The Dickinson Feud

are not subtle!" He took his hat and went, but as he slammed the gate, looking back angrily at the tall figure, he called, "I am too, subtle!"

If a personal tragedy had not befallen Martha, the Dickinson feud might have remained a fairly simple affair, involving only Emily's manuscripts and Austin's susceptibility, but I saw for myself the dramatic episode which caused a rift between Martha and the people of Amherst. Letters from Mrs. Dickinson to Mrs. Davis begin to hint that the European wanderings were overclouded. The whisper spread that Martha had met a mysterious gentleman whom she was determined to marry, though her mother disapproved. In time a formal announcement dropped into all the prominent households, that Martha was the wife of a certain Captain Alexander Bianchi, a Russian of old family in spite of his name, and if you please and officer in the Czar's private guard. The Captain's military duties necessitated the spending of practically all his time on the Riviera.

Amherst was delighted. The general verdict was that a proud Dickinson had been taken in by a foreigner. The townsfolk wished that Martha would hurry home so they could look him over and decide who had caught which. In the spring of the year Martha obliged. She brought him home, and at once invited a select group of residents to a reception in his honor. Everything went wrong from the start. The hand-picking of the guests was a triumph of public relations in reverse. It was reported that she wished her husband to see Amherst at its best, and was therefore introducing to him only those neighbors who were cultured and widely traveled. The Todds were not asked.

At the party the Captain courted disaster by wearing a super-gorgeous costume, which Martha said was the dress uniform of the Czar's favorite guard, but which local connoisseurs recognized as the best suit of the Springfield bandmaster. A new Steinway stood in the drawing room, the Captain's wedding gift to Martha, but once more Springfield provided corrective information. Those acquainted with piano dealers there were prepared within a week to venture the opinion, or something more than opinion, that the check which paid for the Steinway had been Martha's. The refreshments at the reception were generous, and in a gush of sentiment for her native New England Martha had rather played up cider and doughnuts, but the Captain declined, announcing in a French which Amherst could understand that he drank nothing but champagne.

In short, he gave an atrocious performance, and the anti-Bianchi faction

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Transcription and commentary copyright 2000 by
Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved.
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Last updated on March 10, 2008

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