letters from dickinson to abiah root

Boston, 8 September 1846

My dear friend Abiah.

It is a long - long time since I received your welcome letter & it becomes me to sue for forgiveness, which I am sure your affectionate heart will not refuse to grant. But many & unforeseen circumstances have caused my long delay. My health was very poor all the latter part of spring & continued so through the summer. As you may have heard, Dear Miss Adams is teaching in Amherst & I was very anxious to attend the Academy last term on that account & did go for 11 weeks, at the close of which I was so unwell as to be obliged to leave school. It cost me many a severe struggle to leave my studies & to be considered an invalid, but my health demanded a release from all care & I made the sacrifice. I had a severe cough for several weeks attended with a difficulty in my throat & general debility. I left school & did nothing for some time excepting to ride & roam in the fields. I have now entirely got rid of my cough & all other bad feelings & am quite well & strong. My health affected my spirits & I was quite down spirited for some time, but have with renewed health regained my usual flow of spirits. Father & Mother thought a journey would be of service to me & accordingly, I left for Boston week before last. I had a delightful ride in the cars & am now quietly settled down, if there can be such a state in the city. I am visiting in my aunt's family & am happy. Happy! Did I say? No not happy, but contented. I have been here a fortnight to day & in that time I have both seen & heard a great many wonderful things. Perhaps you might like to know how I have spent the time here. I have been to Mount Auburn, to the Chinese Museum, to Bunker hill. I have attended 2 concerts, & 1 Horticultural exhibition. I have been upon the top of the State house & almost everywhere that you can imagine. Have you ever been to Mount Auburn? If not you can form but slight conception - of the "City of the dead." It seems as if Nature had formed the spot with a distinct idea in view of its being a resting place for her children, where wearied & dissapointed they might stretch themselves beneath the spreading cypress & close their eyes "calmly as to a nights repose or flowers at set of sun."

The Chinese Museum is a great curiosity. There are an endless variety of Wax figures made to resemble the Chinese & dressed in their costume. Also articles of chinese manufacture of an innumerable variety deck the rooms. Two of the Chinese go with this exhibition. One of them is a Professor of music in China & the other is teacher of a writing school at home. They were both wealthy & not obliged to labor but they were also Opium Eaters & fearing to continue the practice lest it destroyed their lives yet unable to break the "rigid chain of habit" in their own land They left their family's & came to this country. They have now entirely overcome the practice. There is something peculiarly interesting to me in their self denial. The Musician played upon two of his instruments & accompanied them with his voice. It needed great command over my risible faculty to enable me to keep sober as this amateur was performing, yet he was so very polite to give us some of his native music that we could not do otherwise than to express ourselves highly edified with his performances. The Writing Master is constantly occupied in writing the names of visitors who request it upon cards in the Chinese language - for which he charges 12 1/2 cts. apiece. He never fails to give his card besides to the person [s] who wish it. I obtained one of his cards for Viny & myself & I consider them very precious. Are you still in Norwich & attending to music. I am not now taking lessons but I expect to when I return home.

Does it seem as though September had come? How swiftly summer has fled & what report has it borne to heaven of misspent time & wasted hours? Eternity only will answer. The ceaseless flight of the seasons is to me a very solemn thought, & yet Why do we not strive to make a better improvement of them?

With how much emphasis the poet has said, "We take no note of Time, but from its loss. T'were wise in man to give it then a tongue. Pay no moment but in just purchase of it's worth, ask death beds. They can tell. Part with it as with life reluctantly." Then we have higher authority than that of man for the improvement of our time. For God has said. "Work while the day lasts for the night is coming in the which no man can work." Let us strive together to part with time more reluctantly, to watch the pinions of the fleeting moment until they are dim in the distance & the new coming moment claims our attention. I am not unconcerned Dear A. upon the all important subject, to which you have so frequently & so affectionately called my attention in your letters. But I feel that I have not yet made my peace with God. I am still a s[tran]ger - to the delightful emotions which fill your heart. I have perfect confidence in God & his promises & yet I know not why, I feel that the world holds a predominant place in my affections. I do not feel that I could give up all for Christ, were I called to die. Pray for me Dear A. that I may yet enter into the kingdom, that there may be room left for me in the shining courts above. Why do you not come to Amherst? I long to see you once more, to clasp you in my arms & to tell you of many things which have transpired since we parted. Do come & make me a long - long, visit this autumn. Will you not? There have been many changes in Amherst since you was there. Many who were then in ther bloom have one to their last account & "the mourners go about the streets.' Abby was in Athol when I left home on a visit to her mother & brothers. She is very well & as lovely as ever. She will write you soon. Abby & I talk much of the happy hours we used to spend together with yourself, Sarah & Hatty Merrill. Oh! what would I give could we all meet again. Do write me soon Dear A & let it be a long - long letter. Dont forget - !!!!!

Your aff. friend

Emily E D.

Sabra Palmer was well the last time I saw her & she talked of going to Feeding Hills. She may be there now for ought I know. Do you not think it has been unusually hot the past summer. I have really suffered from the heat the last week. I think it remarkable that we should have such weather in September. There were over 100 deaths in Boston last week, a great many of them owing to the heat. Mr Taylor, Our old Teacher, was in Amherst at Commencement time. Oh! I do love Mr. Taylor. It seemed so like old times to meet Miss Adams & Mr Taylor again. I could hardly refrain from singing Auld Lang Syne. It seemed so very apropos. Have you forgotten the memorable ride we all took with Mr Taylor, "Long, Long, ago."

I hear from Sarah Tracy quite often, but as to Hatty I will not ask you if you ever hear from her it would oblige you to leave room in your next letter, to say. No, not a word. Sarah writes in very good spirits & I think she is very happy. I am so glad to think Sarah has so good a home & kind friends for she is every way worhy of them. How glad I should be to find you in A. when I return home. Dont you recollect it was the day I returned from Boston before that I first met you & introduced myself so unceremoniously?

Have you any flowers in Norwich? My garden looked finely when I left home. It is in Viny's care during my absence. Austin entered college last Commencement. Only think!!!!!! I have a brother who has the honor to be a Freshman - Will you not promise me that you will come to Commencement when he graduates? Do! Please! Viny told me if I wrote you while I was gone to give her best love to you. I have altered very much since you was here. I am now very tall & wear long dresses near[l]y. Do you believe we shall know each other when we meet. Dont forget to write soon.


thomas johnson's note on letter 13 | index to dickinson/root letters

search the archives

dickinson/root correspondence main page | dickinson electronic archives main menu

Commentary copyright 1998 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
Maintained by Lara Vetter <lvetter@uncc.edu>
Last updated on February 25, 2008