letters between dickinson and jackson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Letter 476a

ED during this year was in correspondence with Mrs. Jackson, and received from her this letter (L 476a) (HCL), dated: Princeton, Mass/Aug. 20./1876.

It seems to answer a letter from ED inquiring why Mrs. Jackson had not written. The first of the poems in Helen Jackson's possession were probably copies she had made of those sent to Colonel Higginson. The enclosed circular dealt with the "No Name Series" of books soon to be issued by Roberts Brothers of Boston, under the editorship of Thomas Niles. They were to be anonymous, each, according to the circular, to be written by "a great unknown." The first was Helen Hunt Jackson's Mercy Philbrick's Choice, published in September. ED evidently withheld reply, and Mrs. Jackson visited Amherst on 10 October and paid a call. ED's letter to Higginson written shortly thereafter drew this response from him (HCL), dated: Newport, R.I./Oct. 22. 1876:


My dear friend

My wife wishes to thank you very much for your note & sweet little rosebuds. We are quite busy, as we are just going to housekeeping, which pleases us very much; we have a nice American woman who is to keep house for us, & we both prefer it. (For six years we have been boarding.) When you come to Newport, my wife says, you must come & see us.

Now as to your letter of inquiry; It is always hard to judge for another of the bent of inclination or range of talent; but I should not have thought of advising you to write stories, as it would not seem to me to be in your line. Perhaps Mrs. Jackson thought that the change & variety might be good for you: but if you really feel a strong unwillingness to attempt it, I don't think she would mean to urge you. The celebrated prison-reformer, Mrs. Fry, made it one of her rules that we must follow, not force, Providence; & there is never any good in forcing it.

If you like to do it, I should be glad to be remembered to your brother & sister, and to your sister-in-law.

Ever your friend
T. W. Higginson

PS My wife thought you might like to have this photograph of me, unless you have it; as it is in some respects the best I have ever had taken, though the expression is not altogether true.

Higginson misunderstood, thinking the circular spoke of stories only. The following letter (L 476c) (HCL) Helen Jackson wrote from Ashfield shortly after her call [part has been cut away].

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Commentary copyright 1998 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
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Last updated on October 2, 1998