poems from dickinson to ned dickinson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 1185

MANUSCRIPT: About December 1871, in packet 38 (H 205a). These lines evidently were composed with the thought of her nephew Ned in mind. He was ten years old at the time. A note, now lost, which she wrote him incorporates a variant reading of the last eight lines:

The cat that in the corner sits
Her martial time forgot -
The rat but a tradition now
Of her desireless lot,
Another class reminds me of -
Who neither please nor play,
But - "not to make a bit of noise"
Adjure each little boy!

P.S. Grandma characteristically hopes Neddy will be a good boy. Obtuse ambition of Grandma's!

In a letter to Sue (H B 59) written during the summer of 1866, when Ned was five, ED supplies a budget of family news and says of Ned:

...Grandma "hoped" characteristically "he would be a very good boy." ... Obtuse ambition of Grandmamas!
It is possible that Mrs. Bianchi, when she published the poem sent to Ned, attached the sentences about Ned taken from the letter written to Sue five years before; such was occasionally her practice.

PUBLICATION: The text of the packet copy is in BM (1945), 88, derived from a transcript made by Mrs. Todd. The note to Ned is in Atlantic Monthly, CXV (1915), 38; and LL (1924), 59, whence the text above derives.

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Commentary copyright 1998 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
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Last updated on February 21, 2000