letters from dickinson to higginson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Letter 330

MANUSCRIPT: BPL (Higg 61). Ink. Dated by Higginson: June 1869.

PUBLICATION: AM LVXIII (October 1891) 451-452, in part; L (1894) 313-314, in part; LL 270, in part; L (1931) 283-284, entire.

ED echoes her opening sentence in a letter to James Clark written in 1882 (no. 788). This is ED's third refusal to go to Boston, and her second invitation to Higginson to come to Amherst, and it answers the letter which follows (HCL), written by Higginson and dated: May 11. 1869. ED's conviction that Higginson was the friend who saved her life must have been very deep, for she uses the same phrase in a letter written to him ten years later (see no. 621).

The woman Higginson mentions at the end of his first paragraph is Helen Hunt (Jackson). In 1890 Higginson wrote Mrs. Todd (AB 82): "H.H. did know of her poems till I showed them to her (about 1866) and was very little in Amherst after that. But she remembered her at school."

330a (from Higginson to Dickinson)

Sometimes I take out your letters & verses, dear friend, and when I feel their strange power, it is not strange that I find it hard to write & that long months pass. I have the greatest desire to see you, always feeling that perhaps if I could once take you by the hand I might be something to you; but till then you only enshroud yourself in this fiery mist & I cannot reach you, but only rejoice in the rare sparkles of light. Every year I think that I will contrive somehow to go to Amherst & see you: but that is hard, for I often am obliged to go away for lecturing, &c & rarely can go for pleasure. I would gladly go to Boston, at any practicable time, to meet you. I am always the same toward you, & never relax my interest in what you send to me. I should like to hear from you very often, but feel always timid lest what I write should be badly aimed & miss that fine edge of thought which you bear. It would be easy, I fear, to miss you. Still, you see, I try. I think if I could once see you & know that you are real, I might fare better. It brought you nearer e[ven] to know that you had an actual [?] uncle, though I can hardly fancy [any?] two beings less alike than yo[u] [&?] him. But I have not seen him [for] several years, though I have seen [a lady] who once knew you, but could [not] tell me much.

It is hard [for me] to understand how you can live s[o alo]ne, with thoughts of such a [quali]ty coming up in you & even the companionship of your dog withdrawn. Yet it isolates one anywhere to think beyond a certain point or have such luminous flashes as come to you - so perhaps the place does not make much difference.

You must come down to Boston sometimes? All ladies do. I wonder if it would be possible to lure you [to] the meetings on the 3d Monday of every month at Mrs. [Sa]rgent's 13 Chestnut St. at 10 am - when somebody reads [a] paper & others talk or listen. Next Monday Mr. Emerson [rea]ds & then at 3 1/2 P.M. there is a meeting of the Woman's [Cl]ub at 3 Tremont Place, where I read a paper on the [Gre]ek goddesses. That would be a good time for you to come [alth]ough I should still rather have you come on some [da]y when I shall not be so much taken up - for my object is to see you, more than to entertain you. I shall be in Boston also during anniversary week, June 25* & 28, - or will the Musical Festival in June tempt you down. You see I am in earnest. Or don't you need sea air in summer. Write & tell me something in prose or verse, & I will be less fastidious in future & willing to write clumsy things, rather than none.

Ever your friend
[signature cut out]

*There is an extra meeting at Mrs. Sargent's that day & Mr. Weiss reads an essay. I have a right to invite you & you can merely ring & walk in.

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Last updated on March 20, 2000