Prior to my reading of Letters of Emily Dickinson (Mabel Loomis Todd,ed., World Publishing Company 1951), I only knew the poet as a recluse from reading snippets of her life. I only knew her as a poet who employed dashes and awkward grammar usage in her poems. Shallow me. As a Literature major, I should have culled out details from her fecund yet cloistered life, unfortunately, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” is the only poem which I could associate with her. Suffice to say, I don’t really know Emily Dickinson at all.
By a sudden twist of fate, an old book just found its way through the shelves of Booksale and landed in my hand. Finding Letters of Emily Dickinson was like discovering a treasure among piles of garbage. Finding that book revealed Emily Dickinson like I haven’t known her before.
The letters Emily sent to her family members, friends and acquaintances traced the moments of her gaiety and eventual seclusion. Her fondness for gardening and affection to her friends mirrored her personality which was translated into her poetry. I think that, by reading Emily Dickinson’s letters, she became poetry herself. The language of her period mesmerized me, which had me compared with the innocent and child-like musings of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in her spiritual autobiography The Story of the Soul. Emily wrote with ardor.
Here are some of the parts which really touched me the most:
When I think of the friends I love, and the little while we may dwell here, and then “we go away,” I have a yearning feeling, a desire eager and anxious lest any be stolen away,so that I cannot behold them (to Mrs. A.P.Strong, January 2, 1851).
It would seem, my dear A., that out of all the moments crowding this little world, a few might be vouchsafed to spend with those we love– a separated hour, an hour more pure and true than ordinary hours, when we could pause a moment, before we journey on (to Mrs. A.P.Strong, August 1851).
Writing is brief and fleeting–conversation will come again,yet if it will, it hastes and must be on its way. Earth is short, but Paradise is long–there must be many moments in an eternal day; then sometime we shall tarry while time and tide roll on, and till then vale (to Mrs.A.P.Strong, August, 1851).
When you had gone the love came. I supposed it would. The supper of the heart is when the guest has gone (to Dr. and Mrs. J.G.Holland, 1857?).
My business is to love(to Dr. and Mrs.J.G.Holland, 1860).
Cling tight to the hearts that will not let you fall (to Dr.and Mrs.J.G.Holland, August 1879)