In this week’s issue Robert P. Baird reviews William Logan’s “Dickinson’s Nerves, Frost’s Woods,” an analysis of some of English literature’s greatest poems. Here is an unsigned 1894 review of a posthumously published collection of Emily Dickinson’s letters and poems. Below is an excerpt.
A most remarkable and interesting woman is revealed in this collection of letters, a woman who lived in recluse in the college town of Amherst, and who wrote poetry which was not published till she has been dead a number of years. She was a bright woman, but, being untrained, her thoughts ran to whimsicalities, and her poetry was unlike anything anybody else had written. Her peculiar life, too, had its effect upon her writings. She stayed at home almost constantly, rarely venturing outside the fences which inclosed her father’s place. Her pleasure was in her associations with members of her own family, in her correspondance with a few — a very few — persons, with whom she established terms of delightful intimacy, and finally in her communion with nature. She was not soured the least by her life of retirement, but that life developed in her a great many peculiarities which found expression in the letters she wrote, as well as in the little poems which she dashed off on the margins of newspapers and on the backs of envelopes and stowed away in what she called her “scrap” heap.
A curious thing about Miss Dickinson is that, although in her later years — that is to say, after she had passed her twenty-fifth year — she shunned society and clung closely to her home, she in her youthful days was full of fun and the life of the centre of schoolgirls in which she moved.
The first thought is one of regret that Miss Dickinson did not fulfill the promise of her girlhood and make a literary name for herself, but, perhaps it is just as well that she developed in a different way. It may be said, too, that poems and letters such as Miss Dickinson wrote have a literary value in their very strangeness and irregularity.