Guests in Eden

To be in the company of the last of the Dickinsons was to be at home with genius. Called to the high office of poetry, she functioned with ease in the provinces of fiction and biog­raphy. And she was equally facile in translation. Her many­ faceted personality captured the spirit of the originals. She caught the vivacity of the French, the violence of the Russian.

Never could she, then, have sung with Alice Meynell, "I am a poet of one mood in all my lays." The same infinite variety marked her day. Dedicated to the ideal, to the artistic by nature and biassed with a Mary mind, she was a Martha, too, not only in name but in conscience. There were the every­ day interests, the urgent circumstances, and the persisting min­utiae of "the other house" to be met, overcome, or maintained. They exercised her spirit, as one of her letters reveals: "I must stop for small duties downstairs of wilted flowers and undusted chairs."

The obligations of authorship and the honor of being Emily's niece were pleasing but not the less demanding upon her energy and time. "Time, time is all I need," she, too, might have complained. Yet Martha Dickinson Bianchi never lost faith nor hope. To one solicitous about her health and her happiness in mind and heart, she replied:

"Perhaps just knowing that we are prayed for makes us strive to answer our part-at least produces what a friend used to say 'a mixture of grit and grace'."

Though life was too often "high tide", to use her own words, though she was "quite at sea externally" as to some of her friends, yet she was always "at anchor with their spirit." They were a harbor for her trust. She knew their loyalty attended her every effort.

Distinguished by the Dickinson reserve, less emphatic, how­ever, than Emily’s "polar privacy", a reserve which, broken or maintained, dominated any coterie, Martha Dickinson Bianchi was, likewise, set apart with a sense of humility. Conscious of her own inadequacy to decide an issue unerringly, she would manifest her disposition for any revelation of guidance that

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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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