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MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot
First edition of MIDDLEMARCH (1871-72), Parts I & II (of 8) by George Eliot (1819-1880)    
Emily Dickinson
< Early Feminist Essays   |   Emily Dickinson's Nature Mysticism >
"Emily Dickinson's Letters" by Thomas Wentworth Higginson -- (pg.10)
text pub. Atlantic Monthly, October, 1891
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page 10
After my visit came this letter:

      -- Enough is so vast a sweetness, I suppose it never occurs, only pathetic counterfeits.
        Fabulous to me as the men of the Revelations who "shall not hunger any more." Even the possible has its insoluble particle.
        After you went, I took Macbeth and turned to "Birnam Wood." Came twice "To Dunsinane." I thought and went about my work....
        The vein cannot thank the artery, but her solemn indebtedness to him, even the stolidest admit, and so of me who try, whose effort leaves no sound.
        You ask great questions accidentally. To answer them would be events. I trust that you are safe.
        I ask you to forgive me for all the ignorance I had. I find no nomination sweet as your low opinion.
        Speak, if but to blame your obedient child.
        You told me of Mrs. Lowell's poems. Would you tell me where I could find them, or are they not for sight? An article of yours, too, perbaps the only one you wrote that I never knew. It was about a "Latch." Are you willing to tell me? [Perhaps "A Sketch."]
        If I ask too much, you could please refuse. Shortness to live has made me bold.
        Abroad is close to-night and I have but to lift my hands to touch the "Heights of Abraham."
    DICKINSON.                

When I said, at parting, that I would come again some time, she replied, "Say, in a long time; that will be nearer. Some time is no time." We met only once again, and I have no express record of the visit. We corresponded for years, at long intervals, her side of the intercourse being, I fear, better sustained; and she sometimes wrote also to my wife, inclosing flowers or fragrant leaves with a verse or two. Once she sent her one of George Eliot's books, I think Middlemarch, and wrote, "I am bringing you a little granite book for you to lean upon." At other times she would send single poems, such as these --

            THE BLUE JAY.

     No brigadier throughout the year
     So civic as the jay.
     A neighbor and a warrior too,
     With shrill felicity
     Pursuing winds that censure us
     A February Day,
     The brother of the universe
     Was never blown away.
     The snow and he are intimate;
     I ‘ye often seen them play
     When heaven looked upon us all
     With such severity
     I felt apology were due
     To an insulted sky
     Whose pompous frown was nutriment
     To their temerity.
     The pillow of this daring head
     Is pungent evergreens;
     His larder -- terse and militant --
     Unknown, refreshing things;
     His character — a tonic;
     His future — a dispute;
     Unfair an immortality
     That leaves this neighbor out.

            THE WHITE HEAT.

     Dare you see a soul at the white heat?
     Then crouch within the door;
     Red is the fire’s common tint,
     But when the vivid ore

     Has sated flame’s conditions,
     Its quivering substance plays
     Without a color, but the light
     Of unanointed blaze.

     Least village boasts its blacksmith,
     Whose anvil’s even din
     Stands symbol for the finer forge
     That soundless tugs within,

     Refining these impatient ores
     With hammer and with blaze,
     Until the designated light
     Repudiate the forge.

Then came the death of her father, that strong Puritan father who had communicated to her so much of the vigor of his own nature, and who bought her many books, but begged her not to read them. Mr. Edward Dickinson, after service in the national House of Representatives and other public positions, had become a member of the lower house of the Massachusetts legislature. The session was unusually prolonged, and he was making a speech upon some railway question at noon, one very hot day (July 16, 1874), when he became suddenly faint and sat down. The house adjourned, and a friend walked with him to his lodgings at the Tremont House; where he began to pack his bag for home, after sending for a physician, but died within three hours. Soon afterwards, I received the following letter: --

    The last afternoon that my father lived, though with no premonition, I preferred to be with him, and invented an absence for mother, Vinnie [her sister] being asleep. He seemed peculiarly pleased, as I oftenest stayed with myself; and remarked, as the afternoon withdrew, he "would like it to not end."
        His pleasure almost embarrassed me, and my brother coming, I suggested they walk. Next morning I woke him for the train, and saw him no more.
        His heart was pure and terrible, and I think no other like it exists.
        I am glad there is immortality, but would have tested it myself, before entrusting him. Mr. Bowles was with us. With that exception, I saw none. I have wished for you, since my father died, and had you an hour unengrossed, it would be almost priceless. Thank you for each kindness.

Later she wrote:

          When I think of my father's lonely life and lonelier death, there is this redress: --

        Take all away;
        The only thing worth larceny
        Is left -- the immortality.

        My earliest friend wrote me the week before he died, "If I live, I will go to Amherst; if I die, I certainly will."
        Is your house deeper off?

    Your SCHOLAR.            

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