letters from dickinson to higginson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Letter 622

MANUSCRIPT: BPL (Higg 109). Pencil.

PUBLICATION: L (1894) 329; LL 318-319; L (1931) 313.

Higginson's Short Studies of American Authors, advertised as a holiday book, was published shortly before Christmas, priced at fifty cents. It contained brief critical sketches of Hawthorne, Poe, Thoreau, Howells, Helen Hunt Jackson, and Henry James. The lines from Othello, I, iii, 194-195, are also in letter no. 538. The allusion to Lowell's "Sweet Despair" in his "Slipper Hymn" must surely have mystified Higginson as it perhaps was intended to do. Yet it clearly refers to the sixth and the last stanzas of Lowell's After the Burial:

To the spirit its splendid conjectures,
To the flesh its sweet despair,
Its tears o'er the thin-worn locket
With its anguish of deathless hair!

That little shoe in the corner,
So worn and wrinkled and brown,
With its emptiness confutes you,
And argues your wisdom down.

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Commentary copyright 1998 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
Maintained by Lara Vetter <lv26@umail.umd.edu>
Last updated on September 25, 1998