Susan & Emily Dickinson:
Their Lives, In Letters
She [Lavinia Dickinson] feels a little baffled by my possession of so many mss. of Emily's.
- Susan Dickinson to William Hayes Ward, editor of The Independent, 14 March 1891
The first poem "To Sue" is beautiful. I could have wept over it. Some are rather obscure -
I must read them many times.
Such genius and mysticism as Emily possessed often transcends mortal comprehension.
- Kate Anthon, long-time friend of Susan and Emily, to Martha Dickinson Bianchi upon publication of The Single Hound, "a volume offered as a memorial to the love of these 'Dear, dead Women,'" in 1914
. . .Do you remem-
ber what whis-
- Emily to Susan Dickinson, spring 1886, within weeks of Emily's death. As Hamlet lay dying, he whispered "Report me and my cause aright" and memoll my story" to Horatio. (OMC 253)
During the first century of public distribution of her literary work, many facts about Emily Dickinson's writing practices and about her decades-long alliance with her sister-in-law, Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson, have become clearer. As her poems moved from manuscript and hand circulation to printed volumes and various editions, tools such as Thomas H. Johnson's variorum The Poems of Emily Dickinson (1955), his three-volume The Letters of Emily Dickinson (1958), Jay Leyda's two-vol and House of Emily Dickinson (1960), R. W. Franklin's two-volume The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson (1981), and his three-volume variorum The Poems of Emily Dickinson (1998) have proved indispensable for Dickinson scholars. Yet the facts about Susan and Emily Dickinson's relationship recounted in the following paragraph lack what Susan and Emily called "phosphorescence" and Percy Bysshe Shelley called the "uncommunicated lightning" of mind in his introduction to Prometheus Unbound. Echoing Shelley, Emily remarked to Susan that some had "the Facts but not the Phosphorescence," or understanding, "of Knowledge" ("Notes Toward a Volume of ED's Writing," WSD). All of the above lack understanding of Susan and Emily Dickinson's relationship because the facts they convey about it have neither been adequately interrogated nor read in a framework making clear their profound significance for understanding Dickinson's poetic project. These perplexities in interpretation are perhaps inevitable in a culture with a limited (and heterosexualized) range of storylines for scripting poetic influence and erotic devotions. This essay will review those facts, analyze the history of their "lives" in Dickinson study, and will conclude discussing the importance of recovering the biography of this relationship for understanding Emily Dickinson's writing practices. Born nine days after Emily Dickinson on December 19, 1830, about ten miles away from Amherst in Old Deerfield, Massachusetts, and dying May 12, 1913, almost twenty-seven years to the day after Emily, Susan and Emily have been called "nearly twins" by some (Mudge 93), and indeed they enjoyed many mutual passions-for literature, especially poetry, and for gardening, recipes, music, nature.
Here are a few facts about Emily Dickinson, her writing practices, and her relationship with Susan: Emily sent Susan substantially more writings than were addressed to any other (more than twice the number than to her next most frequently addressed correspondent, Thomas Wentworth Higginson), and these nearly 500 writings constitute one of two major corpora that Dickinson bequeathed to the world at her death (the other being the more than 800 poems in the fascicles). The number of texts alone testify that Susan was Emily's most trusted reader and critic, and the record shows that the two engaged in a literary dialogue that lasted for decades, and the better part of Dickinson's life. Correspondents for nearly forty years and next door neighbors for three decades, their relationship was constant, from the time they were girls together until Emily's death in 1886. Emily and Susan began writing one another when they were in their late teens, perhaps earlier. Their mutual passions, especially for literature, were well-known to their contemporaries, and at least one-their mutual friend, editor Samuel Bowles, in an 1862 letter to Susan-acknowledged their writing together. As Emily writes more and more to Susan, poetry emerges in, within, and from the epistolary scriptures, and as Emily writes more and more poems to Susan, the lyrics become more and more bold in theme, imagery, form. Material evidence in Susan's papers shows that Emily was sending Susan pencilled, or what appear to be draft, versions of poems that she would record in her manuscript books, or "fascicles," in ink. This is especially significant since critics, editors, and biographers have long believed that Emily did not share drafts of her poems with any other contemporary. Other material evidence in Susan's papers and in the writings to her husband, Emily's brother Austin, shows that someone sought to expunge affectionate expressions by Emily to and about Sue. As readers will see, Mabel Loomis Todd, one of the first two editors producing volumes of Dickinson's poems, wanted to obfuscate the centrality of Susan's roles in Emily's writing processes, and went to great lengths to suppress any trace of Susan as literary collaborator and confidante.
However, though noticed in biographies by mention and in editions by tabulation, all these facts have remained dispersed and scattered, and thus generally uninterpreted. In other words, the story these facts tell has, until recently, not been uttered. Simply and succinctly put, these facts show that as most beloved friend, influence, muse, and advisor whose editorial suggestions Dickinson sometimes followed, Susan played a primary role in Emily's creative processes. For more than a century, others have tried to hide Susan's role as Emily's literary confidante.
Facts about the relationship's constancy and longevity were well-known to their contemporaries, but they have been passed along to posterity through a variety of testimonies, two of which are the central players in determining the relationship's reception. Closest to the source of any and all is Martha Dickinson Bianchi, Susan's daughter and Emily's niece, who has generally (and unfairly) been received as nearly always unreliable. The other key source is one who knew the relationship only from a distance. Though received by many as objective, this source could not possibly be so, having been from the perspective of Susan's husband's mistress, Mabel Loomis Todd. In the course of her affair with Emily's brother Austin, Loomis Todd served as editor of the first three volumes of Emily's poems. So while editing Susan's best friend's poems, she played satisfying mistress to Susan's disappointing wife. Not surprisingly, then, the story about Susan's role in Emily Dickinson's writing life has never been uttered in a full, coherent narrative, but has only been relayed in competing versions, and partially, with many key facts hidden or trivialized.
Other key facts about the writings of this relationship have been available but have either gone unnoticed or have not been analyzed for their significance, even by those who have access to them. In effect, these facts have been privatized, reserved for editors and scholars engaged in manuscript study. Indeed, these facts underscore the significance of Emily pencilling versions of poems sent to Susan in a "rough draft" or more casual hand, while she recorded versions of those poems in the fascicles in her "performance" or finalized "script" (Rowing in Eden, 62-63). Indeed, what is signaled by the fact that Emily wrote Susan in pencil while she almost always wrote all others in the more formal medium of ink. And what is signaled by the fact that Emily wrote on diverse types of paper to Susan (graph, scrap, and formal embossed paper of all sizes) while with other correspondents she almost always used more formal, often gilt-trimmed stationery, in effect dressing her texts like a gift edition of poetry or a deluxe edition of biblical scripture. The profound cumulative effects of these facts that seem negligible in isolation from one another have remained obscure, lying dormant as "undiscovered public knowledge." Like "scattered pieces of a puzzle" this knowledge has lain in scholarly books and articles and in manuscript collections but remained "unknown because 'its logically related parts. . .have never become to known to any one person'" who could then transmit that knowledge to the public (Love 9). Even as attention to Dickinson's manuscripts has increased exponentially in this decade's turn toward the twenty-first century (witnessed by the fact that so many books of Dickinson criticism published in the 1990s feature some facsimile image of her scripture on their covers)1, the prevailing assumption has been that any knowledge discovered through analyses of the original documents is of primary interest to specialists. The meanings of facts regarding the materiality of Dickinson's manuscripts for literary history and for understanding the poet Emily Dickinson's writing projects have thus been inaccessible to the general reader.
The textual body, Dickinson's manuscripts, is a powerful witness to Susan's entanglements in Emily's compositional and distribution practices. Sending another writings in one's casual script (as Emily does to Susan), in the handwriting more similar to one's private notes, is an act that speaks trust, familiarity, routine. Sometimes placing those writings on less formal stationery, scraps of paper lacking gilt edges or elegant embossments to impress likewise signals the intimacy of comfortable quotidian exchange, a correspondence not bounded by and to special occasions, but an everyday writing habit taking as its subject any element of life's course, from the monumental death of a beloved to the presumably negligible nuisance of indigestion. These expressions to and about Susan uttered in pencil, ink, on elegant stationery and on the backs of envelopes were powerful enough to drive Susan herself to destroy those "too personal and adulatory ever to be printed" ("Correspondence with William Hayes Ward," 14 March 1891, WSD) and to provoke someone else to scissor half of a sheet out of one of Emily's early, four-page letters to Austin, to erase several lines out of another and words out of others, and to ink over every line of "One Sister have I in the house" (F 2, JP 14, FP 5; see also OMC 30).
Public and private forces have thus worked in concert to leave untold stories about meanings of the fact that so many poems were sent to a single contemporary and about what might motivate readers (including the addressee herself) to feel justified suppressing writings to that primary audience of Dickinson. Following the conventions of typographical bookmaking, editors first working with the Dickinson documents were more focused on relaying the linguistic elements of her writings and the stories embedded therein and ignored the stories spelled by the material elements of her writings altogether. As the first century of reading Dickinson progressed and editors such as Johnson and Franklin began to grapple more and more with the material elements, the amount of information to be gleaned, sorted, and evaluated proved to be astounding. Conventional principles of selection discouraged recognition of the salience of material facts like paper type and size that are so telling in the Susan corpus. At the same time a particular reception of Susan's relevance to Emily's writing had been set, one that held that Susan was important but was most interested in her own daughter's career. Though that reception diminishing Susan as audience for Emily's writing was by mid-twentieth century a public one and has influenced Dickinson's editors, its origins are private. The failure to interpret these stories conveyed through the distinctive nature of the writings and then through physical handlings of them has not simply been a matter of editorial priorities. Consequently, this extraordinary body-"so many mss. of Emily's" in Susan's possession-and their many characteristics, especially physical aspects that relay information about the nature of this relationship (such as the pictorial elements, drawings and cutouts, to which Susan herself called attention), tended to confound.
The Lives of the Facts in Dickinson Study
Emily Dickinson died in 1886 and her poems were introduced to the reading public in 1890 as Poems by Emily Dickinson, edited by Mabel Loomis Todd and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. During her lifetime, Dickinson circulated her writings primarily through manuscript distribution in her correspondences, but posthumous editors have circulated her writings in printed books. Thus her writings moved from the realm of gift exchange to that of commodities bought and sold, from a world where Emily's "Mine" was Susan's "your own" (OMC 243) and "Copyright" mutual (OMC 244) to a province where "Publication - is the Auction" (F 37; JP 704, FP 788), law prevails, and copyright is mandated by courts. In commodification's geography of being poetry is not so much "my sermon - my hope - my solace - my life" ("Letter to Curtis Hidden Page," WSD) as it was to Susan, but is "my property." Authors in the realm of literary trade are celebrities, and audience desires and expectations begin to shape publishers' notions of how authors are, even of what authors look like, and popular images begin to function as stereotypes. Just as the composite biography of rock star-image of especially long, spikey, flourescent, or otherwise unusual hair, provocative dress, and easy access to lots of sex and drugs-still lurks around the performance of any rock & roller today, so the composite (stereotypical) biography of the poetess lurked in the minds of all (including herself) a nineteenth-century poetess's readers. In 1890 audiences were prepared to receive a reclusive figure who robed herself in white and harbored some "secret sorrow" quietly as she wrote poems at home, and publishers knew that solitary literary figure was marketable (Walker 82-89).2 So when Loomis Todd and Higginson edited their volume, the conventional image of the poetess was in their minds, that of their publisher, and that of their audience. But theirs was not the first plan for a posthumous volume of Emily Dickinson's poems.
Knowing that Susan had been Emily's most trusted literary audience, Emily's sister Lavinia first turned to Susan to accomplish the task of editing the poems for print. Between Dickinson's death and the first printed volume of her work four years later, Susan began to work on what one might call her "Book of Emily's Writings." As Dickinson's primary audience, Susan determined that including writings that were "rather more full, and varied" (December 1890 letter to Higginson; AB 86-87) than the conventional presentation made in Poems by Emily Dickinson was in order. Loomis Todd and Higginson had separated the poems from their original contexts in letters and in manuscript books and divided them into the predictable subjects anticipated by audiences-books of poetry tended to organize lyrics into categories such as "Life, Love, Time & Eternity, Nature," the sections used for all three books of Poems by Emily Dickinson in which Loomis Todd had a hand. In telling contrast, Susan wanted to showcase Emily's "early letters quite surpassing the correspondence of Gunderodi[e] with Bettine [von Arnim]" (a romantic friendship celebrated by Goethe), use "quaint bits to [her] children," with "illustrations of her (Emily's) own, showing her witty humorous side" which was "all. . .left out of" that first printed volume (letter to Higginson; and "Correspondence with William Hayes Ward," 23 March 1891, WSD). When Susan broached her idea to Higginson, he evidently told her that such a gathering of literary work, the kind of "more full and varied" volume she had first imagined, was "un-presentable" (December 1890 letter).
Besides all the writings that Susan had in her possession, forty manuscript books and scores of poems on loose sheets had been found after Dickinson's death, and Lavinia (Vinnie) had wanted poems from that trove incorporated into the printed volume she first wanted Susan to make. Susan struggled with how to make a book from those fascicles, reading through the astonishing production of her dearest friend and marking individual lyrics with initials D, F, L, N, P, S, W and X's in order to categorize them, not only in deference to Vinnie's wishes but also bowing to Higginson's market judgment. In other words, Susan tried to make their "Book of Emily" but could not because it went against her better judgment informed by decades of her creative collaboration with Emily. As her correspondence with William Hayes Ward shows, Susan thought Higginson's verdict of "un-presentable" underestimated public taste and ability "to recognize the power of so many that were ruled out of the  volume just printed" ("Correspondence with William Hayes Ward," 8 February 1891, WSD). Conflicted, distracted, and grieved by the loss of Emily and by her husband's flagrant affair with Mabel, Susan moved slowly, and Vinnie grew impatient and demanded that the fascicle poems be returned so that another editor, one who could get the job done more quickly, could work on the project. As Ned Dickinson's notebook and Martha Dickinson Bianchi's accounts of making The Single Hound show, Susan was to work on designs for a book based on the writings Emily sent her well throughout the 1890s and then for the rest of her life ("Notes Toward a Volume of Emily Dickinson's Writings," WSD, and "Ned's Notebook," DEA). Nevertheless, she returned the fascicle poems. Not long thereafter, Loomis Todd, her husband's mistress, began copying and reorganizing the poems in the manuscript books to make a printed volume.
At that point, the point when Emily's poems passed from Susan's hands to Mabel Loomis Todd's, personal and cultural forces converged to suppress Susan's crucial role as audience for Emily's poetry (Smith, "Suppressing"). Besides making volumes divided into the four categories so familiar to the consumer, editors worked under the shadow of the fact that the most marketable image of woman poet was the reclusive white-clad figure noted above. This romanticized figure wrote all alone, and an immediate audience for her poetry, especially on the domestic front, would not be viewed as an important player in the stereotypical biography for "poetess." Wanting for rather obvious reasons to suppress that Emily Dickinson's primary audience was in fact the "wife forgotten" (OMC 9), who completed the triangle of Mabel and her lover Emily's brother Austin, Loomis Todd was more than happy to play up the image of the solitary woman writer in her editorial productions. In a letter to her parents, Loomis Todd flatly declared her awareness that Amherst stories of Emily's life were very much "like a book" (YH 2:357), and for reasons that were not entirely professional, her iterations of the life of the poet conformed to audience expectations that de-emphasized the writer's audience. She refused Higginson's recommendation that Susan's obituary of Emily, which emphasized that she kept her own company but was certainly "not disappointed with the world" (Republican May 18, 1886), serve as the introduction to the 1890 Poems. Instead, she used a three-paragraph introduction by Higginson that proclaimed that Emily was "a recluse by temperament and habit" (iv), an image more aligned with the composite "poetess" than the vibrant figure of Susan's obituary.3 Not surprisingly, when Loomis Todd produced The Letters of Emily Dickinson (1894), Dickinson's primary correspondent of several decades is not even mentioned, nor are any of the hundreds of letters to her reproduced, though Susan's sister Martha, to whom Emily sent a handful of letters, is.
As is obvious from the story recounted above, the editing of Emily Dickinson was, from the very beginning, driven, inflected by, and/or entangled with biography. What is not so obvious is that biography persists as a key element in the editing of Dickinson. Even our contemporaries whose focus is her textual condition predicate analyses on beliefs about her biographical condition. R.W. Franklin accounts for her "motive[s]. . .in constructing" her handmade books as a desire "to reduce disorder in her manuscripts" (F x), and Marta Werner, our coeditor of the Dickinson Electronic Archives, accounts for her seemingly random choice of writing materials- "whatever lies close by"-by characterizing her process as "cometary," demanding to be "written even before one's thoughts have been ordered" (21), while maintaining that "agoraphobia" (or imitating agoraphobia) accounts for her modes of existence (27). With the plain goal of fostering serious analysis of Emily and Susan's literary, amorous, and other bonds, Ellen Louise Hart and I recently published Open Me Carefully. So some conception of the author and her relations tends to color all interpretation of Emily Dickinson, no matter how textually centered.
The lack of a clear biographical account of as well as a lack of a cultural model for Susan and Emily Dickinson's relationship make the following set of facts, available in part since 1914 and almost in full since 1955-58 (when Johnson published the Poems and Letters), difficult to interpret. "I am not suited dear Emily with the second verse," Susan wrote to her beloved friend and sister-in-law about 1861. In this, Susan responds to a version of "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers," one which featured a whole other second stanza than the two-stanza poem she had already seen. Among the ten lyrics known to be printed during the poet's lifetime, "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" offers the only example of Emily Dickinson responding directly to another reader's advice. At the behest of Susan, Dickinson revised this poem several times. She labored over its composition, searching for an appropriate second stanza, and in the process wrote four different verses for possible coupling with the striking first (OMC 58-63). These facts are especially important since Dickinson is perhaps most well-known for her isolation, for purportedly writing in complete solitude. Until the 1990s, critics and biographers have been virtually silent on what this exchange between the two women means. Both of them were writers, yet neither was what one would call a professional writer. Both were readers, yet neither was what one would call a professional reader, a critic, an "expert." If this were Wordworth and Coleridge, or Hawthorne and Melville, or Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, interpreters would declare literary liaison with certainty. Yet most have balked, hesitated, and some have shrugged, saying this is the exception (of Emily reaching out to another concerning the writing of a poem) that proves the rule (that reaching out was not her habit). However, the ease with which Emily approaches Susan and with which Susan delivers her response suggests that this exchange was a habit of their relationship, that this kind of give and take between them was the rule.
Turning to an example frequently (and accurately) remarked to document Dickinson's resistance to advice helps clarify interpretation of the exchange with Sue. Suppose readers insert Higginson-a professional man of letters and widely published essayist, well-known agitator for women's rights, abolitionist, and correspondent of Dickinson's for almost twenty-five years-into the position of first person singular speaking "I am not suited - dear Emily." When one imagines Higginson as speaker, the relationship connoted by the exchange is easily read as one of poet consulting a trusted audience, a mentor of notable public standing. The many drafts of poems forwarded to Susan over the entire course of Emily's decades-long writing career make visible Susan's role as consultant, collaborator, liaison. The most extensive single example of her contributions to Emily Dickinson's writing a poem, Susan Dickinson's responses to different versions of "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" indicates that she critiqued the text while Dickinson was in the process of writing, and that that the effects of Susan's responses to reading the poem are evident in its various incarnations. Susan wrote to Emily when she saw the poem published in the Springfield Daily Republican and is likely responsible for its printing in the newspaper read by the Dickinson households. In other words, from their writing back and forth about the poem, it is clear that Susan was a vital participant in its composition and transmission (OMC 58-62 and "Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem," DEA). Had the same exchange occurred between Dickinson and Higginson, readers would have approached these facts with anything but the critical indifference with which they have in fact usually been handled. Had Higginson been the player instead of Sue, this exchange would have been at the center of Dickinson studies.
Important for reading and understanding Susan and Emily's exchange and the critical responses (or lack thereof) to the situation are that structures of "public" and "private" prime audiences to receive Higginson as authoritative, legitimate critic and Susan as amateur. Also confusing the picture is the fact that their passionate relationship throughout adulthood until Emily's death resists paradigms for standardizing emotional alliances. Although their relationship has strong elements of romantic friendship and also might be called prototypically lesbian, as well as mutually mentoring, their dynamic devotion does not fit comfortably into any standard category-lover or sister or mentor or best friend or neighbor or companion-though it has elements of each. In Open Me Carefully, Hart and I present their mutual preoccupations with texuality, well aware of the fact that for Susan and Emily poetry and love "coeval come" (OMC 140). The conflation of poetry with biography, or life, began long before the print productions of the 1890s.
Even from the present record, which is surely incomplete, there is an astonishing range of writings sent from Emily to Susan over a lifetime-from a note joking about flatulence (OMC 24) to poems interrogating the role of romantic love in women's lives and women's circumstance in nineteenth-century America, to letter-poems posing questions of faith and doubt, to poems spoofing on Charles Dickens' sentimental characterization of "Little Nell" and others on her father's strict rules, to emotionally wrenching letter-poems on the death of Susan and Austin's youngest child Gib at the tender age of eight. Dickinson's poetry flourished in the writing to Susan, and her hybrid genre, "letter-poems" ("Correspondence with William Hayes Ward, 8 February 1891, WSD), seems to have originated in their exchanges; the writings showcase changes in style and experimentations with punctuation, lineation, drawings, mixing media via layouts (e.g., attaching illustrations from novels and standard textbooks like the New England Primer to her poems to make "cartoons"), and even calligraphic orthography, and repeatedly display Dickinson's vivacious sense of humor and her highly self-conscious textual play as well as her devoted affections.
From the beginning to the end of their correspondence, there are frequent allusions that attest to their voraciousness as readers, a fact that is likewise corroborated by the vast holdings of both household libraries, especially the Evergreens. There are also linguistic and material allusions to their mutual writing endeavors: from one of the earliest letters (OMC 7, April 1852), readers learn that Emily wants to get Susan's journal bound; a letter of but a couple of months later (OMC 10, June 11, 1852) has two holes on each third of the folds similar to some of those made in the fascicles, as if the missive was at some point prepared for binding; Emily at one point christens herself and Sue "Combined Girl" for their artistic affinities (OMC 85); a mid-1860s letter to Sue from Samuel Bowles, publisher of the Republican and dear family friend, remarks, "Speaking of writing, do you & Emily give us some gems for the" Springfield Musket, "& then come to the Fair" (YH 2: 93).4
The writing and reading workshop did not end with Dickinson's death. Susan made transcripts of numerous poems, sometimes more than one (e.g., of "On this wondrous sea"; H B73, H ST 23e, H ST 24, JP 4, FP 3), evidently to send to friends or editors, and she submitted a few poems to magazines such as the Independent, Scribner's, and the Century. Susan's initials on fascicle poems and on other writings addressed to her appear to note topical categorization of Emily's poems-"D," for "Death," "L" for "Love," "N" for "Nature," "S" for "Sun" or for "Susan" herself, "W" for "Wind," a meteorological element in which both women had deep investments as a metaphor for unseen but nevertheless effective power-and "X's" and numbers on the documents appear to have a similar taxonomizing function. Sometimes Susan turned the topical indicators into titles, as did Emily when she called "A narrow Fellow / in the Grass" (H B193; JP 986, FP 1096) her "Snake" (JL 316). On December 31, 1886, the last day of the year in which Emily died, Susan writes to the editor of The Century, "I enclose a poem of Miss Emily Dickinson's on the 'Wind' thinking you might like to print it" (AB 86), and forwarded "The Wind - tapped like / a tired Man - " (F 29, JP 436, FP 621).
Her pencilled lines across paragraphs in the early documents, publication of a few poems in the 1890s, and extensive work with son Ned and daughter Martha transcribing Aunt Emily's poems indicate that she was indeed preparing a volume for publication and continued to work on developing the project even when her husband Austin forbid her to do so in order to promote the editorial efforts of his mistress Loomis Todd. Most of their transcriptions can be viewed in "Notes Toward a Volume of Emily Dickinson's Writings," Writings by Susan Dickinson, and "Ned's Notebook" (DEA), and, mentioning Emily's love of flowers, her improvisational piano playing, her attitude toward women, and quoting the "facts but not the phosphorescence of knowledge," Bianchi's introduction to The Single Hound follows Susan's outline of memories of Emily (SH viii, x, xi). Significantly, of the first volume he edited with Todd, Susan writes Higginson with editorial and emotional authority, correcting a mistranscription, and thanking him "for her as well as for myself" for its publication (December 1890 and January 1891). For his part, Higginson followed Susan's advice, correcting the 1890 edition according to her critical commentary. A February 13, 1914 letter of Martha's to her friend Charles Brownell, an editor at Scribner's, likewise testifies to Susan's decisive authority as stylist and wordsmith on the inside of Emily's creative process: ". . .my reasons [in matters of publication] are mamma's, and if I publish at all it must be as she wished. . . .I have no advisor now, and Dolly [Susan, who had died in May 1913] was always so sure of everything, I miss her wise decision unspeakably" (q. in Horan 94). Though the Higginson-Todd endeavor was by no means ideal as far as she was concerned, Susan applauded his launching more of "Our Fleet," as she had called ushering the poems into print when writing Emily about publication of "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" in the Republican in March 1862 (OMC 58).
The facts of this correspondence challenge not only widely held notions about the individual author Emily Dickinson, but also literary traditions that have drawn sharp distinctions between "poetic" and "domestic" subjects. Comments about routine household and family matters in Dickinson's writings have been received as household detritus, interesting for biography but apart or separate from her writing poetry. Clearly integrating the spiritual, complexly cerebral, and exceptional with the quotidian and mundane, these women shared recipes and household news, as well as critiques of literature and speculations about God and eternity, often within a few lines of writing. The record shows that Emily and Susan Dickinson integrated the "high" poetic and the "low" domestic and thus agreed with Ralph Waldo Emerson declaration in "The Poet": the Poet is one who shall "not be able to find a condition inopportune or ignoble" as a poetic subject. For Susan and Emily, possessing and being possessed by poetry was not a matter of royalties and copyrights but was an ennobling endowment of spirit, grace, humor, passion, comfort. Fettering poetry with dollars per line and fee per use was "so foul a thing," subjecting the chariot of the "Human soul" (JP 1263, FP 1286) to printer's proofs fouled by corrections. Poetry leavened, enlivened all experience, routine and sublime, and attaching any "Price" to it was a "Disgrace" (F 37, JP 709, FP 788), as was divorcing it from the everyday.
In writings regarding Dickinson's poetic project, both Emily and Susan emphasized the distinction between the often synonymously used terms publish and print. When she wrote Higginson about the appearance of "The Snake" in the Republican, Dickinson did not say, "I had told you I did not publish"; she said, "I had told you I did not print" [emphasis added] (BPL Higg 59, JL 316). Also, when she smiles at Higginson's conjecture that she delays "to publish," quotation marks make it plain that she uses his words when she utters the more commonplace term for works produced in the literary marketplace instead of her more precise "to print" (BPL Higg 52, JL 265). Writing on February 18, 1891, to William Hayes Ward, superintending editor of the Independent, Susan corrected herself: ". . .I recognize fully all Miss Emily's lack of rhyme and rhythm, but have learned to accept it for the bold thought, and everything else so unusual about it. . . .I think if you do not feel that your own literary taste is compromised by it, I would rather the three verses of the 'Martyrs' ['Through the Straight Pass / of Suffering'' (F 36; JP 792, FP 187)] should be published if any. I shall not be annoyed if you decide not to publish at all. I should have said printed. . . ." ("Correspondence with William Hayes Ward," WSD). Surrounded by lawyers (Dickinson's father and brother), these women are somewhat legalistic in their differentiations, using publish in the special sense "to tell or noise abroad" (O.E.D.).5 That mutually careful specificity to distinguish between works printed and works published is not a negligible fact. Yet until the past decade, it had hardly been remarked in Dickinson criticism and/or biography.
The Lives in Dickinson Study
It goes without saying that there are many lives of Emily Dickinson. By the end of the twentieth century, The Belle of Amherst has become EMILY Unplugged, Simon and Garfunkel sing about her in "The Dangling Conversation" while the Lemonheads croon "My Life had stood a Loaded Gun" (JP 754, FP 764), and the familiar gingerbread-bearing figure in the white dress occasionally makes cameo appearances in prime time shows such as "Cheers" and "thirtysomething." Jamie Fuller imagines The Diary of Emily Dickinson while Judith Farr envisions her life at South Hadley Female Seminary (now Mt. Holyoke College) in I Never Came to You in White. Richard Sewall's The Life of Emily Dickinson has just been reprinted by Harvard University Press, which has also just reissued Johnson and Ward's The Letters of Emily Dickinson in one volume. Significant is the fact that the "little home-keeping person" haunts all of these Emily Dickinsons (Ransom 89). Equally significant is the fact that, with the exception of the unabashedly feminist EMILY unplugged, all of these Dickinson lives either leave out Emily's primary audience Susan altogether or depict her as highly problematic, even distasteful, despicable. These omissions and seemingly hostile iterations of Susan perpetuate the portrayals of the most frequently consulted biographical sources, Sewall's book and Johnson's biographical blurbs.
Simply in the course of doing business, Johnson sentences women to linguistic mortality. In the words of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, "instead of [graphing women] by distinguished inscriptions," his identifying descriptions render women so that they "leave indistinguishable traces" ("Ceremonies" 24).6 In his blurbs and indices, the first names of thirteen women have disappeared and they are known only as "the wife of." Often, though the wife was the primary correspondent, his blurb is focused on the husband. That overarching bias may in part account for Johnson's handling (or rather mishandling) of Susan in her son Gib's biography: ". . .His sudden and unexpected death from typhoid fever, 5 October 1883, was a blow from which neither his father nor his Aunt Emily fully recovered" (JL p. 938). Conscious or unconscious, his omission signals some bias toward Susan, for he writes as if a 52 year old mother would be unscathed by the death of her youngest child when he was but a boy of eight. In fact, Gib's death devastated Susan and she withdrew from society for more than a year. Sewall likewise underplays Susan's role in Emily's literary life. His valuable story is understandably a partial one because he wrote his biography at the behest of Millicent Todd Bingham, Loomis Todd's daughter, who "wanted, she said, 'the whole story' of her mother's involvement told-but told in the setting of the larger story of Emily Dickinson" (Life xiv).
Sewall's attentions are directed by those of a woman (Loomis Todd) who received fewer than a score of poems and letters from Emily, but who printed hundreds of Emily's poems and became so attached to them that she refused to return the fascicle and other writings in her possession when Lavinia demanded them back in 1896-98. In the late 1920s her daughter Millicent complained bitterly to Josephine Pollitt that some of the poems Bianchi published in Further Poems of Emily Dickinson (1929) "are my mother's poems!" (Brown A94-67 1:1). Susan, however, received more than twenty-times-twenty score writings from Emily, but printed fewer than a score of her poems even though she was most likely the agent for almost all of the ten printings Dickinson witnessed during her lifetime (Rowing 155-56). Though the commonplace biography set in motion by Loomis Todd holds that Emily and Susan did not see one another for fifteen years or more, Emily's letters and notes to Susan document uninterrupted contact from the late 1840s until May 15, 1886 (Rowing 156-57). According to the Todd-Bingham-Sewall account of things, Emily only came out to see Susan upon Gib's death. Otherwise, the story usually goes, for the last fifteen years or so, she did not have face-to-face contact. But Emily's niece Bianchi marks Gib's death as the time of great family pain: "Mother. . .would not even be driven through the village for more than a year"; "Father, manlike, hardened his will after the first outburst of despair"; and Aunt Emily became "remote, inaccessible" (Life Before Last 120). As Jean McClure Mudge points out, "Emily's notes document regular happy rendezvous with Sue in the Mansion [Homestead] until 1883. . . .After 1883, it appears, Sue did not come to the Mansion anymore. She had two good reasons. That year, her eight-year-old son Gilbert died and she withdrew from society for months [actually for more than a year]. At the same time, Austin began his affair with Mabel Loomis Todd" (105). Emily's notes and poems to Susan during this period are "solace" (OMC 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 240), and though Emily became "remote" at this time, Bianchi tells that, within days of her death, "Aunt Emily still came down to chat with us by the fire, looking just the same, dramatic in her expression of all she said as ever-she somehow seemed like a winter sun moving further from us, nearer those final answers she had always been trying to find" (Life Before Last 148-49). According to Sewall, Emily refused to see "doctors or dressmakers" (Life 154), but Bianchi tells delightful stories about "Aunt Emily" allowing the dressmaker Mrs. Shaw to "try on the pinafore white aprons she made for wear in cooking hours, and gave her goodies to take home to a sick daughter. Mrs. Shaw 'thought a sight of Miss Emily' and when Aunt Emily said some funny thing to make her laugh, she would exclaim, 'Why, the very idea! Who'd a thought of such a thing! How you make me laugh!'-which made Aunt Emily talk more and funnier" (Life Before Last 80).
Besides competing with Sewall's assertion that Dickinson refused to see anyone, based on the knowledge of Mabel Loomis Todd, who never met Emily face-to-face, this account of Bianchi's also contradicts some that depict Susan as snobbish and aloof. In the paragraph immediately preceding this one, Bianchi writes that her mother valued Mrs. Shaw "highly and made a pet of her, always having some favorite dish of hers when she was here 'by the day. . .'" (79). Such depiction of Susan corroborates that of John Erskine, who met Mabel, Millicent, Susan and Martha, and describes Susan as "cultured, intelligent, and kind" and characterizes the "attacks on Susan's character" [by Todd, Bingham, and their sympathizers] as "little short of a disgrace to American biography" (136). Erskine also calls Susan a "scholar" who "had a mind much above the ordinary" (135, 132).
A powerfully intellectual (she was a mathematician and math teacher in Baltimore in 1851-52), vivacious, charismatic, sometimes arrogant, often generous, acutely and astutely well-read woman and devoted mother, Susan, her life stories, and their meanings for Emily Dickinson were bound to become sites of contestation in a culture with limited storylines for women, their accomplishments, and their contributions to the literary, artistic welfare of society. Dickinson herself characterized their relationship in literary terms-comparing her love for Susan to Dante's love for Beatrice, Swift's for Stella, and Mirabeau's for Sophie de Ruffey (OMC 165), and comparing her tutelage with Susan to one with Shakespeare (OMC 229). Clearly, she valued Susan's opinions about writing and reading, and both women shared an affective theory of poetry. Of "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers," Susan wrote that the first verse is so compelling that "I always go to the fire and get warm after thinking of it, but I never can again" (OMC 61); a few years later, Thomas Higginson paraphrased Emily's critical commentary, echoing Susan's-"If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. . ." (JL 342a).
When Susan compares her relationship with Emily and the lifetime of writing exchanged between them to a relationship that was written up in Goethe's Correspondence with a Child in a letter to Higginson, she underscores their relationship's literary, intellectual nature, as well as the intensity of their emotional engagement. Susan proceeds to speak with quiet but unassailable authority about his and Loomis Todd's editing of Emily's poems. Making clear that she is thoroughly acquainted with Emily's poetic corpus, Susan approves of most of the titles used in the 1890 Poems and, in a January 4, 1891 letter corrects "a blunder (of the printer I suppose)," "afar" to "ajar" in "I know some lonely Houses / off the Road" (F 13; JP 289, FP 311). As we have seen, Higginson took Susan's suggestion and in subsequent editions the word was changed.
Though a century of scholarship has approached this relationship with the assumption that Emily was the writer and Susan the reader, always, Writings by Susan Dickinson shows that Susan wrote essays, reviews, journals, poems, letters, and memorials constantly throughout her life, and produced commonplace books and scrapbooks of her own publications in the Springfield Republican, as well as of clippings about admired figures such as Queen Victoria, and of favorite poems, essays, and stories of other writers, including Emily.7 Very early in their relationship Dickinson enthuses over "Susie" keeping a journal, exclaiming that she wants "to get it bound - at my expense" (OMC 7), and among the papers found in the Evergreens is a journal Susan kept of a trip to Europe in the early 1900s, when she was seventy-five years old. As an elderly traveller and inveterate writer, Susan visited Paris, Nice, Cologne, Zurich, Verona, Venice, Florence, Rome, the Hague, and London, revelling in the architectural majesty of church buildings and in the sublime beauty of the "Alpine peaks snow tipped. . .all so wholesome after Paris" and taking care to record her observations and encounters with acquaintances new and old, usually in a literary or poetical vein. On the ship returning home, her journal entries compare "layers of clouds" to the "White Alps pointing upward" (WSD).
Besides apparently keeping journals throughout her life, Susan published several stories in the Springfield Republican-"A Hole in Haute Society" (August 2, 1908), "The Passing of Zoroaster" (March 1910), "The Circus Eighty Years Ago" (early 1900s), and possibly "The Case of the Brannigans" (though this may be by her daughter, Martha). In January 1903, writing from Rome, Susan published a lengthy review of "Harriet Prescott's [Spofford] Early Work" as a letter to the editor of the Republican. Arguing for republication of Spofford's early work, she quotes "my sister-in-law, Emily Dickinson" as an authority, reiterating the latter's delighted reader's response-"That is the only thing I ever saw in my life I did not think I could have written myself. You stand nearer the world than I do. Send me everything she writes"-and quoting Dickinson's declaration, "for love is stronger than death," in her own critique of Prescott's "Circumstance." In "Annals of the Evergreens," a typescript that was not published until the 1980s, Susan praises Prescott's "Pomegranate Flowers" at the outset, then proceeds to describe an Evergreens life rich in cultural exchange, one in which she was reading the Brownings, Thomas de Quincey, Julia Ward Howe, Thomas Carlyle, and Shakespeare, and entertaining many distinguished visitors- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist Wendell Phillips, landscape designer Frederick Olmsted. Personalities more intimately associated with the Dickinson circle also grace these pages as Susan relates luscious accounts of lunches with "fresh asparagus" and "salad from our own garden" and dinners of "very nice lamb and strawberries" with editor Samuel Bowles, his wife Mary, friend Maria Whitney, Josiah and Elizabeth Holland, and Judge Otis P. Lord, and recounts fondly a recital of a hymn complemented by "a most remarkable artistic performance" by Vinnie ("Annals of the Evergreens" 18, WSD).
Among Susan's surviving papers are scores of letters which show her to be a most attentive mother and friend, numerous essays on subjects as diverse as the valiant work of nurses and the art of architecture, reviews of "Autumn's Divine Beauty Begins" (an essay celebrating the season printed in the Republican) and of the work of Arthur Sherburne Hardy's Wind of Destiny (a popular novel), which she finds most "refreshing" because "it does not presuppose idiocy in the reader but makes a little demand upon a moderate equipment of mind and imagination" (a remark which just as well characterizes her appreciation as Emily's most staunch contemporary audience). Besides collecting paeans to Queen Victoria, Susan's own writings honor strong pioneering women. Her memoir of Elizabeth Blackwell (the first female doctor in the United States, known not only for her medical practice but also for working to open the profession to women), relates how "of course women deplored" this intellectual female working out of her sphere but speaks of her with great admiration and within the context of Susan's own quest for knowledge, a lifelong journey to which her thousands of books attest ("A Memory of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell," WSD).
Her surviving writings witness her care and passion for the word-drafts of essays and poems show careful searching for the most effective vocabulary and syntax. Among several poems among Susan's papers are typescript and ink drafts, with pencil revisions, of "What offering have I, dear Lord," the poem reiterated in typescript and included in "Annals" (WSD). That Susan did not regard the printed word as final is obvious from the fact that several clippings of her own work placed in a scrapbook show her revising after their appearance in the Republican. That she was confident of her intellectual abilities and critical acumen is apparent from the fact that Susan corresponded about such matters not only with Higginson and Bowles, but also with other leading editors of the day. Among her letters are several to William Hayes Ward, editor of the Independent, about publishing Emily's poems, and her scrapbooks show that in March 1902 she sent W.C. Brownell a favorable review of his Victorian Prose Masters and received a most warm reply. Significantly, "Annals of the Evergreens" parallels the trajectories of Susan's correspondences, revealing that her role was more than that of a social leader who entertained prominent guests, for she was clearly a most capable conversationalist who held her own with Emerson and was known by many for her intellectual acumen. Just as Emily's writing was commonly known, so was Susan's "hard reading" (YH 2:78). By the time of Amherst College's 1877 commencement, Bowles wanted to honor Susan's intellect and social dexterity with an honorary degree.
Besides publishing critical pieces and stories, Susan published at least one poem, "Love's Reckoning," in the Republican, and wrote quite a few others-"To me through every season dearest," "Did I but purpose to embark with thee," "Irony" (or "Crushed before the Moth"), "Hyssop," "Amor," "Valentines Day," "Of June, and her belongings," "In Siege," "Fresher than dawn," "The robins choose to-day," "One asked, when was the grief," "Minstrel of the passing days," "There are three months of the Spring," "The days when the smiles over tears will prevail," "When death with his white fingers," and "Oh" (WSD). Though more conventional in form and to our twenty-first century tastes not nearly as "good" as Emily's, Susan's poems attend to many of the same subjects-"There are three months of the Spring" distinctly echoes both "These are the days when Birds come back" (OMC 25) and "The Crickets / sang / And set the / Sun" (OMC 122), and Susan's focus on nature recalls Emily's own extended attentions to narrow fellows in the grass and the sun "Blazing in Gold - and / Quenching - in Purple!" (OMC 68) and "stooping - stooping - low" (OMC 52). Her lyric tribute in memoriam to Emily remarks that "Summer always kept her for it's own" but assures that "in the Autumn. . .I know she'll come with outstretched hands!" ("I'm waiting but she comes not back," WSD). Their correspondence was a creative wellspring for Susan as well as for Emily-on Susan's copy of "The Crickets / sang / And Set the / Sun" are several lines of Susan drafting or copying a poem or poems:
By folks who knew her as intimately as Lavinia, her sister-in-law a little more than two years younger, Susan has been roundly criticized for not seeing Emily's poems into print with good speed. Indeed, this is an important part of her story as it bears on study of Dickinson. By her own account in the aforementioned letters to Higginson and to Ward, the volume Susan describes highlighting Emily's wit as well as the eroticized correspondence of Emily and Susan is a much more holistic volume than the epitome of the late nineteenth-century poetry book produced by Higginson and Todd. Hers would have been filled with drawings and jokes as well as profound lyrics, and her outline for production shows that rather than divide the poems into conventional categories Susan would emphasize poetry's integration with quotidian experience, Emily's intellectual prowess, and her philosophical interrogations of the spiritual, corporeal, emotional, and mental realms ("Notes Toward a Volume of Emily Dickinson's Writings," WSD). Her critiques of the printed volumes and descriptions of how she would have managed preparing a production performance of Emily's writings for auction to the world are, for twenty-first century readers immured in mechanical and high-tech images of print and screen, avenues into the nineteenth-century manuscript culture of literary exchange in which Susan and Emily were constant participants.
Among Susan's papers are fascicles of favorite poems that both she and her sister Martha copied out sometime in the 1850s. Rooted in a culture where modes of literary exchange frequently included sending consolation poems and making fascicles of favorite poems as well as commonplace books and scrapbooks of treasured literary pieces, Dickinson's fascicle assembly of her own poems and distribution of her poems in epistolary contexts are anything but eccentric ("Commonplace Book," WSD). The distinction these two women writers draw between the terms "publish" and "print" is, as is Susan's description of what her volume of Emily's writings would have featured, a sign of the literary culture in which their works were so deeply embedded, a literary culture of vital manuscript exchange in which even printed works were recirculated in holograph form. This manuscript culture that Emily and Susan knew so well and in which each practiced as writers is one about which late twentieth-century literary history tends to have amnesia. Had Susan produced a volume modeled on the practices of this culture for the world at large, Dickinson's readers would have had a much broader sense of the range of Emily's writings from the beginning, and would have had a much stronger sense of the manuscript culture in which Emily Dickinson's poetic project was far from an aberration. Instead of remaking Emily's writings to fit the contours, categories, and poetic forms driven by the machine of the printed book, Susan's volume would have been oriented and shaped by those hand-fashioned modes of literary exchange and opened up a sense of that nineteenth-century literary world practically lost to twentieth-century readers.
As is evident from many of Susan's titles for Dickinson's poems, from her journal entries, and from the subjects of her reviews, a profound love and deep appreciation for nature pervades her sensibilities, and she clearly favors art focused on the natural world's splendors, on the "Eden, always eligible" (JL 391). Her regard for nature is intense enough to be characterized as religious or spiritual, and Susan was indeed devoutly religious from her late teens and throughout her adulthood. Late in her life, Susan turned more and more to the rituals of High Church and even pondered becoming a Roman Catholic, but was dissuaded by Bishop F. Dan Huntington, "who himself had abandoned Harvard Unitarianism to don the sacerdotal robes of American Anglicanism" (St. Armand 84; "Letters from Bishop Huntington," WSD). Yet her religious devotions were far more than ceremonial, for Susan spent almost every Sabbath for six years in the 1880s establishing a Sunday school in Logtown, a poor village not far from Amherst later known as Belchertown, and she often prepared baskets of food for those far less fortunate than the upper-middle-class Dickinsons.
Susan's enactment of simple ritual for profound utterance is perhaps best displayed in the plain flannel robe she designed and in which she dressed Emily for death, laying her out in a white casket, cypripedium and violets (symbolizing faithfulness) at her neck, two heliotropes (symbolizing devotion) in her hand (St. Armand 74-75). This final act over Emily's body underscores "their shared life, their deep and complex intimacy" and that they both anticipated a "postmortem resurrection" of that intimacy (Hart, "Encoding" 255; Pollak 137). Besides swaddling her beloved friend's body for burial, Susan penned Emily's obituary, a loving portrayal of a strong, brilliant woman, devoted to family and to her neighbors, and to her writing, for which she had the most serious objectives and highest ambitions. Though "weary and sick" at the loss of her dearest friend (Ms. "Obituary for Emily Dickinson" 12, WSD), Susan produced a piece so powerful that Higginson wanted to use it as the introduction to the 1890 Poems. Beginning to tell her friend's story, Susan concludes the obituary pointing readers' attentions to Emily as writer, and to the fact that her words would live on. Among her daughter Martha's papers is evidence that these same four lines were used again in a Dickinson ceremony, perhaps to conclude Susan's own (or Ned's or Lavinia's) funeral (Brown 16:35:1):
That these lines are quoted from memory by Susan and other members of her family demonstrates, especially when one takes into account all the other facts of these writing lives, that for Susan and Emily poetry was not property, nor a commodity to be possessed and auctioned, but was spiritual sustenance, was, as Susan was to tell a famous editor at the turn of the last century, "sermon. . .hope. . .solace. . .life." For these Dickinsons, poetry, practically a member of the family, "breathed" (JL 260). That is at least one significant part of the story the records of their relationship tell. The study of Emily and Susan Dickinson's relationship, indeed of all of Dickinson's relationships with her female correspondents, answers the call not only of scholars such as Wendy Martin, who called for extended analyses of the friendships that "sustained her as an artist" (82), but also of Emily Dickinson herself, who, in asking Susan to recall "what whispered to Horatio?" (OMC 253), asked her to "report me and my cause aright / To the unsatisfied" (Hamlet V.ii.340-341).
1.All of the following feature photographic reproductions of some manuscript: Sharon Cameron, Choosing Not Choosing: Dickinson's Fascicles (1993); Susan Howe, The Birth-mark: unsettling the wilderness in American literary history (1993); Judy Jo Small, Positive as Sound: Emily Dickinson's Rhyme (1990); Smith, Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson (1992); Marta Werner, Emily Dickinson's Open Folios (1995).
Abbreviations of Frequently Cited Sources
Bianchi, Martha Dickinson. Life Before Last: Reminiscences of a Country Girl, ed. Barton Levi St. Armand and Martha Nell Smith.
Erskine, John. "The Dickinson Feud," The Memory of Certain Persons. Philadelphia & New York: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1947.
Gilbert, Sandra Mortola and Susan Dreyfuss David Gubar. "Ceremonies of the Alphabet: Female Grandmatologies and the Female Authorgraph." In Female Autograph: Theory and Practice of Autobiography from the Tenth to the Twentieth Century. Ed. Domna C. Stanton, pp. 21-48. Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1987.
Hart, Ellen Louise. "The Encoding of Homoerotic Desire: Emily Dickinson's Letters and Poems to Susan Dickinson, 1850-1886." Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 9.2 (1990): 251-272. Horan, Elizabeth. "To Market: The Dickinson Copyright Wars." The Emily Dickinson Journal V.1 (1996): 88-120.
Love, Harold. Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England. Oxford Clarendon Press, 1993.
Martin, Wendy. An American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich. Chapel Hill & London: U of North Carolina P, 1984.
Mudge, Jean McClure. "Emily Dickinson and 'Sister Sue.'" Prairie Schooner 52 (1978): 90-108.
Pollak, Vivian. Dickinson: The Anxiety of Gender. Ithaca & London: Cornell U P, 1984.
Ransom, John Crowe. "Emily Dickinson: A Poet Restored." Emily Dickinson: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Richard B. Sewall. 88-100. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963.
St. Armand, Barton Levi. Emily Dickinson and Her Culture: The Soul's Society. Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 1984.
Sewall, Richard B. The Life of Emily Dickinson. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1974; rpt. Harvard U P 1996.
Smith, Martha Nell. Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson. Austin: U of Texas P, 1992.
-. "Suppressing the Books of Susan in Emily Dickinson." Epistolary Histories: Letters, Fiction, Culture. Ed. Amanda Gilroy and W.M. Verhoeven. 101-125. Charlottesville and London: U P of Virginia P, 2000.
Stone, Ruth. Second-Hand Coat: Poems New and Selected. Boston: David R. Godine, 1987.
Walker, Cheryl. The Nightingale's Burden: Women Poets and American Culture Before 1900. Bloomington: Indiana U P, 1982.
Werner, Marta. Open Folios: Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1995.