poems from dickinson to thomas niles

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 1562

MANUSCRIPTS: There are two, both written in the spring of 1883. The copy above was sent to Thomas Niles (Bingham 106), editor of the publishing house of Roberts Brothers, incorporated in a letter written in April. ED comments on having read Mathilde Blind's life of George Eliot, just published by Niles' firm, and concludes with the commemorative lines. The variant copy to Sue (H 266) was evidently adapted to some personal loss which Sue shared:

Her Losses made our Gains ashamed -
He bore Life's empty Pack
As gallantly as if the East
Were swinging at his Back -
Life's empty Pack is heaviest
As every Porter knows -
In vain to punish Honey -
It only sweeter grows -

Perhaps it was sent shortly after 15 May, the day that William Hawley Dickinson - the favorite "Cousin Willie" - died at Saratoga. Part of a worksheet draft (Bingham 109-5), written on a scrap of wrapping paper, gives the two final lines:

In vain to punish Honey
it only sweeter grows

PUBLICATION: The letter to Niles is in Letters (ed. 1894), 418; (ed. 1931), 407; also in LL (1924), 377.

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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 February 21, 2000