letters from dickinson to jane humphrey

3 April 1850

Jane, dear Jane.

The voice of love I heeded, tho' seeming not to; the voice of affliction is louder, more earnest, and needs it's friends, and they know this need, and put on their wings of affection, and fly towards the lone one, and sing, sing sad music, but there's something sustaining in it. Your first words found me far out in the world, crowding, and hurrying, and busying, the last ones have found me there, but I have struggled with some success, and am free to be with you a little. Trouble is with you, and trial, and your spirit is sorely cumbered, and I can hardly dare to talk, earthly things seem faded, and fallen; could I speak with a right of Heaven, and the Savior, and "rest for the weary" I know I could bring strength to you, and could lift you above this cumbering; but I can tell you how dearly I love you, if this will make you happier. I have been much with you since you first wrote me, always with you, but more since then, for the last few days you have been very near, very dear indeed, and I have wished, and prayed to see you, and to hear you, and to feel your warm heart beating near me, what music in such quiet ticking! You mourn Jennie, how does it seem to mourn, you watch, and the lamp is waning, where is your spirit resting, have you any dear friend to be near you, and to tell you of peace? It would be very precious to me to do so, to be a strong arm you might lean on when you looked all around, and could find none, this is none of it permitted now, and I think, and strive, and attempt, but come no nearer the end.

Can I console so far off, wont the comfort waste in conveying, and be not, when my letter gets there? How long had your father been sick, and why hav'nt you told me before, we have certainly loved one another! How very much you have suffered, and I hav'nt known anything about it, but supposed you away in Warren, teaching, and thinking of home, and sometimes of us, and a place we wish was your home. I have dreamed of you, and talked of you, and wished for you, and have almost thought I should see you, it has seemed that some way would help me, and a providence would bring you, and yet you have not come, and I am so very tired of waiting. Some one said you would come in vacation, and I looked towards it very eagerly, made my treasures ready against it, and prepared my mind, and heart to welcome you in so kindly, and disappointment put a great cloud in my sky, and it's so high I cannot reach it, and it's doing a deal of harm. How lonely this world is growing, something so desolate creeps over the spirit and we dont know it's name, and it wont go away, either Heaven is seeming greater, or Earth a great deal more small, or God is more "Our Father," and we feel our need increased. Christ is calling everyone here, all my companions have answered, even my darling Vinnie believes she loves, and trusts him, and I am standing alone in rebellion, and growing very careless. Abby, Mary, Jane, and farthest of all my Vinnie have been seeking, and they all believe they have found; I cant tell you what they have found, but they think it is something precious. I wonder if it is? How strange is this sanctification, that works such a marvellous change, that sows in such corruption, and rises in golden glory, that brings Christ down, and shews him, and lets him select his friends! In the day time it seems like Sundays, and I wait for the bell to ring, and at evening a great deal stranger, the "still small voice" grows earnest and rings, and returns, and lingers, and the faces of good men shine, and bright halos come around them; and the eyes of the disobedient look down, and become ashamed. It certainly comes from God - and I think to receive it is blessed - not that I know it from me, but from those on whom change has passed. They seem so very tranquil, and their voices are kind, and gentle, and the tears fill their eyes so often, I really think I envy them. You know all about John Sanford, and Thurston, and all the rest, and I cant say more about it. You must pray when the rest are sleeping, that the hand may be held to me, and I may be led away.

How long does it seem since you left me, has the time been fleet, or lagging - been filled with hope, and the future, or waste, and a weary wilderness - and no one who knew the road? I would whisper to you in the evening of many, and curious things - and by the lamps eternal read your thoughts and response in your face, and find what you thought about me, and what I have done, and am doing; I know you would be surprised, whether in pleasure, or disappointment it does'nt become me to say - I have dared to do strange things - bold things, and have asked no advice from any - I have heeded beautiful tempters, yet do not think I am wrong. Oh I have needed my trusty Jane - my friend encourager, and sincere counciller, my rock, and strong assister! I could make you tremble for me, and be very much afraid, and wonder how things would end - Oh Jennie, it would relieve me to tell you all, to sit down at your feet, and look in your eyes, and confess what you only shall know, an experience bitter, and sweet, but the sweet did so beguile me - and life has had an aim, and the world has been too precious for your poor - and striving sister! The winter was all one dream, and the spring has not yet waked me, I would always sleep, and dream, and it never should turn to morning, so long as night is so blessed. What do you weave from all these threads, for I know you hav'nt been idle the while I've been speaking to you, bring it nearer the window, and I will see, it's all wrong unless it has one gold thread in it, a long, big shining fibre which hides the others - and which will fade away into Heaven while you hold it, and from there come back to me. I hope belief is not wicked, and assurance, and perfect trust - and a kind of twilight feeling before the moon is seen - I hope human nature has truth in it - Oh I pray it may not deceive - confide - cherish, have a great faith in - do you dream from all this what I mean? Nobody thinks of the joy, nobody guesses it, to all appearance old things are engrossing, and new ones are not revealed, but there now is nothing old, things are budding, and springing, and singing, and you rather think you are in a green grove, and it's branches that go, and come. I shall see you sometime darling, and that sometime may not be distant, try to grow fast, and live really, and endure, and wait in patience - and reward cannot be distant. Be strong Jennie in remembrance, dont let "bygones be bygones" - love what you are taken from, and cherish us tho, so dim. Dont put us in narrow graves - we shall certainly rise if you do, and scare you most prodigiously, and carry you off perhaps! "This is the end of the earth."

Very affectionately your friend

Emily E. Dickinson.

Vinnie and Jane send much love, and want to know whether you received two long letters from them a great while ago.

Abby says she is waiting patiently. She is well, and sends you much love; Mother, and Austin unite in the same.

Mrs Brewster has lost a sister, her beautiful sister Celia who went away on a mission; she is deeply, and greatly afflicted, and hardly knows how to submit - she cherished that sister, and loved her, and she cannot resign her so soon. Her remains will be brought to Blandford as soon as the 1st of May, and as she is preserved in spirit, they hope she will still be natural, and they can part with her then more willingly.

Mr Spencer is very comfortable - I have faith that the spring will revive him, and give him some newness of life, and strength. No news from our "Theologian" Jennie, he must have "made way with himself" - I really dont care if he has. I am hushed as the night when I write her, and of him I hear not a tiding. I only prayed for pride - I have received yet more; indifference, and he may go "where he listeth," and never a bit care I. Something else has helped me forget that, a something surer, and higher, and I sometimes laugh in my sleeve. Dont betray me Jennie - but love, and remember, and write me, and I shall one day meet you.

thomas johnson's note on letter 35 | index to dickinson/humphrey letters

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