poems sent from dickinson to higginson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 815

MANUSCRIPTS: There are four fair copies. That reproduced above (Bingham 42b), in packet 87, was written in 1864. A second copy (H 341), in pencil and written at the same time, is addressed "Sue" and signed "Emily." It is identical in text; in form it differs somewhat. It is without stanza division; five words are not capitalized, "luxury" (lines 1, 2, 9, 10) and "food" (line 6); there is a comma after "Table" (line 13); and lines 14 and 15 are punctuated with dashes at the end and after "Certainty." Line 13 is divided thus:

On plainer Days,
Whose Table, far

The copy to T. W. Higginson (BPL Higg 20) was enclosed in a note (BPL Higg 63), postmarked 16 July 1868, that asks his critical guidance:

The Luxury to apprehend
The Luxury 'twould be
To look at thee a single time
An Epicure of me
In whatsoever presence makes
Till for a further food
I scarcely recollect to starve
So first am I supplied.
The Luxury to meditate
The Luxury it was
To banquet on thy Countenance
A sumptuousness supplies
To plainer Days whose table, far
As Certainty can see-
Is laden with a single Crumb-
The Consciousness of thee-

It quotes to him the title of ilis own January 1867 Atlantic Monthly article, and reads:

Bringing still my "plea for Culture."
Would it teach me now?

It is variant in two lines:

12. bestows] supplies
13. On] To

The fourth copy (Bingham 98-4B-18) was probably written in 1868 also, but somewhat earlier in the year. It is identical in text and form with the copy to Higginson except that "food" (line 6) is capitalized, and the last three lines lack punctuation.

PUBLICATION: SH (1914),119. The text derives from the copy to Sue, and follows the text by printing it without stanza division as a seventeen-line poem. The same text is reproduced in CP (1924). In the Centenary edition (1930) and later collections, the text is changed to conform with the Higginson variant, which the editors evidently consulted in the Boston Public Library. Lines 12 and 13 read:

A sumptuousness supplies
To plainer days

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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 February 21, 2000