years old. At the time she dispatched her letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, he had recently resigned from his Unitarian pulpit in Worcester to devote himself entirely to writing. Of Puritan New England stock, he was a graduate of Harvard College (1841) and Harvard Divinity School, and though not yet forty he had already made a name for himself as essayist, lecturer, and participant in the cause of liberal reform. Emily Dickinson dared bring herself to his attention because she had just read the "Letter to a Young Contributor" that he had written as the lead article in the Atlantic Monthly for April. It was practical advice for beginners, written with genial, well-bred kindliness. One sentence she would quote back to him many years later, and it is a clue to the reason that she now felt emboldened to write him: "Such being the majesty of the art you presume to practice, you can at least take time before dishonoring it." His article drew responses and specimens of verse, all of which, Higginson wrote James T. Fields, the editor of the Atlantic, were "not for publication." Yet, in spite of that judgment, Higginson immediately answered Miss Dickinson's letter, asking her to send more poems, inquiring her age, her reading, her companionships, and requesting further details about her writing.
  She replied at some length, withholding her age but responding to his other questions with a freedom from reticence that reveals the depth of her need for literary companionship. One sentence in this second letter surely misled Higginson as it has all others since the letter was published. "I made no verse —," she says, "but one or two — until this winter — Sir — ," and cryptically hints as a reason for her new diversion certain emotional disturbances.  The remark is a classic of







 understatement. When Emily Dickinson wrote that letter to Higginson, she had in fact composed not fewer than three hundred poems, and was bringing others into being at a rate which would double the number by the end of the year.  Her creative energies were at flood, and she was being overwhelmed by forces which she could not control.
      As the story can be reconstructed, at some time during the year 1858 Emily Dickinson began assembling her poems into packets.  Always in ink, they are gatherings of four, five, or six sheets of letter paper usually folded once but sometimes single.  They are loosely held together by thread looped through them at the spine at two points equidistant from the top and bottom.  When opened up they may be read like a small book, a fact that explains why Emily's sister Lavinia, when she discovered them after Emily's death, referred to them as "volumes." All of the packet poems are either fair copies or semifinal drafts, and they constitute two-thirds of the entire body of her poetry.
      For the most part the poems in a given packet seem to have been written and assembled as a unit.  Since rough drafts of packet poems are almost totally lacking, one concludes that they were systematically discarded.1 If the poems were in fact composed at the time the copies were made, as the evidence now seems to point, one concludes that nearly two-thirds of her poems were created in the brief span of eight years, centering on her early thirties.  Her interest in the packet method of assembling the verses thus coincides with the years of fullest productivity. In 1858 she gathered some fifty poems into packets. There are nearly one hundred so transcribed in 1859, some sixty-five in 1860, and in 1861 more than eighty. By 1862 the creative drive must have been almost frightening; during that year she transcribed into packets no fewer than three hundred and sixty-six poems, the greater part of them complete and final texts.

      1There are forty-nine packets. The number of poems in a packet depends on the length of the poem and the number of sheets that form the gathering.  One packet has as few as eight poems, one as many as thirty, but the average is about twenty. Beginning in 1858, they uniformly include all poetry through 1865.  Three packets were assembled later: one in 1866, another in 1871 (to which one sheet dating from about 1875 was added), and one in 1872.







Whether this incredible number was in fact composed in that year or represents a transcription of earlier worksheet drafts can never be established by direct evidence.  But the pattern established during the preceding four years reveals a gathering momentum, and the quality of tenseness and prosodic skill uniformly present in the poems of 1861-1862 bears scant likeness to the conventionality of theme and treatment in the poems of 1858-1859.  Excepting a half dozen occasional verses written in the early fifties, there is not a single scrap of poetry that can be dated earlier than 1858.
      The issue is not necessarily material as far as her motive in writing Higginson is concerned, except as her need to do so had now become imperative, For her the portentous question was a practical one.  Assembled about her was a teeming body of verse, and somehow a way of sharing it must be found. As it happens, there were to be three more years of full creativeness. In 1863 she wrote some one hundred forty poems; in 1864, nearly two hundred; and about eighty or so in 1865.  After that, throughout her life, the yearly average never exceeded twenty, one half of which never progressed beyond the work-sheet stage.  Though several of the later poems are imperishable lyrics, she would never again be driven by the frenzy that possessed her in the early sixties.  She achieved an intensity, passionate and often despairing, in those years which gives to it the quality of "circumference" and "awe" that she sought.  The question now was what to do with these rapidly growing assemblages of manuscript.
      One of the unanswered questions is what happened to the poems that Emily Dickinson wrote in her youth.  Aside from two valentines, there are only three verses that can be identified surely as having been written before 1858 and all are incorporated in letters.  One is to her brother Austin, and the others to her friend Susan Gilbert.  All are sentimental in tone and commonplace in thought. Pore as one may over the verses in the early packets to identify those which offer clues to earlier associations, only the most tenuous appear.  One poem, "All overgrown by cunning moss," commemorates the death of Charlotte Brontë in 1855.  But the very first line indicates the passage of time. The  four-stanza poem "I like to see it lap the miles" expresses excite-







 ment about the novelty of a steam locomotive.  The opening of the two local railroad branches in Amherst in 1853 was something of an event. But the only copy of the poem is a semifinal draft written about 1862, four years after she commenced making her packets and there-fore much later than one would expect to find the poem in packet form were earlier poems being transcribed.  In one instance only is there positive evidence that early poems were gathered into packets.  The poem sent to Sue in 1853, "On this wondrous sea" (no. 4), is duplicated in a packet of 1858, Perhaps 1858 was the year of Emily Dickinson's assurance of her destiny.
      Though one may he reasonably sure that she wrote more than five poems before 1858 – in fact, many more – one begins to question whether there were many that she thought worth preserving by the time she began fashioning her packets.  A pattern emerges in her life during the fifties that seems to have direct bearing on her function, not as an artist – that will come later, but as a writer of verse.
      In the late forties Benjamin Franklin Newton was a law student in the office of Emily's father, Edward Dickinson.  In 1850 Newton set up a practice for himself in Worcester, and in the following year he married.  In March 1853, in his thirty-third year, he died of tuberculosis.  Ben Newton had been one of Emily's earliest "preceptors," and his memory always remained with her.  He was a Unitarian and considered somewhat advanced in his thinking.  While in Amherst he had introduced the Dickinson girls to the writings of the Brontë sisters and of the feminist Lydia Maria Child.  He presented Emily with a copy of Emerson's poems in 1849, two years after they were published and many years before Emerson was accepted as a representative spokesman of his time. Newton awakened in Emily Dickinson a response to intellectual independence and a delight in literature which later made her call him the "friend who taught me Immortality."  She told Higginson in the summer of 1862, after he had praised some verses that she sent him: "Your letter gave no Drunkenness, because I tasted Rum before . . . My dying Tutor told me that he would like to live till I had been a poet, but Death was much of Mob as I could master — then."







      It would thus appear that when Emily Dickinson was about twenty years old her latent talents were invigorated by a gentle, grave young man who taught her how to observe the world.  She made the statement to Higginson that "for several years" after her tutor's death her lexicon was her only companion. Perhaps during the five years after Newton's death she was trying to fashion verses n a desultory manner.  Her muse had left the land and she must await the coming of another.  That event occurred in 1858 or 1859 in the person of the Reverend Charles Wadsworth.
      Still predominant among nature poems belonging to 1859 are such effusions as "Whose cheek is this," but there is also "Bring me the sunset in a cup," and "These are the days when birds come back." This is also the year of "Safe in their alabaster chambers," "Our share of night to bear," and "Success."  In the following year, though their number is still few, are an increasing proportion of poems written with firmer texture and deepened purpose: "Just lost, when I was saved," "I shall know why — when Time is over," and "At last, to he identified." By 1861 the number of poems dealing sentimentally with nature is on the wane, supplanted by poems of immediate, sometimes violent intensity: "I can wade grief," "What would I give to see his face," "I like a look of agony," and "Wild nights, wild nights." Poems beginning with the personal pronoun are conspicuous.  A volcanic commotion is becoming apparent in the emotional life of Emily Dickinson.  Though all evidence is circumstantial and will always remain so, the inescapable conclusion seems to he that about this time she fell in love with Wadsworth.  (A later attachment for Judge Otis P. Lord of Salem had no effect whatsoever on her poetry or her creative talent as a poet, and is therefore not relevant to this discussion.)
      Charles Wadsworth was the pastor of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1850 until April 1862.  When Emily and Lavinia returned from a three-week visit in Washington in April 1854, where they had been with their father, then serving as a member of Congress, they stopped over in Philadelphia for two weeks early in May as guests of their old school friend Eliza Coleman, whose father, the Reverend Lyman Coleman, had been their principal back in







Amherst Academy days.  Though there is no record of the event, one supposes that Emily went to bear Wadsworth preach. Perhaps she met him then.  The only certain early fact is that he called on her some five years later while he was still in mourning after his mother's death in October 1859.
      That visit and another he made briefly in the summer of 1880, are the only two known, and quite possibly the only ones he ever made.  But letters that she wrote after his death on April first, 1882, state much and imply more. Twice she calls Wadsworth her "closest" or "dearest earthly friend."  She says that he was her "shepherd from little girl' hood" and that she cannot conjecture a world without him. A year later she wrote her dear friend, Mrs. Josiah Gilbert Holland: "All other Surprise is at last monotonous, but the Death of the Loved is all moments — now.  Love has but one Date — 'The first of April' 'Today, Yesterday, and Forever.'"
      Over the years she had come to envision him as a "Man of Sorrow," and "a dusk gem, born of troubled waters."  Both visits were probably made at her request on occasions when he happened to be traveling nearby.  The letters they exchanged did not survive her death.  Those that she wrote to him, sent in covering notes to be forwarded by Mrs. Holland, were not so handled to mask a surreptitious romance.  Neither Dr. nor Mrs. Holland would have cared to be party to such dealings.  The procedure was one that Emily Dickinson adopted for many of her later transactions with the outside world.  Except to her sister Lavinia, who never saw Wadsworth, she talked to no one about him.  That fact alone establishes the place he filled in the structure of her emotion.  Whereas Newton as muse had awakened her to a sense of her talents, Wadsworth as muse made her a poet.
      The Philadelphia pastor, now forty-seven, was at the zenith of his mature influence, fifteen years married and the head of a family, an established man of God whose rectitude was unquestioned.  To her it was a basic necessity that he continue in all ways to be exactly the image of him that she had created.  The fantasy that Wadsworth proposed an elopement has no basis in fact, and controverts all that is known of the psychology of either.  The "bridal" and renunciation







 poems, almost all of which were written in 1861 and 1862, have meaning when interpreted as a part of her lifelong need for a shepherd, a muse whom she could adore with physical passion in her imagination.  The extent to which Wadsworth realized the nature of her adoration can only he conjectured. He was a cosmopolitan minister of ready perceptions.  Her eagerness after his death to learn from his lifelong friend, James D. Clark, details of his life and personality, about which she says herself she knew little or nothing, is a measure of his reticences as a person.  When she initiated her correspondence with Higginson, she turned to one who could serve as a critic of her verse, which she was now writing with daemonic energy.  She soon came to call Higginson her "preceptor" and her "safest friend," and quite literally he became both to her.  But he was never what Newton had once been, and Wadsworth overpoweringly came to be: the source of inspiration itself.
  The crisis in Emily Dickinson's life seems to have been precipitated by Wadsworth's acceptance of a call to the Calvary Church in San Francisco in December 1861. One can believe that he casually mentioned, as long before as September, that he was considering the call. It is the plausible conjecture usually set forth to explain two sentences in her second letter to Higginson. Having spoken of losing the friend who taught her immortality, she goes on to say: "Then I found one more — but he was not contented to be his scholar — so he left the Land." And she gave as the primary reason for writing poetry at all: "I had a terror — since September — I could tell to none — and so I sing, as the Boy does by the Burying Ground — because I am afraid."
      To Emily Dickinson, Wadsworth's removal was terrifying because she feared she might never be able to control her emotions or her reason without his guidance.  It is at this time that she began to dress entirely in white, adopting, as she calls it, her "white election."  The name Calvary now first appears in her poems.  In 1862 she used it nine times, always in verses charged with intense emotion.  She speaks of herself as "Queen" of Calvary.  Grieving for a lost lover or for one renounced, she recalls "old times in Calvary."  In the poem "Title Divine in mine," as "Empress of Calvary" she is "Born — Bridalled —







Shrouded — in a Day." Once in I 863 it is introduced in the poem beginning "Where Thou art — that is Home/ Cashmere or Calvary — the Same . . . / So I may Come." No other place name is comparably used or anywhere nearly so often. As far as eye could peer, Wadsworth's function as preceptor must perforce cease.  It was during the time that he and his family were preparing to sail for California that Emily Dickinson initiated her correspondence with Higginson
      It is significant that in June 1869, after Wadsworth's return from San Francisco had been publicly announced, Emily Dickinson wrote to Higginson inviting him to Amherst. "You were not aware," she says, "that you saved my Life.  To thank you in person has been since then one of my few requests." Higginson could know part of what she meant – that he had given her private audience for her poems.  But he could not know, as she of course was aware that he could not, in just what way he had provided a release from the tensions and preserved her sanity.  Two very unfinished worksheet drafts, which have every evidence of having been written in 1869, express a mood of jubilation. One deserves to be quoted:

Oh Sumptuous moment
Slower go
That I may gloat on thee
'Twill never be the same to starve
Now I abundance see —

Which was to famish, then or now -
The difference of Day
Ask him unto the Gallows led —
With morning in the sky

      By 1870 Wadsworth was again established in Philadelphia, in another church, where he continued as pastor until his death.  The crisis in Emily Dickinson's life was over.  Though nothing again would wring from her the anguish and the fulfillment of the years 1861-1865, she continued to write verses throughout her life.  Proportionately the number of them is sharply decreased, but among them are many that embody her art at its serenest.








The first letter to Higginson had a far clearer purpose than he could be expected to penetrate, because the fact is that within the year two of Emily Dickinson's poems had been published in the Springfield Daily Republican, the second of them just two weeks before she wrote him.  Both had appeared anonymously. She does not ask Higginson whether he thinks her poetry is now ready for publication, but she certainly implies such a request, as he of course inferred. As she phrased it, is her verse "alive"? Does it "breathe"?
      We can never know whether Emily Dickinson's fear of publication would have been mastered had her letter been addressed to a less timid critic.  It is certain that she required literary companionship and equally certain that the nature of her queries to Higginson have meaning only if the questioner has a public in mind.  She turned to an established man of letters, known to be especially sympathetic to the status of women in general and to women writers in particular, one who in his Atlantic article had addressed "young contributors," and praised the qualities she herself most admired: a belief in the majesty of the art she presumed to practice, and a profound respect for aptness and economy of language.  But Higginson the critic was not the man she should have written.  His taste was conventional and his perceptions limited. At the same time it should be said that the kinship on a personal level came to be mutually recognized, and over the years it took on a meaning for her quite apart from any value as a shaping force in her art.  Higginson became a literary mentor in some vague way created by her assurance of what he was as a kindly gentleman, rather than of what he might attempt to say as a judge of her writing. Had he responded with the insight that prompted Emerson to write his famous letter to Whitman, her literary career might well have begun during her lifetime.
      Her realization that Higginson the critic had nothing to offer would come shortly.  Even before she wrote to him she had been made aware of the liberties that editors took with one's text, to smooth a rhyme or make a "sensible" metaphor, with the result that the printed object







before one were better disowned.  Her poem "I taste a liquor never brewed" had appeared in the "Original Poetry" column of the Republican just a year before, in May 1861.  As she had written the first stanza, it read:

I taste a liquor never brewed —
From Tankards scooped in Pearl —
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!

But the editors wanted a rhyme and they produced a version that could never, by any stretch of imagination, have been hers:

I taste a liquor never brewed,
    From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not Frankfort berries yield the sense
    Such a delirious whirl.

The Republican editor, Samuel Bowles, and his associate Dr. J. G. Holland were close friends of the Dickinsons.  Emily sent them occasional verses in her letters, and they were urging her to let them publish some.  But they reserved the right to correct rhymes and alter figures of speech.  At the time she wrote Higginson she does not seem to be trying to avoid publishing.  On the contrary, she seems to be inquiring how one can publish and at the same time preserve the integrity of one's art.  The poem most recently published in the Republican, just six weeks before on March first, was the same version of "Safe in their alabaster chambers" that she enclosed in her first letter to Higginson  The other three were "The nearest dream recedes unrealized," "We play at paste," and "I'll tell you how the sun rose.  They had been selected with care and are in fact the work of a mature artist.  But she needed some confirmation from a professional judge because the only advice she had yet been given had come from an enthusiastic amateur and had not proved helpful.
      It had been her custom, before she initiated her correspondence with Higginson, to turn for advice to Susan Gilbert Dickinson, her







brother Austin's wife.  Vivacious, witty, and attractive, Sue was one of Emily's oldest and dearest friends.  The girls had known each other from youth.  Sue, orphaned at seven by her mother's death, was brought up by other members of her family in Amherst and elsewhere.  When Sue was away from Amherst, the two kept in regular touch through letters, and the bond was strengthened by their literary interests.  The tie was permanently established when Sue and Austin were married in 1856, and settled in the house next door built as a wedding gift by Austin's father.  Until the year of her death, Emily regularly sent poems to Sue, and the total of some two hundred seventy thus transmitted is vastly greater than that sent to others.  In 1861 Emily still turned to Sue for criticism and advice.  In that year she sent Sue a copy of her "Alabaster" poem, evidently with the intent of grooming it to some purpose, perhaps for the Republican.  The details of the letter-exchange are given in the notes to the poem.  It is clear that Emily could not get herself to take Sue's advice about letting the first stanza stand alone.  Her sensibilities were truer, as they would prove to be when at her importunity Higginson offered his criticism.  The attachment of the sisters continued through the years, but Emily never again sought advice from Sue.  She asked professional advice once again, and once only, when she wrote to Higginson  Her self-discovery grew out of those two experiences, and by the summer of 1862 she knew that she alone could chart her solitary voyage.  Meanwhile, the Republican published the earlier version of the "Alabaster" poem.  Higginson never specifically alluded to the version he received and she never mentioned the poem again.
      The first letters to Higginson are breathlessly expectant.  By the time she came to answer his second note, she knew for a certainty what he thought of her publishing prospects: "I smile when you suggest I delay 'to publish' — that being foreign to my thought, as Firmament to Fin — If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her — if she did not, the longest day would pass me on the chase — and the approbation of my Dog, would forsake me — then — My Barefoot Rank is better —" There is a tenseness and gravity in her allusion to "fame," a word that in the years immediately following she probed deeply in







 some of her finest utterances.  She can accept his verdict because it comes from a final court and confirms her whole experience.  With the issue settled, and sensing Higginson's personal integrity, she set about to establish the student-preceptor relationship as a game she would play for the rest of her life.  Their relationship stabilized during that first year of correspondence into exchanges of amiable pleasantries, in which groove it moved until the end.  The luminous intensity of her quest disappeared, now that she had received her answer.
      To be sure, an audience of one in a technical sense is a public, and she could henceforth send poems to Higginson and others.  But with the exception of those to Higginson and to Sue, the number of poems that thus gained a hearing is a minuscule fraction of the whole.  The Bowleses and Hollands and the Norcross cousins received respectively some two or three dozen over the years.  To the thirty or so other correspondents who were recipients of verses, for the most part she sent lines appropriate to special occasions.  There are poems of condolence for the bereaved, verses to speed a departing friend, thank-you notes to accompany the gift of a flower for those who have extended some favor.  But the great bulk of the poetry, including most of the important philosophical and love poems, were probably never seen by anyone except herself.  All who knew her were aware that she wrote poetry, but no one, not even her sister, knew how much.  Lavinia's amazement when she discovered the packets after Emily's death was genuine.
      Emily Dickinson's preoccupation with the subject of fame is a striking characteristic of the poems written between 1862 and 1865, the years of full creativeness.  The dedication to her art was intensified during the first exchange of letters with Higginson during 1862, a dedication that led to renunciation of fame in her lifetime and, as the wellsprings of her creativeness dried up after 1865, to increasing seclusion.  There are four later instances of publication during her lifetime.  Two poems, "Some keep the sabbath going to church" and "Blazing in gold and quenching in purple," were published in 1864.  Possibly her consent was tacit, but it is unlikely that she wished them to appear.  In 1866 "A narrow fellow in the grass" was issued in







the Republican, "robbed" of her, she informed Higginson in order to make clear to him that she herself did not wish it published.  The last to appear was "Success," in 1878.  Its publishing history is complex, and reveals the degree to which Emily Dickinson by then had become psychologically incapable of consenting to allow her verses to he printed.  The story deals principally with Helen Hunt Jackson.
      Helen Fiske was the daughter of Nathan Welby Fiske, professor of Moral Philosophy and Metaphysics in Amherst College from I 836 until his death eleven years later.  As small children the girls, who were of an age, had known each other, though their memory of the fact was vague when the acquaintance was renewed on a formal basis many years later.  After the death of Mrs. Fiske in 1844 Helen lived with relatives elsewhere, and though she maintained some Amherst ties, she had none during those years with Emily Dickinson.  At twenty-two she married Edward Bissell Hunt. When Colonel Higginson met her in Newport in 1866, she had been a widow for three years and had recently turned to writing as a way of regaining her balance after the loss, not only of her husband, but of her two children. It was probably Higginson who, sometime during the summer of 1868, contrived that the two Amherst authors should meet again. They certainly knew each other, however casually, in the very early seventies; but one was a restless traveler with a growing literary reputation, and the other a recluse poet whose few known verses were conveyed in occasional letters.  Helen Hunt visited in Amherst during the summer of 1870, but there is no record that they met.  The acquaintanceship was close enough by 1875 so that when Helen Hunt married William Sharpless Jackson, a Colorado businessman, Emily Dickinson sent her a note of congratulation.  From Helen Jackson's reply it is clear that she had seen a few of Emily Dickinson's poems. The supposition is that she had made copies of some that Colonel Higginson had shown her rather than that Emily Dickinson had sent them to her, for the relationship of the two women was still formal.  Helen Jackson concluded her letter:

      I hope some day, somewhere I shall find you in a spot where we can know each other.  I wish very much that you would write to me







now and then, when it did not bore you.  I have a little manuscript volume with a few of your verses in it — and I read them very often — You are a great poet — and it is a wrong to the day you live in, that you will not sing aloud.  When you are what men call dead, you will he sorry you were so stingy.2

      During the summer of 1876, Mrs. Jackson began her negotiations to secure a contribution from Emily Dickinson for a proposed anthology of verse.  In this year the well-known Boston publishing firm of Roberts Brothers decided to bring out a series of anonymous books which they called the "No Name Series." They were to be stories, as the circular advertised, written by American authors, "each a great unknown."  The first, announced for September, was Mercy Philbrick's Choice, and was widely reviewed when it appeared.  Some critics correctly guessed that Helen Hunt Jackson was the author, but neither she nor Thomas Niles, the publisher, confirmed or denied the conjecture.  Some fourteen "No Names" were issued, and Niles, encouraged by Mrs. Jackson, decided to bring out as a final volume an anthology of anonymous verse which would be contributed by American and English writers.  The advertisements hinted that the readers would encounter poems by Christina Rossetti, William Morris, Jean Ingelow, and "H. H."  Such an anthology would greatly extend the chance for speculation, and the volume, called A Masque of Poets, appeared in 1878.  It was one of the most profitable ventures Roberts Brothers ever undertook, and today, because it contains the first printing of poems by Thoreau, Lanier, and Dickinson, it is a collector's item.
      During the summer of 1876, while the whole series was largely in the planning stage, Helen Jackson, vacationing in Princeton, Massachusetts, wrote this letter:

My dear Miss Dickinson . . . I enclose to you a circular which may interest you.  When the volume of Verse is published in this series, I shall contribute to it: and I want to persuade you to.  Surely, in the shelter of such double anonymousness as that will be,

      2 These unpublished letters from Helen Hunt Jackson are in the Dickinson Collection at Harvard.







you need not shrink. I want to see some of your verses in print.  Unless you forbid me, I will send some that I have. May I?- . . .3

Uncertain of her decision, or at least not wishing to estrange by a refusal, Emily Dickinson did not reply.  On October tenth Mrs. Jackson called on her in Amherst to plead in person.  Believing that Colonel Higginson could somehow resolve her dilemma, Emily immediately wrote him, enclosing the circular, and telling him that Mrs. Jackson "wished me to write for this — I told her I was unwilling, and she asked me why? — I said I was incapable and she seemed not to believe me and asked me not to decide for a few Days — meantime, she would write — She was so sweetly noble, I would regret to estrange her, and if you disapproved it, and thought me unfit, she would believe you —I am sorry to flee so often to my safest friend, but hope he permits me —" Under the circumstances one is not surprised that Higginson was misled and thought that Mrs. Jackson was asking for a story.  Accepting the role of intercessor for one so sweetly noble, her safest friend replied: ". . . It is always hard to judge for another of the bent of inclination or range of talent; but I should not have thought of advising you to write stories, as it would not seem to me to be in your line. Perhaps Mrs. Jackson thought that the change & variety might be good for you: but if you really feel a strong unwillingness to attempt it, I don't think she would mean to urge you. . ." Some eighteen months elapsed before Mrs. Jackson again pursued the subject. In the spring of 1878 she wrote from Colorado Springs:

My dear friend . . . Would it be of any use to ask you once more for one or two of your poems, to come out in the volume of no name' poetry which is to he published before long by Roberts Bros.?  If you will give me permission I will copy them - sending them in my own handwriting — and promise never to tell any one, not even the publishers, whose the poems are.  Could you not bear this much of publicity?  Only you and I would recognize the poems.

      3 Harvard College Library.
      4 The first of the two Higginson letters here quoted is in the Boston Public Library; the second is in Harvard College Library.







I wish very much you would do this — and I think you would have much amusement in seeing to whom the critics, those shrewd guessers, would ascribe your verses.

That was in April, and the publication date for A Masque was but seven months away.  Mrs. Jackson could not take silence for a refusal, but she waited until October twenty-fifth before she wrote again, from a nearer vantage in Hartford, Connecticut.

      My dear friend . . . Now — will you send me the poem?  No —will you let me send the "Success"—- which I know by heart - to Roberts Bros for the Masque of Poets? If you will, it will give me a great pleasure.  I ask it as a personal favour to myself — Can you refuse the only thing I perhaps shall ever ask at your hands?

The fact that the volume was on sale three weeks later, and that it must already have been coming from the bindery at the time Mrs. Jackson wrote the last letter, strongly suggests that her plea for a "personal favour" was wrung from her because the volume was indeed already in print.  The letter written from Colorado Springs on December eighth seems to acknowledge some kind of consent, however vaguely it may have been given.  In any event the letter draws a longer breath:

      My dear friend, I suppose by this time you have seen the Masque of Poets.  I hope you have not regretted giving me that choice bit of verse for it.  I was pleased to see that it had in a manner, a special place, being chosen to end the first part of the volume, — on the whole, the volume is a disappointment to me.  Still I think it has much interest for all literary people.  I confess myself quite unable to conjecture the authorship of most of the poems. . .

Thomas Niles sent a copy of the volume to Emily Dickinson, who wrote to thank him for it.  He replied:

      Dear Miss Dickinson You were entitled to a copy of "A Masque of Poets" without thanks, for your valuable contribution which for want of a known sponsor Mr Emerson has generally had to father.







       I wanted to send you a proof of your poem, wh. as you have doubtless perceived was slightly changed in phraseology . . .

By this time Emily Dickinson had learned what to expect of the editorial blue pencil, but in this instance the changes must have been especially galling.  Five alterations had been introduced into the text.
      The friendship with Helen Jackson remained cordial. Emily Dickinson occasionally sent her verses, and Mrs. Jackson continued to urge her friend to "sing aloud."  Though the letters of the Amherst poet became increasingly chatty and intimate, they remained to the last pointedly silent on the matter of publication.  On that issue her mind was settled.


      The manuscripts of nearly all the poems survive.  The text is always in one of three stages of composition: a fair copy, a semifinal draft, or a worksheet draft.  It sometimes has been set down in two or more variant fair copies, sent to different friends.  On occasion it is found in all three stages, thus affording the chance to watch the creative spirit in action.  Of the total extant holographs, two-thirds are fair copies, the finished drafts neatly transcribed in ink on sheets of letter stationery.  Some three hundred never progressed beyond the semifinal stage; they are the poems which, like many of the fair copies, are neatly assembled into packets, almost completed, but with suggested changes of one or more words or phrases carefully added in the margin or at the bottom.  Nearly two hundred survive in worksheet draft only.  They are the rough originals, always in pencil, and jotted down on paper scraps: on flaps or backs of envelopes, discarded letters, wrapping paper, edges of newspapers – in fact, on anything that lay conveniently at hand.
      The packets, which Emily Dickinson assembled principally during 1858-1865, the years of her greatest productivity, are the storehouse where she gathered the fruits of her labors and upon which she drew from time to time when she wished to share the product with a friend.







It was therefore not important to her that all the poems in the packets should be fair copies.  She could create a fair copy from a semifinal draft when she transcribed a poem for some specific occasion.  Indeed, the fair copies themselves seem to have been considered alterable as long as they remained packet copies, and she not infrequently changed them when she selected them for transmission in a letter.  Thus she created many of her variants.
      The largest part of the poetry survives in but a single draft, whatever the state of composition may be, and for that reason relatively few poems show her creative method.  Even so, these relatively few add up to a considerable total, and assembled they are an impressive body of documents in the manifold history of artistic generation.  For one thing, the several stages demonstrate the extent to which she adopted her own suggested changes.  They show a worksheet draft redacted into a semifinal one, and that into a fair copy which clearly is the text that satisfied her, since it is the one she incorporated without variants into several letters.  Finally they show her returning in later years to her early packet copies, attempting refinements.  Such she achieved on occasion. But more than once she turned a fair copy into a worksheet draft which she ultimately abandoned, thus leaving the poem in a particularly chaotic state. Above all, they show her filing her lines to gain that economy of expression which, when achieved, is the mark of her special genius.  Observe her at work.
      In 1862 Emily Dickinson copied the semifinal draft of "One need not be a chamber to be haunted" (no. 670) into packet 13.  The suggested changes that follow the text she assembled in order at the end of the poem, with crosses at those points in the text where she wished to consider substitutions were she later to undertake a final draft.  In this instance she did just that.  Several months later she restudied her text and sent a redaction of the poem to Sue. From among the six possibilities for change she selected but one.  But she made four other substitutions not even suggested in the semifinal draft.5  She followed precisely the same method in "Give little anguish" (no. 310), written

      5 Both autographs are reproduced in facsimile in Harvard Library Bulletin, VII (1953), between pages 260 and 261.






in the same year.  The semifinal draft offers one alternative, which is not adopted in the fair copy, although the latter incorporates substitute words not even suggested in the semifinal draft.  Here then are examples of semifinal packet copies which were redacted into fair copies, and thus her final choices are known.  Such redactions are not common.  But the instances cited above demonstrate the arbitrariness of her adoptions and substitutions, and they make clear that no pattern applicable to a "final" text of unfinished drafts can ever be established.  Semifinal drafts, unless she herself redacted them into fair copies, must always remain unfinished.  There are instances where she has underlined the suggested change as if to indicate that her choice was made.  But later fair copies of such poems are not consistent in adopting such apparent choices. (See for example "He preached upon breadth," no. 1207, and "No life can pompless pass away," no. 1626.) The mood of the moment played its part.
      There are instances where two or more variant fair copies of a poem survive or are known to have been written, yet no one of the texts can be called "final." Such is true of "Blazing in gold" (no. 228).  The poem describes a sunset which in one version stoops as low as "the kitchen window"; in another, as low as an "oriel window"; in a third, as low as "the Otter's Window."  These copies were set down over a period of five years, from 1861 to 1866, and one text is apparently as valid as another.
      The four copies of one of the later poems, "A dew sufficed itself" (no. 1437), are especially interesting examples of her creative process.  They are variants in the sense that they propose different word choices.  But since the earliest (about 1874) and the latest (1878) are identical in text, one may infer that intermediary texts even in fair copies had no finality so long as she was attempting to establish a reading.  The packet copy is semifinal in that it offers an alternative for the two final lines.  In the intermediary fair copies the alternative is adopted.  In the final 1878 fair copy it is rejected.  The full story of the substitutions and rejections is set forth in the notes to the text, where it will be observed that the earliest and latest versions are identical.  In this instance, the wheel has come full circle.







       Two worksheet stages of "March is the month of expectation" (no. 1404) led to the finished draft, all composed about 1877.  The second of the two began as a fair copy, but was converted into a worksheet by several alterations made in pencil.  Finally, in a fair copy to Sue, she made her choices, and the poem was finished.
      There is one notable instance of a poem of three stanzas, almost final, converted back into a uniquely chaotic worksheet and left that way.  In 1862 she copied "Two butterflies went out at noon" (no. 533) into a packet.  It is finished except for the final line, for which an alternative reading is suggested.  Some sixteen years later, to judge by the handwriting, she attempted a redaction of it. On another sheet of paper she began the poem anew but, like the butterfly itself, the poet too was lost.  The text is rare in the degree of its complications, but it is a fascinating document of poetic creativeness in travail.  The worksheet draft of "Crisis is sweet" (no. 1416), written about 1877, is almost as complicated and appears never to have been finished.  One other such has moving power even as it stands. About 1885, one imagines from the evidence of handwriting, she set down an unfinished draft of "Extol thee — could I — then I will" (no. 1643).  It is futile to speculate how it might have been shaped if it had been finished.  It deserves to be known even as it stands.
      Although these particular drafts seem never to have resulted in finished poems, there is ample evidence that absence of a fair copy does not mean the poem never progressed beyond the worksheet stage.  Emily Dickinson was accustomed to send copies of her poems to friends, often written for special occasions.  Such poems among the published letters in some instances are lost, but the worksheet drafts from which the fair copies were redacted survive.  Thus the number of poems originally completed was somewhat greater than the number of extant worksheet drafts would indicate.
      No poet in the language has achieved fulfillment by way of the single quatrain with greater sureness than Emily Dickinson.  One of her greatest she incorporated into a letter which she wrote Colonel Higginson in mid-June 1877 (no. 1393):







Lay this Laurel on the One
Too intrinsic for Renown -
Laurel — vail your deathless tree —
Him you chasten, that is He!

      The lines were written in memory of her father who had died three years before.  Their immediate source of inspiration was a seven-stanza Civil War elegy which Higginson had contributed to Scribner's Monthly in the month of her father's death and which, because of the association she had given it, she was rereading.6  The poem survives in two earlier drafts, one a worksheet and the other a fair copy, but both consisting of two quatrains.  It is not possible to know whether she intended the poem finally to stand as two stanzas or one.  She often used but one stanza of a two-stanza poem when she incorporated verses in her letters.  But there is good reason to conjecture, in the light of the whole process by which the quatrain was inspired and transmitted to Higginson, that she intended it to stand as the full realization of her intent.
      A final word about the creative process.  One should not gather the impression that all poems first existed in rough drafts which were laboriously converted into fair copies.  There are several instances of worksheet drafts - that is, poems jotted down in pencil on paper scraps – which stand finished.  The inspiration and the act of generation were one and complete.  The deservedly famous "Humming-bird" (no. 1463) was evidently so created.  It is one of the later poems, written about 1879.  It survives in five holographs; a sixth, known to have been made, is now lost. All six are identical in text.  All were sent to friends, thus indicating the assurance she felt about its quality. Mrs. Todd is quoted as saying that in one copy which Emily Dickinson sent her, the second line was written at the bottom of the page: "with a delusive, dissembling, dissolving, renewing wheel."  Obviously whatever hesitation she had about a final choice came after the poem was finished.  It must have been fleeting too, for none of the suggested

      6 For another poem, also Sent to Higginson, which passed through an interesting worksheet stage, see "The last of summer is delight" (no. 1353).







 changes prevailed.  The absence of variants in the six fair copies, the exuberance of tone, the ear's absolute pitch, the assurance of the writer in her achievement – all these factors confirm the impression that the poem was spontaneously conceived.  It is of the fellowship of life which springs fully armed from the brow of Jove.








      Shortly after Emily Dickinson's death on May fifteenth, 1886, her sister Lavinia discovered a locked box in which Emily had placed her poems.7 Lavinia's amazement seems to have been genuine.  Though the sisters had lived intimately together under the same roof all their lives, and though Lavinia had always been aware that her sister wrote poems, she had not the faintest concept of the great number of them.  The story of Lavinia's willingness to spare them because she found no instructions specifying that they be destroyed, and her search for an editor and a publisher to give them to the world has already been told in some detail.8
      Lavinia first consulted the two people most interested in Emily's poetry, her sister-in-law Susan Dickinson, and Mrs. Todd. David Peck Todd, a graduate of Amherst College in 1875, returned to Amherst with his young bride in 1881 as director of the college observatory and soon became professor of Astronomy and Navigation.  These were the months shortly before Mrs. Edward Dickinson's death, when neighbors were especially thoughtful.  Mrs. Todd endeared herself to Emily and Lavinia by small but understanding attentions, in return for which Emily sent Mrs. Todd copies of her poems.  At first approach neither Susan Dickinson nor Mrs. Todd felt qualified for the editorial task which they both were hesitant to undertake.  Mrs. Todd says of Lavinia's discovery: "She showed me the manuscripts and there were over sixty little 'volumes,' each composed of four or

      7 "I found, (the week after her death) a box (locked) containing 7 hundred wonderful poems, carefully copied -" - Letter from Lavinia to Mrs. C. S. Mack, at Ann Arbor, Michigan, 17 February 1991 (quoted by permission of Mr. Julian E. Mack).
      8 In Ancestors' Brocades (New York: Harper,by Millicent Todd Bingham. The account of the editing by Mabel Loomis Todd as there presented by her daughter is frankly partisan, but it is documented from Mrs. Todd's diaries and from exchanges of letters between Mrs. Todd and her co-editor T. W. Higginson, and letters to and from the publisher, Thomas Niles of Roberts Brothers.  It is therefore source material to which the following summary is indebted.






five sheets of note paper tied together with twine.  In this box she discovered eight or nine hundred poems tied up in this way."
      Whether Lavinia sought their aid simultaneously in those first weeks is not clear.  She went impulsively from one house to the other, and probably was vague and very determined.  Two things are certain.  All the packets were taken to Sue during the summer of 1886 and remained with her well into the winter. During that time Lavinia was beseeching Susan to make a selection from them for publication.  Sue mulled over the matter and discussed the poems with friends.  Vinnie was frantic that Sue should need more time to reach a decision and sought Mrs. Todd's help.  Mrs. Todd obviously could do nothing as long as Sue had the manuscripts.  Pressed for a decision that winter, Sue, perhaps unable to make up her mind, and certainly reacting to old irritations which this new pressure of Vinnie's aggravated, allowed Vinnie to recover the manuscripts without in fact having come to an answer.  By doing so she at least was freeing herself from Vinnie's importunity.
      Evidently in February 1887 Lavinia went to Mrs. Todd's house one evening, presumably with the poems in her hands.  She pleaded with Mrs. Todd to take on the labor.  Both Professor and Mrs. Todd seem to have been persuaded that Susan Dickinson had no real intention of undertaking the work, and then and there Mrs. Todd promised Lavinia that she would attempt it.  Since both the Todds were leaving Amherst in March for Japan, whither Professor Todd was conducting an astronomical expedition, Mrs. Todd could not expect to begin the work until their return.  Plans matured in due course, and Mrs. Todd commenced the task of transcribing the poems immediately upon her arrival home in November 1887.  Professor Todd lent assistance to his wife, especially at the start.  He had the training in precision that prompted him, as soon as the packets and the envelopes of loose sheets and scraps were delivered to them, to begin first of all by numbering them.  Lavinia did not bring all the manuscripts at once; she doled them out in batches which Mrs. Todd undertook to return as soon as she completed her transcriptions. With a blue

9 Ancestors' Brocades, 17.







pencil Professor Todd placed a number at the top of the first page of each packet and, as they later came into his house, on the envelopes containing the remaining manuscripts. His sequence goes 1 through 40, 80 through 110.  A tabulation shows that numbers 1-40, 80-83 are all threaded packets, that numbers 84-98 are packets of loose sheets prepared as if for threading.  Beyond that point the grouping is miscellaneous, with no discoverable sequence except as the arrangements reflect Mrs. Todd's effort to produce a semblance of order among manuscripts that had in fact no order at all.  Mrs. Todd began copying systematically, starting with the poems in the packet that her husband had numbered one.  In due course she progressed through packet number 40 - a total of 665 poems. These from time to time as she completed transcriptions, she returned to Lavinia, in whose possession they remained until they were inherited by her heirs.  Packets numbered 8o through 98, and the remaining worksheet drafts and scraps, continued to rest among the papers in Mrs. Todd's possession until her death in 1934, and still remain with them.
      There is no ready explanation why Professor Todd left a gap in his numbers, stopping at 40 and beginning again at 80.  The record book survives wherein Mrs. Todd listed the first lines of all poems she knew about, except the worksheet drafts which comprise envelopes 99-110.  This list, together with the poems in the final twelve envelopes, establishes the total of all poems known to have been among Emily Dickinson's papers at the time of her death, In the left-hand margin David Todd has penciled the number of the packet wherein the poem might be found.  His numbers set down in the record book exactly correspond with the evidence of the packets: they range from 1 to 40, and from 80 to 98.  They skip 41 through 79.  The packet numbering was done solely by Professor Todd.  He undertook it in the autumn of 1887 at the time Mrs. Todd began her labors of transcribing, and he continued intermittently as fresh batches of manuscripts were placed in his wife's hands by Lavinia Dickinson. Since numbers 1-40 were all ultimately returned, and numbers 80 and upward were not, one suspects that the break in numbering represents a lapse in memory.  There is not a shred of evidence that he or Mrs.







Todd or anyone else so much as suspected the existence of further packets. Mrs. Todd's statement already quoted that Lavinia's box of threaded "volumes" contained "eight or nine hundred poems tied up in this way" would seem to confirm the existence of no more.  The threaded packets, numbered 1-40, 80-83, contain exactly 879 poems.
      There can be no assurance that the packets through number 83 – the last to be threaded – are in fact today grouped as Emily Dickinson originally assembled them.  They have now all been examined with care, and some corrections within the packets effected.  There are instances of two sets of thread holes in certain sheets, one set exactly corresponding with the thread holes of the sheets in the packets wherein they are now placed, the other set corresponding with the thread holes of another packet in which they may once have been placed.  Since the packets have passed through many hands during the past sixty-nine years, there can be no certainty about the reasons for such a transfer.  Some alteration conceivably may have been made by Emily Dickinson herself.
      In the recent study of the manuscripts certain sheets lying loose were found to belong within packets; others were transferred from one packet to another.  In their new position the sheets exactly matched those into which they were moved.  The stationery was of the same manufacture, with identical millimeter measurements.  The ink and handwriting matched.  Most significant of all, the thread holes not only corresponded, but the small rips in the stationery where the needle had pierced were identical in the shape of the tear.  None of these features had been present before the transfer.  But who made such alterations, or why, does not now seem discoverable.
      There is clear evidence that some of the packets were altered after Mrs. Todd had returned them to Lavinia.  An instance can be cited from the confused publishing history of "I tie my hat" (no. 443).  When it was first published in 1929, it lacked the final nine lines which are written on a separate sheet.  Since the poem is there printed as six quatrains, it might be said that stanzas 7 and 8 are wanting.  What happened is that at some period the sheet containing the first six quatrains was moved from packet 29 to packet 5.  This transfer left







 the last two quatrains facing, and apparently concluding, another poem: "A still volcano, life" (no. 601 ).  This latter poem was also published in Further Poems, and Mrs. Bianchi concluded it with the final quatrain of "I tie my hat," though unaccountably omitting the quatrain preceding (stanza 7).  The displaced sheet, which corresponds in all ways with the other sheets in packet 29, and lacks correspondence with those in packet 5, must have been in packet 29 at the time Mrs. Todd transcribed the poem, for her transcripts of both poems survive, and both are correctly rendered.
      The principles that guided Mrs. Todd and Col. Higginson in their editorial procedure were those that he laid down, and they were dictated largely by standards of current literary taste.  Thus the alterations which occur in the three series of Poems were deliberate and conscientiously made in an effort, however misguided it seems in retrospect, to give the poetry of Emily Dickinson the sort of finish which the sensibilities of the time were thought to demand.
      Mabel Loomis Todd was just thirty years old when she began her editorial labors.  From the start Lavinia had held the opinion that Colonel Higginson was the person whose sponsorship could give her sister's poetry literary respectability.  Demur as he might, she would not take no for an answer, and whether her persistence or his timid but genuine interest won the day is a nice question. When first approached, he told her that he was a busy man and had no reason to believe he could interest a publisher in the poetry.  Mrs. Todd later recalled that "Though he admired the singular talent of Emily Dickinson, he hardly thought enough could be found to make an even semi-conventional volume."10  But he was persuaded to consider the matter when he had been assured that someone else would take over the labor of going through the quantities of manuscript to winnow the wheat.  Armed with this much encouragement, Lavinia won Mrs. Todd's consent to the task, and be it to Lavinia Dickinsons everlasting credit that her singleminded persistence won through.  Mrs. Todd was well enough along with the work by the autumn of 1889 to consult with Higginson on the problem of selection.  As a reader for

      10 Ancestors' Brocades, 18.







the firm of Houghton Mifflin, he was in a position to suggest to them the possibility that they might consider issuing a small volume of poems by the unknown writer.  They considered and flatly refused.  They had no interest in prospecting into the unknown when they already had lucrative investments in the works of such established poets as Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell, and Whittier.  Mrs. Todd was sensitive to the fact that under the circumstances Higginson might hesitate to approach other publishers, so she herself in the following spring went to see Thomas Niles, editor of Roberts Brothers, another Boston firm, and one with a growing reputation for the quality of its books. The step was logical and wise in the light of Niles's previous interest in the Dickinson poetry, though Mrs. Todd could not have known that in 1883 Niles had tried to persuade the poet to bring out a volume of her verses.  Niles agreed to the undertaking and accepted the poems, which he turned over for criticism to his literary appraiser, the editor and novelist Arlo Bates.  Bates returned them to Niles with a detailed memorandum stating that the author had talent but no technique, and that there should be a much greater degree of selectivity than the editors had exercised.  "There should be few changes as possible," he said, "but some are absolutely necessary. . ."11 Bates's suggestion about "necessary" changes was no vagary.  It was the established editorial procedure which had beset Emily Dickinson all her life; the kind that had in fact stiffened her determination never to let her verses be published.  Death did not release her from the incubus of good intentions.
      Niles forwarded Bates's memorandum to Higginson on June 10 with a covering letter which, in view of Niles's urgent plea to Emily Dickinson seven years before to let him be her publisher, makes odd reading.  He is willing to go ahead with publication if Lavinia Dickinson will pay for the plates. "It has always seemed to me," he begins, "that it would be unwise to perpetuate Miss Dickinson's poems.  They are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties & are generally devoid of true poetical qualities." 12  Whatever the motive for this reversal of judgment, the opinion surely confirmed Higginson's belief

      11 Ancestors' Brocades, 53.                                        12 Ancestors' Brocades, 53.







that the poems, before they could appear, would have to undergo the surgery which for twenty-five years he had been itching to administer.
      Higginson in his turn passed the memorandum on to Mrs. Todd, saying that he thought Bates's criticism was excellent and should be followed.  At this point the creative editing began.  Higginson gave his attention to the classification and the titles.  He selected the rubrics for the sections with an eye to the conventionality that he intended the volume to convey, and grouped the poems in the categories of Life, Love, Nature, Time and Eternity.  There is elegance but restraint in the Latin titles: "Astra Castra," "Numen Lumen," and "Resurgam." But most were English titles, such as "Troubled with Many Things," and "Apotheosis."
      The summer of 1890 was advancing and the poems were to appear in November.  Hoping to cushion the shock that he feared the public was in for, Higginson prepared an article, incorporating fourteen poems, written to introduce the poet whose verses were about to be published.  It appeared in the September twenty-fifth issue of the Christian Union, a literary-religious journal of respectability and wide circulation.  The essay is some twelve hundred words in length, and however tentative in judgment and apologetic in tone, it is in fact the first critical identification of Emily Dickinson as a poet.
      The slender volume of Poems, one hundred fifteen in number, was published on November twelfth, and the numerous hostile reviews deepened Higginson's assurance that his textual emendations in the direction of conformity had been wise.  His editing, like his Christian Union article, was apologetic.  It had attempted wherever possible to smooth rhymes, regularize the meter, delete localisms, and substitute sensible metaphors.  It was carefully designed to spare the reader's sensibilities by producing a maximum of decorum.
      Bates's advice that there "should be few changes as possible" was followed in such substitutions as "those" for "folks," and "weight" for "heft," which were made with the intent to protect the author from the taint of provincialism.13 The meter of the second line in the poem

      13"See "I'm wife, I've finished that" (no. 199), and "There's a certain slant of light" (no. 258).







"There's a certain slant of light/ Winter afternoons" could be very simply regulated by letting it read "On winter afternoons."  But on occasion the repairs, once undertaken, went beyond the original intention.  The editors wished to include "Because I could not stop for death," but felt it needed many improvements.  One stanza was omitted, one rewritten to gain a rhyme and delete a localism, and another altered to smooth the meter.
      Higginson was disturbed by Dickinson's lack of grammatical convention. She had written "The grass so little has to do! I wish I were a hay."  "It cannot go in so," he told Mrs. Todd; "everybody would say that hay is a collective noun requiring the definite article.  Nobody can call it a hay!"14  So the definite article was substituted.
      The problem that gave most trouble was Emily Dickinson's predilection for what seemed to be a subjunctive mood when the indicative properly was called for.  Her preference for an indefinite or continuing present can be illustrated by the first stanza of one of the best known poems:

I never saw a Moor —
I never saw the Sea —
Yet know I how the Heather looks
And what a Billow be.

In Higginson's Christian Union article the last line became "And what the billows be."  That change took care of the collective noun, but not the subjunctive mood.  When Poems was issued in November the line was tailored to the form it has since retained: "And what a wave must be."
      To single out Higginson for special censure in thus bowdlerizing the text is unfair.  His practice was ethical enough for any except learned publications, and would have been questioned only in matters of taste.  Since his taste epitomized the best literary etiquette of the day, he had performed his labors with skill. What surprised everybody, the editors and publisher most of all, was the continuous demand for new printings, especially in the wake of so many unfavor-

      14 Ancestors' Brocades, 58,







able reviews.  And suddenly Higginson's whole attitude changed.  A new volume of poems must indeed he published to meet the popular clamor.  As he studied the unpublished poems anew, he began to think how much he really liked them and how good they really were.  In April 1891 while he and Mrs. Todd were making selections for the Second Series planned for publication at the end of the year, he wrote her: "Let us alter as little as possible, now that the public ear is opened."  For this volume he assumed primary responsibility, and his name precedes that of Mrs. Todd on the title page.
      There is less attempt at wholesale emendation in the second volume of Poems than the first. Higginson wrote Mrs. Todd in July: "A few of your suggested alterations I have evaded by a little change in order of her own words." 16  Such changes usually were made to effect rhymes.
      Unassisted, Mrs. Todd edited two volumes of letters in 1894.  By the time she was ready to prepare a third volume of poems in 1896 Higginson, fully engaged in other matters, was already in his seventy-fourth year, and the work was entirely hers.  She observed the same editorial principles employed earlier. Her transcripts survive for all the poems in the Third Series, and they are uniformly accurate.  But she had been so long schooled in the Higginson methodology that in print she felt impelled to alter somewhat freely.17
      No further poems appeared for eighteen years.  By 1914 when The Single Hound was published, Emily Dickinson's public had reached out far beyond New England, and her verbal and metric irregularities were recognized as essential to the form and meaning of her poetry, not wilful eccentricities. Therefore Martha Dickinson Bianchi, who edited this and several later volumes of poems, never felt under pressure to alter the text of a poem to smooth rhyme and meter.  The text of The Single Hound is refreshingly accurate. But fifteen years later, when Mrs. Bianchi and Alfred Leete Hampson were preparing Further Poems, they came under the spell of a then prevailing fashion.

      15 Ancestors' Brocades, 127.                                16 Ancestors' Brocades, 138.
      17 The degree to which she did so is pointed out by her daughter in Ancestors' Brocades, 333-348; and in "Poems of Emily Dickinson: Hitherto Published only in Part," New England Quarterly, XX (1947), 3-50.








Whereas the earlier editors had regularized five-line stanzas into quatrains, the present editors created irregularities to enhance the notion of quaintness. Unfortunately the text went to press with a startling number of misreadings. Some of them were later corrected, and many of the line spacings restored.  The Dickinson handwriting presented a problem which Mrs. Bianchi never entirely mastered, so that even today many misreadings persist, such as "thyself" for "Thessaly," "holy" for "Hybla," and "hundreds" for "Hemlock." 18
      The unsystematic manner in which Emily Dickinson set down her suggested changes created difficulties.  Occasionally such changes were adopted as substitutes for words other than the ones they were intended to match.  The editorial confusion at the end of "I got so I could hear his name" is one which Dickinson made especially easy.  By 1929, when Further Poems was issued, several of the sheets in the packet were out of their proper order, and thus some poems were easily garbled.19  The text of Unpublished Poems the last to be published by Mrs. Bianchi and Mr. Hampson, was somewhat more carefully prepared.
      The publication of Bolts of Melody (1945), from texts prepared by Mabel Loomis Todd and Millicent Todd Bingham, marked a new era in textual fidelity. Out of the total of more than six hundred poems there printed, more than two-thirds derive from holographs which had remained among Mrs. Todd's papers, and the rest from transcripts made by Mrs. Todd.

      18 See "The world feels dusty" (no. 715 ), and "Doom is the house without the door" (no. 475).
      19 See, for example, "I tie my hat, I crease my shawl" (no. 443).





[At this point, Johnson inserts the following images that are not included in this transcription: 49,80,324,215,449,668,907,988,1067,1114,1156,1209,1302,1353,1416,





The following notes attempt to describe the salient features by which Emily Dickinson's handwriting may be recognized in periods roughly comprised by the calendar years from 1850 to 1886.  For the sake of brevity it has been necessary to omit the less noticeable features, as well as certain discrepancies in hastily written notes and worksheets, and for the same reason a feature once described is not noted again as long as it continues in use.
      The reader will observe that the variations in the form of certain letters provide the principal key to this study.  Such is particularly true in the 1850 decade, when frequent shifts occur from one form to another.  A few striking changes in the 1860's and 1870's also give definite limits to the dating of manuscripts in which they appear.
      Another important factor from about 1860 to the mid-seventies is the gradual separation of letters, finally resulting in a resemblance to print, with each letter standing alone.  After 1879, when the pen was abandoned and the pencil habitually used, the variations are less in form than in general characteristics such as size, slant, roundness or sharpness, and precise or loose formation.
      More than any other letter, d is significant as a means of recognizing writing of a certain period.  In the 1850's some of the variants remained in use for less than a year at a time, recurring again after an interval.  The letter becomes important again from 1872 to 1879, when several shifts between two forms occur and the proportion between the two forms in use at a time varies from year to year.  Almost equal in importance is y, always an unconventional symbol, passing through many phases.  During the earlier years g parallels y in its variations, but reaches a final form in 1862 and remains essentially the same








thereafter.  The open and closed forms of e are of interest after 1859, but since the proportion in use of the two sometimes differs in manuscripts of the same time, they can only be counted on to indicate a trend during certain periods.
      Of the capitals, T is the most noticeable, especially from the late 1850's to about 1868, when its triangular form is striking enough to enable the reader at a glance to place a manuscript within those years.  A few capitals appear in special forms during the earlier years only, and important changes in H, V, and W occur in the 1870's.  Other variations peculiar to certain periods are described in the detailed notes for each year.
      Since no detailed description is given of the variations found in the writing of the worksheets, it seems best to call attention here to certain points of interest concerning them.  In some cases the writing of the worksheet of a poem differs considerably from the fair copy, even though certain characteristics show that the two were written at about the same time.  All the worksheets are in pencil, and a fair comparison can be made only with other examples of pencil writing.  In the years when the separation of letters bad become habitual in fair copies of poems and notes to friends, many ligations are found in the experimental scraps and rough drafts of letters which were not intended for other eyes than the writer's.  In a few instances drafts which prove by other means than handwriting to have been written in the 1880's appear at the first glance to have been written ten years earlier.
      This discrepancy evokes the question whether the script that was characteristic of the later years was the result of unconscious development or was deliberately cultivated for the sake of clarity or for some other reason. Evidence for this deliberate change is seen in the fact that from about 1868 to 1872 the pencil writing is found to have two or three trends occurring simultaneously.  These trends have been traced by grouping the manuscripts that resemble one another and observing that each group develops progressively in regard to separation of letters and the use of certain forms.  The final style seems to have resulted from the trend toward "book" writing which began during this period rather than from the earlier cursive style.  The earlier manner, however, apparently persisted as the natural one to use in later years when the








writer was jotting down her thoughts without regard to the appearance of the page.
      It is impossible to give more than the merest suggestion of the general appearance of the writing at any time.  The reader will find the facsimiles of greater value for this purpose than any description, and will also find well illustrated in them many of the forms of letters and other characteristics to which these notes call attention.

      Several manuscripts dated by ED herself give us the opportunity of noticing the changes and inconsistencies in writing during the year. Certain constant characteristics, however, give us a basis for comparison with those of succeeding years.

Lines even, writing small; capitals large in comparison with lower case; thick and thin strokes, especially in cross stroke of T. Almost all letters ligated.
d: single stroke, ascender to right; early in year bending at angle, later curved.
f: straight ascender, lower loop carefully closed.
g and y: instead of forming a loop, descender returns upward at right.
h: ascender hooked at top to left.
1: made with double curve, loop leaning far to right.
S: form intended to resemble S in print; large complete loop above, small, tightly curved below.


Small; more slanting than 1850; capitals smaller.
d: single stroke, ascender strongly sweeping to right; occasionally two strokes, round body and ascender separate.
g: descender usually short, curved to left.
h: ascender straight, only occasionally slightly hooked.
y: various forms – same as 1850 single down stroke, nearly straight or curved to left.
S: open curves, not looped.









Medium slant, still small. Similar to 1851 but in transition shows several forms, some new.
d: two strokes in initial and occasionally final positions; also one stroke with ascender to right.
f: loop slightly open.
l: single down stroke, curved to right at lower end.
y: initial – descender returning upward to right; others curving back to right, with or without hook at end.
C: might be confused with S or L – double curve, with loop to right at top.
T (and some F's): exaggerated sweeping cross stroke.


General effect freer, less cramped, though still small.  Separations between letters in to, it, is.
d: single stroke, ascender curving back to left.
f (in of): two open loops like prolonged hooks.
g: three forms – short and straight, curving to left, or returning upward to right.
y: initial like long, loose 8; others long sweeping curve to left.


Appearance similar to 1853.  The most striking change is in development of T and F as noted below.
d: initial mostly two strokes; final one stroke, curving to left.
g: three forms, the short and straight prevailing.
y: three forms, the sweeping curve to left prevailing.
F and T: both strokes curved, in some cases joined in one by up-sweep to left; heavy, sweeping cross stroke.
W: peculiar to this year – straight left down stroke, looped to left, crossing to form center of letter.


Somewhat larger and more slanting.  A new form of F appears, as described below.








d: mostly two strokes, whether initial or final; a few finals one stroke.
f (in of): lower hook shorter.
g: three forms, one curved back to right.
F: cramped appearance; made without removing pen from paper, down, up close to same line, curving right for cross stroke; separate dot or short dash, at right.
T: straight down stroke, connecting curve up left to join long cross stroke.


General appearance similar to 1855.  A new form of A appears, as described below.
d: two strokes for initial letter, one stroke for final; ascender to left.
g: mostly long sweeping curve to left; a few short and straight.
y: long sweeping curve to left.
A: similar to lower case a, rounded but not quite closed.
C: more conventional form, with double loop to left of upright.


There are no manuscripts of known date in this year.


Very slanting; letters sharp, words spread more widely.
d: two strokes for initial letter; for final the one-stroke d with ascender to right reappears for a short time.
h and l: hooked at top.
T: the evolution of this letter, begun in 1855 continues toward a triangular form.


Somewhat less angular and more regular than in 1858.  New forms of e, retained from now on, are described below.
e: until this year almost without exception a narrow loop; now two new forms in final letters – one open, like E, the other like e









in type. All three forms used in varying proportions in succeeding years.
f (in of): still more simplified – straight line, loop omitted.
T: definitely triangular, a form that is retained until 1868.


Alignment of words less regular, letters in a word sometimes diminishing in size toward the end, which gives an uneven effect to the page.  No important changes in form.


Noticeable change in appearance: letters elongated and uneven as if written with excess of nervous energy.  Strongly slanted.  Tendency toward separation of letters, a few words of four or five letters being entirely unligated.  Some capitals, such as A and C exaggerated in size.
d: both forms used, one stroke form having ascender to left.
e: all three forms used.
g and y mostly straight.
t: cross strokes often long and sweeping.


Less agitated than in 1861, but writing remains tall, angular and strongly slanted.  Separation of letters progresses: only about half the words wholly ligated.  Hitherto there have been minor variations of P; a new form now appears, as described below, which is retained as habitual from now on.
g: descender straight.
y: three forms – straight, long or short curves to left.
P: two strokes, a long upright, often extending below the line, crossed by a free loop starting from left of upright.


Appearance similar to 1862.  Separation of letters about the same.
d: almost all single stroke form, ascender to left.
e: open form predominates.








F: mostly triangular, but a few examples are made with three separate strokes.
T: triangular.


Until this year most of the datable manuscripts have been in ink.  In 1864 and 1865 they are mostly in pencil. Forms of letters are in generally the same, but smaller and less angular.
of: progressive simplification noted above has led to a symbol made with double loop for o, connected with a straight down stroke for f.


Little change from 1864, but possibly more separation of letters, especially in pencil writing.


Separation of letters more noticeable – few words wholly ligated.  Vowel combinations such as al, an, en, er, also ch, th, remain linked.


No manuscript of proven date in this year.  However, by studying the progressive separation of letters and general appearance, it has been possible to assign a few to this period.

I 868

Little change in style since 1866, but there are more separations and the triangular T has disappeared.
T: made with two strokes, the cross stroke often long, sweeping far to right.


Progress in separation of letters continues.  Many vowel combinations (an, en, etc.) now unlinked. Spaces between letters wider. Few changes in forms of letters occur from now on, but increasing im-








portance is given to placing of cross stroke of t, which in preceding years was usually at right of ascender.
t: almost all squarely crossed, or above ascender.


Little change in appearance or number of ligations from 1869.
e: closed form now about equal in numbers with open form, which
has predominated since 1863.


Capitals are larger.  Fewer ligations: some combinations still linked in 1869 now separated in half the number of examples.  Manuscripts in pencil have fewer ligations than those in ink.
e: closed form now predominates in pen writing.
th: about one third separated.


Occasional vowel combinations still linked.  As separation increases, spaces between become wider and alignment more irregular.
d: the two stroke form reappears in some initial letters.
th: more examples separated than linked.


Size and irregularity increasing.  Extreme slant in pen writing, less in pencil, which is beginning to appear like purposeful use of printing forms.  A few ligated combinations, such as be, bl, occasional th.
one stroke and two stroke forms about equal.
e: closed form now used in pencil as well as ink.
f: in ink still double hook; in pencil ascender a single straight line, descender looped.  This does not apply to of symbol.

I 874

Writing in ink reaches maximum size – sometimes only one word on a line.
f: form described above now used in pencil as well as ink.









Still large; very wide spaces between letters.  Only an occasional ligation, except in th, which is about equally linked and separated. Marked difference between pen and pencil writing, the latter being smaller and more compact, less slanting.
d: single stroke form used more often than double in ink; the reverse in pencil.
f: new form now habitual.
y: more curved than straight in ink; the reverse in pencil.


Pencil writing smaller, clearer, better aligned than ink, with wide spaces between lines.  A new form of W appears, and of symbol begins to change.
of: a few examples of separated letters, using f introduced in 1873.
t: crossings show tendency to fall left of upright, especially with pencil.
W: in preceding years sprawling, rounded at base, now occasionally pointed at base.


No ligations except occasional th. Pencil writing gives effect of exceptional neatness and careful spacing. A new form of H appears, used occasionally.
H: hitherto made with two strokes by continuing upward from
base to form cross stroke, now three separate strokes.


No noticeable changes in pen writing; pencil writing a little freer and less precise as it becomes more habitual.
t: cross strokes about half to left of ascender.
W: pointed form well established.


References from now on are to pencil writing, since beginning in








this year the pen is almost entirely discarded. Appearance compact, letters rounded, slightly slanted.
d: two stroke form, except for occasional final letter.
y: usually curved, but short straight form also in use.


Still small; ascenders and descenders short.  A new form of V appears.
y: straight, except as initial letter.
V: formerly rounded at base, now pointed.


Little change from 1880, but effect slightly sharper, more slanting.
t: cross strokes mostly to left.


Slightly larger, more slanting.
y: some curved back to right.  Some initial letters have hook at upper end.


Letters more elongated; sharper.
a and o: curled up toward center.
g: curved sharply back to right – a peculiarity lasting only a few months.


Early part of year similar to 1883.  After June slant and irregularity increase as result of illness.  Long and short letters often appear equal in size.
f: ascender curled over at top.
t: cross strokes erratic – right, left, above.
D: noticeable lengthening of first stroke.


Further exaggeration of all characteristics described in 1884; letters








farther apart and irregular.  Some capitals so loosely formed as to be almost undecipherable.


Large, loose, and badly formed, showing physical weakness.









At the time of her death in 1886, Emily Dickinson left in manuscript a body of verse far more extensive than anyone imagined.  Of the seven poems known to have been published in her lifetime, all were anonymous and most were issued surreptitiously.  Today seventeen hundred seventy-five poems may be attributed to her.  All except forty-one have been previously published.  Of those unpublished, nineteen are holograph copies; the larger part survive in transcripts for the most part made by Susan Gilbert Dickinson, presumably of copies which Emily sent her, now lost.
      There are one hundred twenty-three published poems for which no autograph is known.  Some were incorporated in letters that have been destroyed. Some may yet be recovered, though patient search has not yet located them.  Nothing at all is known about the rest, which survive in the fifty-three transcripts made by Mabel Loomis Todd, and the sixty-one transcripts made by Susan Dickinson.  Mrs. Todd made transcripts of many hundreds of poems at the time she was editing them.  Since it was her practice to return the autographs to Lavinia Dickinson when her transcriptions had been made, one must assume that those fifty-three missing autographs disappeared after they were returned.  Throughout her life, Emily sent copies of her poems to Susan, and a very large number of those autographs are extant.  One supposes that the missing originals of Susan's sixty-one transcripts were at one time in her possession.  The fact remains that all trace of these one hundred eleven holograph copies has vanished. 20

      20 There is some reason to suspect that the copies sent to Susan Dickinson were missing before her death in 1913.  Her daughter Martha Dickinson Bianchi published The Single Hound (1914), a volume of 143 poems, from copies in her possession. Holographs of 40 are missing today, but the texts of all but two of the 40 can be collated with surviving transcripts made by her mother.  The reason for thinking the text of those 38 poems derived from Susan Dickinson's transcripts lies in the nature of certain printed errors.  Susan's stylized handwriting is especially difficult to decipher.  The following misreadings bear a striking resemblance to the form of the letters misread:








The purpose of this edition is to establish an accurate text of the poems and to give them as far as possible a chronology.  Such of course can be done when holographs survive.  The date (but not the literatim text) can be established when missing poems have been published in letters that can be dated from internal evidence.  In all instances where holographs are wanting, the text derives from the most authentic source. 21   When no other source is known, the earliest published text is reproduced together with a record of later alterations if such were made. 22  The poems have been given a chronological arrangement even though at best it is but an approximation.  Since very few poems can be given exact dates, any chronology must be considered relative.

      Where there is choice among texts for principal representation, the earliest fair copy is selected.  Such a rule has exceptions.  Within a given year the arrangement is in the following order:

(a) fair copies to recipients
(b) other fair copies
(c) semifinal drafts - but where the packet priority can be reasonably determined, the order of both (b) and (c) is subdivided in conformity with such priority
(d) worksheet drafts

If a poem seems to achieve its final version at a date later than that of earlier fair copies, it is placed among poems written during the later

no. 1677:    acre] area
                   rocks] reeks
no. 1682:    At most] Almost
no. 1684:    in] to
                   there] Then
no. 1701:    their] this
                   Untumbled] Untroubled
no. 1703:    more] mere

      21 There are instances where the absence of holographs requires speculation whether the text of a published poem reproduces a lost variant or is merely a misreading.  A case in point is discussed in the notes to "Away from home are some and I" (no. 821).
      22 Transcripts made by Mabel Loomis Todd (referred to as TT) supply the text for 53 poems; transcripts made by Susan Gilbert Dickinson (referred to as ST) do so for 61.  A detailed identification of all missing poems is in Appendix 11: "Distribution of Missing Autographs."








year.  Texts which derive from undatable transcripts or published sources are perforce grouped together following all chronologically arranged poems and their order is alphabetical by first lines.  Such are the final one hundred twenty-seven poems, numbered 1649-1775.
      Except in instances where direct evidence in letters can be used to date a poem – and they are relatively few – all assigned dates are tentative and will always remain so.  At the same time the quantity of manuscripts, both letters and poems, is great enough to provide opportunity for a detailed study of handwriting changes.  Such a study has been made, and the results are set forth, with facsimile illustration, in the section preceding.  Manuscripts of known date have been a major factor in furnishing clues to the handwriting characteristics, from year to year, of poems and letters that cannot otherwise be dated.  Taken together, the clues to dates furnished by direct evidence is fairly extensive and has been used constantly as a check against the evidence of handwriting which, therefore, has a fairly high degree of reliability.  In general the evidence of handwriting is sufficient to limit a date within a given year, and thus poems are identified as having been written "about 1860" or whatever the year may be.  It must be assumed of course that such identification, in default of corroborative evidence, is only a calculated guess which may sometime be proved somewhat incorrect.
      Close study also was given to the stationery.  The result of dividing and subdividing the paper according to manufacture and millimeter measurement led to no pattern that could be independently trusted.  On occasion the evidence gave priority for a date to one batch of paper over another, but not enough to establish a conclusion.  The use of evidence from stationery is ancillary and has always been explicitly stated when it is adduced.
      Spelling is always exactly rendered.  Some misspellings the author carried through life with conscious relish for the sound of local idiom: Febuary, boquet, bretheren.  Others she corrected over the years: Bethleem, etherial, exhiliration, extasy, inciepenciant, vail (veil), witheld.  Others appear only in the early manuscripts: boddice, nescessary, visiter.  She constantly and correctly used the forms hight, nought, and







wo, which with equal consistency in publication have been regularized to height, naught, and woe.  Her contractions are always written does'nt, dont, has'nt, have'nt, and wont.  The possessive of it she invariably spelled with an apostrophe: it's.  She has the authority of the best established nineteenth-century gazetteers for the spelling Himmaleh, a word she seemed especially to like.
      The problem of reproducing her capital letters is complicated by the manner in which she formed them.  Most are easily distinguishable because they do not resemble lower case letters.  Others, especially A, C, M, N, U, and W, are simply enlargements, and decisions about them often have to be made on the basis of probability and familiarity with the text.  She herself was arbitrary and inconsistent in her use of capitals; some poems use none within a line except for proper nouns; others are freighted heavily with them.  Her mood dictated her choice.
      Her use of the dash is especially capricious.  Often it substitutes for a period and may in fact have been a hasty, lengthened dot intended for one. On occasion her dashes and commas are indistinguishable.  Within lines she uses dashes with no grammatical function whatsoever.  They frequently become visual representations of a musical beat.  Quite properly such "punctuation" can be omitted in later editions, and the spelling and capitalization regularized, as surely she would have expected had her poems been published in her lifetime. Here however the literal rendering is demanded.
      Readers will be struck by the frequency with which her variants show that her line spacings and stanza divisions follow no pattern.  Much of the irregularity clearly suggests a conscious experimentation.  Some of it is indifference, as when in sending copies of a poem to two or three friends, she suits her punctuation, capitalization, and line arrangement to the mood of the moment.  All such differences are noted.
      Emily Dickinson was not consistent in her manner of entering the suggested changes on her manuscripts.  Sometimes they are placed between the lines, sometimes in the margin, and often at the end of the poem.  Generally they are cued into the text by a cross placed against the word or phrase which they propose to supplant.  In this edition all such alternative readings are placed at the end of the poem.








She indicated her emphasis on a word by the customary method of underlining it, and thus shows on occasion which of her suggested changes she prefers.  All such words are here represented by italics.
      Her suggested changes are exactly rendered in this text.  For example, in line 1 of poem number 626 she entered "Possess the Secret -"as a possible alternative for "detect the Sorrow."  This text cues all such words or phrases directly beneath the poem thus:

1. detect the Sorrow] Possess the Secret —

In the same poem the suggested change for line 8 is for the entire line, and therefore does not need to be cued to particular words.  In poem number 627 her two suggested changes were intended for full lines, but in both instances she omitted the first word.  Such omitted words are for convenience supplied in brackets.  On occasions when she offered two or more suggested changes for a particular word, as those for line 4 in poem number 616, this text records their exact form, but separates them by a short slanting stroke.
      Attention has already been drawn to the fact that all Emily Dickinson's worksheet drafts are in pencil, and her semifinal drafts and fair copies usually in ink until the late seventies.  After 1879 she gave up the pen entirely except to address envelopes.  Of the many score of manuscripts written after 1879, only one – a letter to Higginson – is in ink.  In the textual notes, unless otherwise specified, the reader may assume that:

(a) through 1879 all manuscripts are in
(b) after 1879 all manuscripts are in pencil.

      Notes to the poems record first the manuscript date and location.  Redactions and variants are reproduced and discussed, and allusions explained if they are known.  Biographical sketches of recipients of poems, arranged alphabetically, are given in Appendix I.  Publication data include information about first printings and subsequent printings wherever textual differences occur.  Unless otherwise noted, poems first issued in a given collection were gathered and identically








printed in all subsequent ones. 23 It is to be assumed that poems published in volumes of letters are not elsewhere collected unless the notes specify otherwise.
      The source of a published text is stated, and the variant readings and the misreadings recorded.  The absence of such information implies that the published text accurately derived from the manuscript there reproduced, and was printed with the same line and stanza arrangement.  Such changes as were made to regularize spelling, punctuation, and capital letters are passed over unless the alterations have affected the meaning of a poem.
      Readers can assume that in this edition poems breaking from page to page break at stanza divisions unless they see specified at the bottom of a page: "No stanza break."
      It is to be expected that autograph texts of poems, heretofore known only in a published version, from time to time will come to light.  Such has happened during the years the present text has been in preparation.  In a few instances the information arrived too late to allow the poems to be placed in chronological order.  The data for all such have been correctly supplied, but the order of the poems has perforce remained unchanged.  Such is true of the following: numbers 330, 331, 687,688, 1072, 1153, 1218, 1222, 1237, 1314, 1385, 1575, 1760, 1768, 1770-1774.


      At the present time Dickinson manuscripts are located in sixteen institutions.  No fewer than forty individuals are known to possess one

     22 The texts of all published poems have been collated, and variations recorded in the notes.  The poems gathered in the three early series (1890), (1891), (1896), together with those in The Single Hound, were first collected in The Complete Poems (1924), with five new poems added: nos 9, 310, 1072, 1467, 1545.  The contents of The Complete Poems, together with those in Further Poems (1929), make up the text of the Centenary edition (1930), to which one new poem is added: no. 968.  The contents of the Centenary edition plus the poems in Unpublished Poems (1934), constitute the text of the current edition of Poems by Emily Dickinson (1937).


[This transcription does not include the next four pages of the introductory materials in which Johnson provides symbols used to identify the manuscripts and publications.]