The Dickinson Feud

If he came on a group of boys singing, in a fraternity house or out of doors, her frequently asked them to sing "his song."

From town report I learned that Austin Dickinson had been a remarkable man, in his time Amherst's leading citizen, as his father Edward had been before him. His widow Susan was well known in the household of Mrs. Davis-that is, to Mrs. Davis and Miss Hinsdale, and to some of the old graduates who visited Mrs. Davis whenever they returned to Amherst. I gathered that Susan Dickinson had a mind much above the ordinary; those who know her agreed that in her prime she was a proper mate for Austin, his equal in culture and his superior in social grace. By all odds she was, they said, the most brilliant talker in that part of the state. From Miss Hinsdale, from Professor Bigelow, and from Dr. Frederick Jones Bliss, one of the old graduates, I gathered details about the daughter Martha, or Mattie. They all said she was tall, self-willed, perhaps erratic, with more than her mother's talent for extraordinary conversation. Miss Hinsdale and Biggie denied that she had any charm, but they persuaded me that she had a good deal, for Miss Hinsdale was jealous of her, and Biggie could not hide the fact that as a boy he had admired her, and perhaps she had not sufficiently admire him.

"Martha Dickinson?" he explained when I asked about her. "Why, she and I played together when we were children! Many a time I've strapped the skates on that girl's ankles! She's a snob, that's all the matter with her."

Miss Hinsdale poked fun at Martha for going to Europe so often-accused her of hunting a husband there, and of having hunted a long time, in vain. In the winter of 1903-1904, Martha was thirty-eight. But I knew that Miss Hinsdale herself, for whatever purpose, would have been glad to see Europe again.

Dr. Fred Jones said frankly that during his College course he had been madly in love with Martha and was still proud of his good taste, but she was too much for him. He and she both, at the age of eighteen or nineteen, were ambitious to talk like the characters in George Meredith's novel. Martha believed it was an art and therefore could be learned, so she had him over, quite frequently, to sit on the Dickinson porch and practice Meredithian conversation. But one day, after a few minutes of it, she stood up and told him to go home. He gasped, but she meant it. "I told you to go home, Fred! You are not subtle today." Then he laughed at her, but it did him no good. "Fred, you weary me today-you

image | previous page | next page | search the archives

  Critical Materials Main Menu
Transcription and commentary copyright 2000 by
Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved.
Maintained by Lara Vetter <>
Last updated on March 10, 2008

Dickinson Electronic Archives