Emily Dickinson’s Letters

She just didn’t get the support or understanding she sought from [Atlantic editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson]. The authority figure of her day was not much of an authority on genius. I love what she wrote to him in her fifth letter: “All men say ‘What’ to me.” His confusion didn’t stop her, but it cost her—and us. It took years before the public read the poems in their original form.

You know, Dickinson did talk about fame in her letters; she was aware of the possibilities: “It’s a great thing to be ‘great,’ Louise, and you and I might tug for a life, and never accomplish it, but no one can stop our looking on, and you know some can not sing, but the orchard is full of birds, and we all can listen. What if we learn, ourselves, someday! Who indeed knows?”

Emily Fragos on Emily Dickinson’s Letters, The Paris Review.

(1847: Dickinson at 17)

(1859: Dickinson (left) at 29)


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