Guests in Eden

Often, often, she spoke with admiration of her mother whom she called "Dollie."* One sensed that these two had been wonderfully congenial and sympathetic, both in their affec­tions and minds. I came away with quite a picture of Austin Dickinson as well as the elder Edward, and was justified in my idea that Emily was the apple of her father's eye.

The last time I went to THE EVERGREENS to say goodbye, Mr. Hampson asked Madame Bianchi to show me Emily's manu­script poems. She was not well that day but she consented and went upstairs for them, returning with a box. When those tiny rolls of paper in-the familiar handwriting (I had seen it in facsimile) and tied with green and white string, were laid in my lap, I had my doubts as to whether I was alive and real. For so many years Emily, the poet, had been one of my su­preme admirations. Her niece also gave me for inspection her mother, "Sister Sue's", scrapbook, and this I gathered was not often displayed to anyone.

I happened to say, "What a pity that Emily did not marry!" "What?" said my hostess with spirit, "Marry? To face the coal bin and the meals. She would not have been equal to it." And I noticed that she never explained or vouchsafed informa­tion about the man her aunt was reported to have loved. That was a sealed book, save to her.

Mr. Hampson was most kind. Several copies of the collec­tions of poems were autographed and given me; and he took me in person next door to show me the Dickinson house and Emily's garden. I had already visited her grave.

Our friendship-or so it seemed to me-did not end when I left her town, where those who knew and loved her often spoke of her as "Madame Martha". When she came to New York that winter to stay at her favorite abiding place, the National Arts Club, we had other pleasant meetings; one with My brother, William Rose Benet and his wife, Marjorie Flack.

*This statement identifies "Dollie," Emily’s "pet name for a friend as yet unidentified," as her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert Dickinson, Madame Bianchi’s mother. [See Bolts of Melody (Harper, 1945): footnote, p.323, And the "Dollie" poems, pp. 323-326.]

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Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved.
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Last updated on March 10, 2008

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