First edition of the Letters of Emily Dickinson in the rare original cloth

  • Letters of Emily Dickinson.
  • Letters of Emily Dickinson.
  • Letters of Emily Dickinson.
  • Letters of Emily Dickinson.

Letters of Emily Dickinson.

Item Number: 95236

Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1894.

First edition of Emily Dickinson’s letters, published by Mabel Loomis Todd. Octavo, two volumes, original pictorial cloth gilt, engraved frontispiece portrait of Dickinson with tissue guard to volume one, engraved frontispiece of Emily Dickinson’s house with tissue guard to volume two. In very good condition with light rubbing to the extremities.

A poet who took definition as her province, Emily Dickinson challenged the existing definitions of poetry and the poet’s work. Like writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman, she experimented with expression in order to free it from conventional restraints. After discovering hundreds of Emily’s poems shortly after her death, the poet’s sister Lavinia resolved that the poetry must be published. She later wrote: "I have had a ‘Joan of Arc’ feeling about Emilies [sic] poems from the first" (Letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, December 23, 1890, as quoted in Bingham, p. 87). Lavinia approached two of the poet’s friends--sister-in-law Susan Dickinson and mentor Thomas Wentworth Higginson --for help. Susan did not pursue publication quickly enough for Lavinia, and Higginson was otherwise occupied. To fulfill her vision, Lavinia turned to Mabel Loomis Todd, the vivacious young wife of an Amherst College professor. Todd was a momentous choice, for she was deeply involved in a love affair with Austin Dickinson, Susan’s husband and Emily's brother. An accomplished artist and musician, Todd brought much-needed vitality and commitment to preparing Dickinson’s poetry for publication. After finally enlisting Thomas Wentworth Higginson as co-editor, Todd completed Poems of Emily Dickinson in 1890, just four years after the poet’s death. Four years later, Loomis published DIckinson's letters in the present two volumes.