Emily Dickinson & her Correspondent: Two Quotes

When I was anticipating the vernal equinox due at 6:45 PM (EST) a week ago last Friday, I found a curiously solitary figure on a rain-drenched day.

I HIDE myself within my flower,
That wearing on your breast,
You, unsuspecting, wear me too—
And angels know the rest.

I hide myself within my flower,
That, fading from your vase,
You, unsuspecting, feel for me
Almost a loneliness.                  

-Emily Dickinson

LjiljanThomas Wentworth Higginson gives an account of his first meeting with Emily Dickinson following their eight-year correspondence:

220px-Emily_Dickinson_daguerreotype

At last, after many postponements, on August 16, 1870, I found myself face to face with my hitherto unseen correspondent. It was at her father’s house, one of those large, square, brick mansions so familiar in our older New England towns, surrounded by trees and blossoming shrubs without, and within exquisitely neat, cool, spacious, and fragrant with flowers. After a little delay, I heard an extremely faint and pattering footstep like that of a child, in the hall, and in glided, almost noiselessly, a plain, shy little person, the face without a single good feature, but with eyes, as she herself said, “like the sherry the guest leaves in the glass,” and with smooth bands of reddish chestnut hair. She had a quaint and nun-like look, as if she might be a German canoness of some religious order, whose prescribed garb was white pique, with a blue net worsted shawl. She came toward me with two day-lilies, which she put in a childlike way into my hand, saying softly, under her breath, “These are my introduction,” and adding, also, under her breath, in childlike fashion, “Forgive me if I am frightened; I never see strangers, and hardly know what I say.” But soon she began to talk, and thenceforward continued almost constantly; pausing sometimes to beg that I would talk instead, but readily recommencing when I evaded.¹

Before you’re tempted to feel sorry for this great poet whose society seems lacking, I would remind you that she herself would feel pity for those whose own company drives them in constant search of others and their good opinion.

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!²


¹Excerpt from Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “Emily Dickinson’s Letters,” The Atlantic Monthly, Oct. 1891.
²”I hide myself” and “I’m nobody!” from Emily Dickinson, Complete Poems, 1830-86.
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