Guests in Eden

which I heard as a child-things my grandmother and parents had said about Emily and Lavinia, Austin and Uncle Edward. Emily died just about the time I was born, so that what I knew about her came to me from the older ones, who had known her or who had come in contact with Lavinia. My grandfather paid occasional visits to his brother Edward, and memories of sayings, connected with his journeys to Amherst, almost forgotten, came to life when I saw Martha. I can re­member that he-said of his brother's household that it was "a house of high talk and gracious living"I knew that he entertained a profound admiration for his brother Edward.

I think that the Dickinsons have nearly always regarded life with a "furious" seriousness. They held high ideals, and found human performance very disappointing. Perhaps that may be said of anyone who is possessed of imagination and a sense of the fitness of things.

Weighed against the background of their age and way of life, considering the stress of those tragic years of conflict, the story of that Amherst family should.. be interpreted with more understanding than most people seem to be capable of giving it.

To me, Martha Dickinson Bianchi seemed the epitome of uncompromising ideals and courage. She made staunch friends and bitter enemies as well. Unlike her aunt Emily, she loved the world from the outside, as well as the secret things of the spirit. She faced the world without fear, but with a lance to break against the unseen antagonist, and human tyrannies.

One of her greatest talents resided in her epigrammatic speech. She was one of the most brilliant conversationalists I ever met. It was difficult to match her wit, and her flashing repartee and great high spirit never seemed to falter.

I think of her sailing out against the distant horizon, burn­ing on her funeral pyre as the old Vikings went to meet their Tomorrow-victoriously.

My world appears much more dead for lack of her living in it.


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