letters from dickinson to elizabeth holland

Thomas Johnson's Note on Letter 269

MANUSCRIPT: missing.

PUBLICATION: L (1894) 175-176; L (1931) 169; LH 55-56: dated (presumably by ED): Friday.

This letter is dated by conjecture only. Mrs. Ward, though placing it with a question mark in 1859 (in LH), now feels that 1862 is perhaps more likely. The evidence for the later date is in the phrase "in a world where bells toll" - suggesting the war period, and especially in the sentences: "Perhaps you laugh at me! . . . I can't stop for that! My business is to love . . . My business is to sing." The juxtaposition of the sentences closely follows that in the preceding letter to Higginson: "Perhaps you smile at me. I could not stop for that - My Business is Circumference." It was in 1862 that ED indeed felt that her business was to sing.

Bulwer-Lytton's widely popular drama Richelieu (1839) might account for ED's opinion of cardinals, and Emerson's English Traits (1856) could be the source of her opinion of "cockney conceit." In context, "Herod" seems to personify the persecution of illness. Annie was ten yeras old in the summer of 1862.

This letter asking to hear from the Hollands, if it belongs here, is the only surviving message to them between 1860 and 1865 (see nos. 227 and 311).

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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 January 23, 1999