letters from dickinson to jane humphrey

23 January 1850

Dear Jane.

I have written you a great many letters since you left me - not the kind of letters that go in post-offices - and ride in mail-bags - but queer - little silent ones - very full of affection - and full of confidence - but wanting in proof to you - therefore not valid - somehow you wll not answer them - and you would paper, and ink letters - I will try one of those - tho' not half so precious as the other kind. I have written those at night - when the rest of the world were at sleep - when only God came between us - and no one else might hear. No need of shutting the door - nor of whispering timidly - nor of fearing the ear of listeners - for night held them fast in his arms that they could not interfere - and his arms are brawny and strong. Sometimes I did'nt know but you were awake - and I hoped you wrote with that spirit pen - and on sheets from out the sky. Did you ever - and were we together in any of those nights? I do love - and remember you Jane - and have tried to convince you of it ocularly - but it is not easy to try just as we are at home - Vinnie away - and my two hands but two - not four, or five as they ought to be - and so many wants - and me so very handy - and my time of so little account - and my writing so very needless - and really I came to the conclusion that I should be a villain unparralleled if I took but an inch of time for so unholy a purpose as writing a friendly letter - for what need had I of sympathy - or very much less of affection - or less than they all - of friends - mind the house - and the food - sweep if the spirits were low - nothing like exercise to strengthen - and invigorate - and help away such foolishness - work makes one strong, and cheerful - and as for society what neighborhood so full as my own? The halt - the lame - and the blind - the old - the infirm - the bed-ridden - and superannuated - the ugly, and disagreeable - the perfectly hateful to me - all these to see - and be seen by - an opportunity rare for cultivating meekness - and patience - and submission - and for turning my back to this very sinful, and wicked world. Somehow or other I incline to other things - and Satan covers them up with flowers, and I reach out to pick them. The path of duty looks very ugly indeed - and the place where I want to go more amiable - a great deal - it is so much easier to do wrong than right - so much pleasanter to be evil than good, I dont wonder that good angels weep - and bad ones sing songs. It is a great while since I've seen you Jane - and really I miss you sincerely - the days would go swifter were you in the end - and the sight of your hood would lift me up certainly - I do wish that you could be here. The year went away so fast we had'nt time to think - had I known it would carry you with it I certainly would have thought. Only another too late to put with the rest - one more to reproach - and to look sadly out of large - dark eyes - and there will be more - and more if we live to help make them. It seemed so pleasant to have you - to know that I might see you - that I sank into a kind of stupor - and did'nt know - or care - or think that I could not see you always - and while I slept you faded all away - and was gone when I waked up. "Why where am I - how came I here - who put me in - who'll take me out - where's my servant - where are my friends - you hav'nt got any." The immortal Pickwick himself could'nt have been more amazed when he found himself soul - body and - spirit incarcerated in the pound than was I myself when they said she had gone - gone! Gone how - or where - or why - who saw her go - help - hold - bind - and keep her - put her into States-prison - into the House of Correction - bring out the long lashed whip - and put her feet in the stocks - and give her a number of stripes and make her repent her going! They say you are teaching in Warren - are happy - then I know you are good - for none but the good are happy - you are out of the way of temptation - and out of the way of the tempter - I did'nt mean to make you wicked - but I was - and am - and shall be - and I was with you so much that I could'nt help contaminate. Are you ever lonely in Warren - are you lonely without me - very lonely the last to be sure - but I want to know.

Vinnie you know is away - and that I'm very lonely is too plain for me to tell you - I am alone - all alone. She wrote that she'd heard from you - and had written you herself - did she say she was homesick? She knew that her letters to me would be family affairs - and she cant tell me anything at all - she dont dare to - and I'd rather she would'nt either. When I knew Vinnie must go I clung to you as the dearer than ever friend - but when the grave opened - and swallowed you both - I murmured - and thought I had a right to - I hav'nt changed my mind yet - either. I love to be surly - and muggy - and cross - then I remember you - and feel that I do a kind of justice to you - and myself - which eases my conscience wonderfully. Oh ugly time - and space - and boarding-school contemptible that tries to keep us apart - laugh now if you will - but you shall howl hereafter! Eight weeks with their bony fingers still poking me away - how I hate them - and would love to do them harm! Is it wicked to talk so Jane - what can I say that isnt? Out of a wicked heart cometh wicked words - let us sweep it out - and brush away the cob-webs - and garnish it - and make ready for the Master! There is a good deal going on just now - the two last weeks of vacation were full to the brim of fun. Austin was reading Hume's History until then - and his getting it through was the signal for general uproar. Campaign opened by a sleigh ride on a very magnificent plan to which my dear Jane would have been joyfully added - had she been in town - a party of ten from here met a party of the same number from Greenfield - at South-Deerfield the evening next New Year's - and had a frolic, comprising charades - walking around indefinitely - music - conversation - and supper - set in most modern style; got home at two o'clock - and felt no worse for it the next morning - which we all thought was very remarkable. Tableaux at the President's followed next in the train - a Sliding party close upon it's heels - and several cozy sociables brought up the rear. To say nothing of a party universale at the house of Sydney Adams - and one confidentiale at Tempe Linnell's. How we miss our friend at all of these things! I would gladly exchange them all for one evening's talk with the friends I love - but it may not be. If every prayer was answered, there would be nothing left to pray for - we must "suffer - and be strong." Shall we be strong - wont suffering make weaker this human - it makes stronger not us - but what God gave, and what he will take - mourn our bodies ever so loudly. We do not know that he is God - and will try to be still - tho' we really had rather complain. The Sewing Society has commenced again - and held its first meeting last week - now all the poor will be helped - the cold warmed - the warm cooled - the hungry fed - the thirsty attended to - the ragged clothed - and this suffering - tumbled down world will be helped to it's feet again - which will be quite pleasant to all. I dont attend - notwithstanding my high approbation - which must puzzle the public exceedingly. I am already set down as one of those brands almost consumed - and my hardheartedness gets me many prayers. Spencer is slowly improving - said he heard from you a little while ago - and seemed much gratified. Abby Haskell too is much better - I verily believe they will live in spite of the "angel of death." Tolman I do not see - guess he is pining away - and cant say I blame him in view of the facts in the case. I shant tell you what ails him - for it is a private matter - and you ought not to know! How could you be so cruel Jane - it will certainly be the death of him - and t'will be laid at your door if it is. Write me soon darling!

Very sincerly yrs-

Emily E. Dickinson.

Have you ever seen Carpenter in Warren? Has he recovered yet - I saw him at the Levee - and remembered him - and I want to know about him. Abby Wood is in Athol. Her only brother is very low - and probably cannot recover. I pity the child with my whole heart - she is too young to suffer so. I had a letter - and Ralph Emerson's Poems - a beautiful copy - from Newton the other day. I should love to read you them both - they are very pleasant to me. I can write him in about three weeks - and I shall. Did you know that Payson had gone to Ohio to live? I was so sorry to have him go - but everyone is going - we shall all go - and not return again before long. Kavanagh says "there will be mourning - mourning - mourning at the judgment seat of Christ" - I wonder if that is true? I had a letter from Lyman a little while since - you may read it sometime.

Two cousins of mine from South-Hadley are staying their vacation with us. I can hardly tell whether I am enjoying their visit, or not - but I rather think I am, as I dont certainly know - now do you ever tell of this - and I will certainly put you into a sleep which you cant wake from! Abiah Root has been in Amherst - stayed only a week - but long enough for me to know her anew as a splendid girl. She is a treasure surely. She has written me since she went home - and we are going to correspond again. I have written to Belvidere - and young "D.D." will feel some things I think - at any rate I intended he should - and wrote accordingly. It would have done your own heart good. All send you much love.

thomas johnson's note on letter 30 | index to dickinson/humphrey letters

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