letters from dickinson to jane humphrey

Thomas Johnson's Note on Letter 30

MANUSCRIPT: Rosenbach 1170/ 17 (2). Ink. Dated: Amherst January 23d/50.

PUBLICATION: G.F. Whicher, This Was a Poet . . ., New York (1938) 89, three sentences only.

Jane Humphrey, recently preceptress at Amherst Academy (1848-1849), was now teaching at Warren. Lavinia was attending Wheaton Female Seminary at Ipswich. The cousins who had been visiting were Mary Ann and Sarah J. Dickinson of Romeo, Michigan, who attended Mount Holyoke for a year. Abby Wood's home was in Athol, but she was now living with her uncle and aunt, the Luke Sweetsers, near neighbors of the Dickinsons. John Laurens Spencer (AC 1848) was now the principal of Amherst Academy. Harvey Sessions Carpenter (AC 1853) was a freshman from Warren. Albert Tolman (AC 1845) was a tutor in the college. "Belvidere" (James Parker Kimball, AC 1849) had given ED a copy of Holmes's poems (HCL), inscribed: Miss Emily E. Dickinson/ From J.P.K./ "Philopena"/ Amherst Jan. 18th 1849. Meanwhile evidently the friendship had cooled.

Ben Newton probably gave ED the copy of Emerson's Poems (1847) shortly before leaving Amherst to continue the study of law at Worcester, his native town. He was still unmarried. The cryptic sentence "I can write him in about three weeks - and I shall" presumably was clear to Jane Humphrey. This is probably ED's first letter to Jane after Jane's departure from Amherst, and therefore what knowledge the girls shared had derived from conversations. The tone of the remark suggests that ED had acceded to some parental interdiction placed upon a headlong correspondene. That ED felt a deep friendship for Newton is certain. That she was in love with him is most unlikely (see letter no. 153).

ED's expression in the second paragraph, "Out of a wicked heart cometh wicked words," is a paraphrase of Luke 6.45.

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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 June 24, 1999