letters from dickinson to abiah root

29 January 1850

Very dear Abiah.

The folks have all gone away - they thought that they left me alone, and contrived things to amuse me should they stay long, and I be lonely. Lonely indeed - they did'nt look, and they could'nt have seen if they had, who should bear me company. Three here instead of one - would'nt it scare them? A curious trio, part earthly and part spiritual two of us - the other all heaven, and no earth. God is sitting here, looking into my very soul to see if I think right tho'ts. Yet I am not afraid, for I try to be right and good, and he knows every one of my struggles. He looks very gloriously, and everything bright seems dull beside him, and I dont dare to look directly at him for fear I shall die. Then you are here - dressed in that quiet black gown and cap - that funny little cap I used to laugh at you about, and you dont appear to be thinking about anything in particular, not in one of your breaking dish moods I take it, you seem aware that I'm writing you, and are amused I should think at any such friendly manifestation when you are already present. Success however even in making a fool of one's self is'nt to be despised, so I shall persist in writing, and you may in laughing at me, if you are fully aware of the value of time as regards your immortal spirit. I can say that I advise you to laugh, but if you are punished, and I warned you, that can be no business of mine. So I fold up my arms, and leave you to fate - may it deal very kindly with you! The trinity winds up with me, as you may have surmised, and I certainly would'nt be at the fag end but for civility to you. This selfsacrificing spirit will be the ruin of me! I am occupied principally with a cold just now, and the dear creature will have so much attention that my time slips away amazingly. It was heard so much of New Englanders, of their kind attentions to strangers, that it's come all the way from the Alps to determine the truth of the tale - it says the half was'nt told it, and I begin to be afraid it was'nt. Only think, came all the way from that distant Switzerland to find what was the truth! Neither husband - protector - nor friend accompanied it, and so utter a state of loneliness gives friends if nothing else. You are dying of curiosity, let me arrange that pillow to make your exit easier! I stayed at home all Saturday afternoon, and treated some disagreeable people who insisted upon calling here as tolerably as I could - when evening shades began to fall, I turned upon my heel, and walked. Attracted by the gaiety visible in the street I still kept walking till a little creature pounced upon a thin shawl I wore, and commenced riding - I stopped, and begged the creature to alight, as I was fatigued already, and quite unable to assist others. It would'nt get down, and commenced talking to itself - "cant be New England - must have made some mistake, disappointed in my reception, dont agree with accounts, Oh what a world of deception, and fraud - Marm, will [you] tell me the name of this country - it's Asia Minor, is'nt it. I intended to stop in New England." By this time I was so completely exhausted that I made no farther effort to rid me off my load, and travelled home at a moderate jog, paying no attention whatever to it, got into the house, threw off both bonnet, and shawl, and out flew my tormentor, and putting both arms around my neck began to kiss me immoderately, and express so much love, it completely bewildered me. Since then it has slept in my bed, eaten from my plate, lived with me everywhere, and will tag me through life for all I know. I think I'll wake first, and get out of bed, and leave it, but early, or late, it is dressed before me, and sits on the side of the bed looking right in my face with such a comical expression it almost makes me laugh in spite of myself. I cant call it interesting, but it certainly is curious - has two peculiarities which would quite win your heart, a huge pocket-handkerchief, and a very red nose. The first seems so very abundant, it gives you the idea of independence, and prosperity in business. The last brings up the "jovial bowl, my boys," and such an assoication's worth the having. If it ever gets tired of me, I will forward it to you - you would love it for my sake, if not for it's own, it will tell you some queer stories about me - how I sneezed so loud one night that the family thought the last trump was sounding, and climbed into the currant-bushes to get out of the way - how the rest of the people arrayed in long night-gowns folded their arms, and were waiting - but this is a wicked story, it can tell some better ones. Now my dear friend, let me tell you that these last thoughts are fictions - vain imaginations to lead astray foolish young women. They are flowers of speech, they both make, and tell deliberate falsehoods, avoid them as the snake, and turn aside from the Bottle snake, and I dont think you will be harmed. Honestly tho', a snake bite is a serious matter, and there cant be too much said, or done about it. The big serpent bites the deepest, and we get so accustomed to it's bites that we dont mind about them. "Verily I say unto you fear him." Wont you read some work upon snakes - I have a real anxiety for you! I love those little green ones that slide around by your shoes in the grass - and make it rustle with their elbows - they are rather my favorites on the whole, but I would'nt influence you for the world! There is an air of misanthropy about the striped snake that will commend itself at once to your taste, there is no monotony about it - but we will more of this again. Something besides severe colds, and serpents, and we will try to find that something. It cant be a garden, can it, or a strawberry bed, which rather belongs to a garden - nor it cant be a school-house, nor an Attorney at Law. Oh dear I dont know what it is! Love for the absent dont sound like it, but try it, and see how it goes.

I miss you very much indeed, think of you at night when the world's nodding, "nidnid nodding ["] - think of you in the daytime when the cares of the world, and it's toils, and it's continual vexations choke up the love for friends in some of our hearts; remember your warnings sometimes - try to do as you told me sometimes - and sometimes conclude it's no use to try; then my heart says it is, and new trial is followed by disappointment again. I wondered when you had gone why we did'nt talk more - it was'nt for want of a subject, it never could be for that. Too many perhaps, such a crowd of people that nobody heard the speaker, and all went away discontented. You astounded me in the outset - perplexed me in the continuance - and wound up in a grand snarl - I shall be all my pilgrimage unravelling. Rather a dismal prospect certainly - but "it's always the darkest the hour before the day," and this early sunset promises an earlier rise - a sun in splendor - and glory, flying out of it's purple nest. Would'nt you love to see God's bird, when it first tries it's wings? If you were here I would tell you something - several somethings which have happed since you went away, but time, and space, as usual, oppose themselves, and I put my treasures away till "we two meet again." The hope that I shall continue in love towards you - and vice versa will sustain me till then. If you are thinking soon to go away, and to show your face no more, just inform me - will you - I would have the "long lingering look" which you cast behind - It would be an invaluable addition to my treasures, and "keep your memory green." "Lord keep all out memories green," and help on our affection, and tie "the link that doth us bind" in a tight bow-knot that will keep it from separation, and stop us from growing old, if that is impossible - make old age pleasant to us - put it's arms around us kindly, and when we go home - let that home be called Heaven!

Your very sincere, and wicked friend,

Emily E. Dickinson.

Abby has not come home yet - and I hav'nt written her. She must be very sad, and need all comfort from us. She will be left alone - wont she?

Had a letter from Vinnie after you left - it expressed great regret at not seeing you - both on her part and Jane's. They come home in seven weeks.

I hav'nt thanked you for your letter yet, but not for want of gratitude. I will do so now most sincerely, most heartily - gladly - and gratefully. You will write me another soon - that I may have four right feelings again! They dont come for the asking. I have been introducing you to me in this letter so far - we will traffick in "joys" - and "sorrows" some other day. Colds make one very carnal and the spirit is always afraid of them. You will excuse all mistakes in view of ignorance - all sin in view of "the fall," all want of friendly affection in the sight of the verse "the deepest stream the stillest runs," and other general deficiencies, on the ground of universal incapacity! Here is surely room for Charity, and heavenly visiter would'nt have come but for these faults. "No loss without a gain." I called to see your cousins an evening since - they were well, and evidently delighted to see one another - and us. Lucy spoke in high praise of visiting, of visiting Abiah more especially, and of visiting Abiah's mother, more especially still. When your letter came I had two western cousins - now at S-Hadley Semy staying their vacation with me. They took an unbounded delight in a sentence I read them - and to pay for it, send you their love. Write me a letter!

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Commentary copyright 1998 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
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Last updated on February 25, 2008