Guests in Eden


With a name nine hundred years old and older, with an endowment of the queen-becoming graces, with a stature im­perially tall and slim, Martha Dickinson Bianchi might have impressed the uninitiated as a New England Brahmin. Patri­cian though she was, she scorned division. And no more than Emily Dickinson who, seemingly or deliberately unmindful of a heritage of eight generations, could write

"The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, anytime, to him
Is aristocracy;"
was her niece conscious of the accident of lineage.

To see the door of her home in Amherst left open to greet more hospitably the coming guest and then to watch the eager and alert form of Martha Dickinson Bianchi appear in the reception hall was to feel unmistakably the warmth and sincerity of her invitation:

"Come sure of a welcome-heart and soul."

Each visit to THE EVERGREENS, more than a shrine of literary pilgrimage for those who knew Emily's niece, was worthy of remembrance. For the "Emilyized" there were all the mem­orabilia of the poet: her books, her manuscripts, her portrait, her piano, her trees, and the little path "Just wide enough for two who love." And over Emily's tea cups there was scintillating conversation, for one of the hostess' many gifts was brilliant repartee. The reality of the occasion equaled its anticipation and gave promise of return to one whose friend­ ship and devotion were always green. "I shall not fail the family", she once wrote a friend. Nor could a friend fail her. Her absence as Emily had said of another, was "condensed Presence". And, despite the barrier of ocean between her and those she loved, her message was reassuring: "I shall never be far away."

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

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