letters from dickinson to abiah root

about January 1852

My very dear Abiah.

I love to sit here alone, writing a letter to you, and whether your joy in reading will amount to as much or more, or even less than mine in penning it to you, becomes to me just not a very important problem - and I will tax each power to solve the same time for me; if as happy, indeed, I have every occasion for gratitude - more so, my absent friend, I may not hope to make you, but I do hope most earnestly it may not give you less. Oh, I do know it will not, if school-day hearts are warm and school-day memories precious! As I told you, it is Sunday to-day, so I find myself quite curtailed in the selection of subjects, being myself quite vain, and naturally adverting to many worldly things which would doubtless grieve and distress you: much more will I be restrained by the fact that such stormy Sundays I always remain at home, and have not these opportunities for hoarding up great truths which I would have otherwise. In view of these things, Abiah, your kind heart will be lenient, forgiving all empty words and unsatisfying feelings on the Sabbath-day ground which we have just alluded to. I rejoice in one theme appropriate to every place and time - indeed it cannot intrude in the hour most unseemly for every other thought and every other feeling; and sure I am to-day, howe'er it may be holy, I shall not break or reproach by speaking of the links which bind us to each other, and make the very thought of you, and time when I last saw you, a sacred thing to me. And I have many memories, and many thoughts beside, which be some strange entwining, circle you round and round; if you please, a vine of fancies, towards which dear Abiah sustains the part of oak, and as up each sturdy branch there climbs a little tendril so full of faith and confidence and the most holy trust, so let the hearts do also, of the dear "estray"; then the farther we may be from home and from each other, the nearer by that faith which "overcometh all things" and bringeth us to itself.

Amherst and Philadelphia, separate indeed, and yet how near, bridged by a thousand trusts and a "thousand times ten thousand" the travellers who cross, whom you and I may not see, nor hear the trip of their feet, yet faith tells us they are there, ever crossing and re-crossing. Very likely, Abiah, you fancy me at home in my own little chamber, writing you a letter, but you are greatly mistaken. I am on the blue Susquehanna paddling down to you; I am not much of a sailor, so I get along rather slowly, and I am not much of a mermaid, though I verily think I shall be, if the tide overtakes me at my present jog. Hard-hearted girl! I don't believe you care, if you did you would come quickly and help me out of this sea; but if I drown, Abiah, and go down to dwell in the seaweed forever and forever, I will not forget your name, nor all the wrong you did me!

Why did you go away and not come to see me? I felt so sure you would come, because you promised me, that I watched and waited for you, and bestowed a tear or two upon my absentee. How very said it is to have a confiding nature, one's hopes and feelings are quite at the mercy of all who come along; and how very desirable to be a stolid individual, whose hopes and aspirations are safe in one's waistcoat pocket, and that a pocket indeed, and one not to be picked!

Notwithstanding your faithlessness I should have come to see you, but for that furious snow-storm; I did attempt in spite of it, but it conquered in spite of me, and I doffed my hood and shawl, and felt very crestfallen the remainder of the day. I did want one more kiss, one sweet and sad good-by, before you had flown away; perhaps, my dear Abiah, it is well and I go without it; it might have added anguish to our long separation, or made the miles still longer which keep a friend away. I always try to think in my disappointment that had I been gratified, it had been sadder still, and I weave from such supposition, at times, considerable consolation; consolation upside down as I am pleased to call it.

. . . Shall I have a letter soon - oh, may I very soon, for "some days are dark and dreary, and the wind is never weary."

Emily E.

but my dear child, you know that I do not feel well sometimes, and when my feelings come, I permit them to overcome me when perhaps I ought not - yet at the time submission seems most inevitable. I will try to get stout and well before you come again, and who says the past shall not be forgiven by the day to come? I say she shall be, and that the deeper the crimson, the purer and more like snow the heart repentant, when penitence can come.

thomas johnson's note on letter 69 | index to dickinson/root letters

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