MANUSCRIPTS: The copy reproduced above (H 47a), in packet 26, was written about July, 1862. The handwriting and the text are identical with a copy (BPL Higg 6) enclosed with three other poems in a letter to T. W. Higginson (BPL Higg 54) in July 1862:
Your Riches - taught me - poverty -The third copy (H B 44) seems to have been written somewhat earlier, perhaps in March of the same year. Four words in the text differ from words used in the later copies. It is headed, "Dear Sue.," and concludes with the note:
Dear Sue -It has been plausibly suggested that this poem was written in memory of Benjamin Franklin Newton, ED's "earliest friend" (see George Frisbie Whicher, This Was a Poet [Scribner's, 1939], 93). Newton had been a law student in the office of Edward Dickinson during the years 1847-1848. He removed to Worcester in 1850, was married in the following year, and died of consumption on 24 March 1853, in the thirty-third year of his life. It was he who introduced Emily to the writings of the Bronte sisters, presented her with a copy of Emerson's poems, and awakened in her the delight in literature which later made her call him the "friend who taught me Immortality." ED's memory of anniversaries was unfailing and so often demonstrated that there is a real probability, especially in the light of ED's note accompanying the note to Sue, that this poem was composed for the ninth anniversary of Newton's death.
Your - Riches - taught me - poverty!The four variant readings are:
3. can] couldThis poem seems to have verbal echoes of Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici (Part 2, section 13):
I was not born unto riches, neither is it I think my Star to be wealthy . . . I have no Peru in my desires, but a competence, and ability to perform those good works to which he hath inclined my nature. He is rich, who hath enough to be charitable . . .PUBLICATION: The copy to Higginson was the source of the first publication of the poem in Atlantic Monthly, LXVIII (October 1891), 446, and is there incorporated in an article which Higginson wrote dealing with the letters and poems he had received from ED. It was collected later in the year in Poems (1891), 91-92. This later printing follows the stanza division of the packet copy and may have derived from it, though Mrs. Todd wrote Col. Higginson on 18 May 1891 that she did not at that time have a copy of it (AB, 130).