Poetry: Letter from young Emily Dickinson

in-nuce.com Emily Dickinson letter

The only known prose attributed to Emily Dickinson is that which is found in her letters to family and friends.

The following letter to a schoolmate, written by Dickinson when she was fourteen years old, contains evidence of her precocious verbal prowess.

Letter from young Emily Dickinson

Before the era of outer envelopes, the letter is quaintly written on a large square sheet, and so folded that the fourth page forms a cover bearing the address. Most of the remaining letters to Dickinson’s friend are thus folded, and sealed either with wax or wafers, — occasionally with little rectangular or diamond papers bearing mottoes stamped in gold.
 The handwriting is almost microscopic,
the pages entirely filled:
Amherst, Feb. 23, 1845.
Dear A., — After receiving the smitings of conscience for a long time, I have at length succeeded in stifling the voice of that faithful monitor by a promise of a long letter to you; so leave everything and sit down prepared for a long siege in the shape of a bundle of nonsense from friend E.
...I keep your lock of hair as precious as gold ,and a great, deal more so. I often look at it when I go to my little lot of treasures, and wish the owner of that glossy lock were here. Old Time wags on pretty much as usual at Amherst, and I know of nothing that has occurred to break the silence; however, the reduction of the postage has excited my risibles somewhat. Only think! We can send a letter before long for five little coppers only, filled with the thoughts and advice of dear friends. But I will not get into a philosophizing strain just yet. There is time enough for that upon another page of this mammoth sheet...
Your beau ideal D. I have not seen lately. I presume he was changed into a star some night while gazing at them, and placed in the constellation Orion between Bellatrix and Betelgeux. I doubt not if he was here he would wish to be kindly remembered to you.
What delightful weather we have had for a week! It seems more like smiling May crowned with flowers than cold, arctic February wading through snowdrifts. I have heard some sweet little birds sing, but I fear we shall have more cold weather and their little bills will be frozen up before their songs are finished. My plants look beautifully. Old King Frost has not had the pleasure of snatching any of them in his cold embrace as yet, and I hope will not...
Do you love your little niece J. as well as ever? Your soliloquy on the year that is past and gone was not unheeded by me. Would that we might spend the year which is now fleeting so swiftly by to better advantage than the one which we have not the power to recall! Now I know you will laugh, and say I wonder what makes Emily so sentimental. But I don’t care if you do, for I sha’n’t hear you.
What are you doing this winter? I am about everything. I am now working a pair of slippers to adorn my father’s feet. I wish you would come and help me finish them... Although it is late in the day, I am going to wish you a happy New Year, — not but what I think your New Year will pass just as happily without it, but to make a little return for your kind wish, which so far in a good many respects has been granted, probably because you wished that it might be so... I go to singing-school Sabbath evenings to improve my voice. Don’t you envy me?...
I wish you would come and make me a long visit. If you will, I will entertain you to the best of my abilities, which you know are neither few nor small. Why can’t you persuade your father and mother to let you come here to school next term, and keep me company, as I am going? Miss —, I presume you can guess who I mean, is going to finish her education next summer. The finishing stroke is to be put on at Newton. She will then have learned all that we poor foot-travellers are toiling up the hill of knowledge to acquire
Wonderful thought!
Her horse has carried her along so swiftly that she has nearly gained the summit, and we are plodding along on foot after her
Well said and sufficient this. We’ll finish an education sometime, won’t we? You may then be Plato, and I will be Socrates, provided you won’t be wiser than I am. Lavinia just now interrupted my flow of thought by saying give my love to A. I presume you will be glad to have someone break off this epistle. All the girls send much love to you. And please accept a large share for yourself. From your beloved
Emily E. Dickinson.
Please send me a copy of that Romance you were writing at Amherst. I am in a fever to read it. I expect it will be against my Whig feelings.

After this postscript many others follow, across the top, down the edges, tucked in wherever space will allow.
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