Saturday, January 21, 2017

Did Emily dip her iambic pentameter in both Walden ponds?

The secret passions of Emily Dickinson revealed 

New York Post By Barbara Hoffman January 21, 2017 

For someone so notoriously reclusive, Emily Dickinson got around. She wrote heartfelt letters to both men and women, clipped flowers and magazine articles, and spoke her mind, at least in poems.
Only 10 were published, anonymously, in her lifetime — out of around 1,800 discovered in her bedroom after her death in 1886. Fiercely private and prolific, she’s long been a mystery: the woman in white, gardening by moonlight. So it’s thrilling to see hard evidence of her life, right down to a lock of her auburn hair, at the Morgan Library & Museum’s new show, “I’m Nobody! Who are you? The Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson.”
Nearly 100 letters, photos, books and artifacts that rarely leave Amherst College and Harvard University’s archives are finally on view here, including a lovely family portrait of a 9-year-old Emily, with her older brother, Austin, and younger sister, Lavinia. There’s even a musket used by Amherst students, who aimed to join the Union soldiers during the Civil War, and whose shooting drills Emily probably heard from her bedroom. And while the Morgan’s left a few copies of her poems to leaf through during the show, you’ll probably end up wanting to read more. This is shaping up as a great year for the “Belle of Amherst,” who never married and died, age 55, in the home in which she was raised: In April, we’ll see Cynthia Nixon play her in the film “A Quiet Passion.”

Passion percolates below the surface of the Morgan’s show, with its titillating suggestion of sapphic love: Along with that single authenticated daguerreotype of Emily, age 16, looking wan and wary, is a photo that surfaced recently of two women, the one on the left strikingly like Dickinson, albeit older and more assured. Her arm is round the back of one Kate Turner, who later left for England and a lesbian lover. Were Dickinson and Kate involved? The mystery deepens.
Men courted her, too, such as George Gould, whose gawky-looking face we see here. He was a charity student at Amherst and a friend of her brother’s who invited Emily for walks. (We’re not sure she went, but she saved the invitation.) Over time, her social anxiety grew so strong that her father bought her a large dog she named Carlo, to help her navigate the world outside her bedroom.
That world didn’t include the church. A deeply spiritual person, Dickinson sought God elsewhere:
“Some keep the Sabbath going to Church
I keep it, staying it at Home
With a Bobolink for a Chorister
And an Orchard, for a Dome.”
If you don’t already worship Emily Dickinson, this show just might make you an acolyte.


ricpic said...

There's something to be said for dying in the same house you were born in;
Spares you the illusion that getting somewhere is a matter of locomotion.

Synova said...

I dislike the need to make everyone who was anyone in History, gay. She may have been. Or she may simply have been uninterested in men. Or merely uninterested in being a wife and mother. If her family afforded her that option, why wouldn't she take it?

The women in my family of my grandmother's generation made choices that range from conventional to unconventional and they did so without the benefit of a wealthy family. Many found a husband, wed and had piles of farm kids. One become a missionary, remained single, and traveled the world. In a time when women were supposed to be dependent and protected it seems that giving one's life to the church meant that you could go husbandless into the most amazing and dangerous places. Another ran away to New York and became a dancer and eventually married a mobster. Another never married and worked as the housekeeper for a notable industrial family for her whole life.

This weird need to make all Historical single women lesbian is wholly ignorant of the realistic choices that women had. Most lesbians undoubtedly wed. Men. And had children. Because that's what you did. Spinster aunts may have been lesbian but society did not assume that they were. And the loving, often florid, language of attachment between men and men and between women and women, was mostly carried on entirely in the open. Which, if it meant you were gay would not have been done in the open. People were expected to have profound relationships with members of the same sex. These days even Ernie and Bert must necessarily be gay.

It's sad.

edutcher said...

Only Troop could make Emily a fish taco.

rcocean said...

There's also a weird desire to make every positive historical figure Gay. Some guy wrote a whole book asserting Lincoln was Gay because he slept in the same bed with another guy at a boarding house.

Of course, that meant nothing back then. You had to bed with someone because there weren't enough beds to go around. Plus, without central heating, having two bodies in one bed keeps you warm.

People were also much more effusive - in writing - toward the same sex, probably because they didn't have to worry about someone thinking they were Gay.

rcocean said...

One of worst Presidents, Buchanan, may have been gay since he was a "Confirmed bachelor" who never married. But even that's doubtful because he had a couple torrid love affairs when he was young.