poems sent from dickinson to higginson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 816

MANUSCRIPTS: The copy reproduced above (BPL Higg 17) was enclosed in a letter to T. W. Higginson (BPL Higg 59), postmarked 17 March 1866. There are two other fair copies, both written some two years earlier, about 1864. The text of all three is identical; differences are in form only. The copy to Sue (H B 81), written in pencil, is addressed "Sue-" and signed "Emily.":

A Death blow-is a Life blow- to Some-
Who, till they died-
Did not alive-become-
Who had they lived
Had died, but when
They died, Vitality begun-

The copy in packet 87 (Bingham 43b) reads thus:

A Death blow is a Life blow, to Some,
Who till they died, did not alive become
Who had they lived had died, but when
They died, Vitality begun.

PUBLICATION: The poem was first published in Atlantic Monthly, LXVIII (October 1891), 455, in an article which Higginson wrote dealing with the letters and poems he had received from ED. The same copy was later reproduced in Letters (ed. 1894), 319; (ed. 1931), 294; also LL (1924), 293. The poem was first collected in Poems (1891), 187, where it presumably derives from the same source, since at that time Mrs. Todd did not possess a copy (AB, 130).

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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