Monday, 22 February 2010

Can you render my pencil?

In 1858 Emily Dickinson produced her first fascicle, four sheets containing 27 poems. Thus started a huge production of "little volumes" or "little manuscripts", gatherings of poems arranged on individual unbound sheets of stationery. Her peak year was 1863 when she copied or wrote around 300 hundred poems. But in 1864, Emily had problems with her eyesight. She went to Boston in 1864 to see Dr. Henry Williams and returned in April for treatment.

I was ill since September and since April, in Boston, for a Physician's care. Dr Williams forbade the use of pen and ink. Can you render my Pencil? The Physician has taken away my Pen,

the pen "she had been feverishly employing for nearly two years. Her letters at this time are entirely in pencil, as are her poetry manuscripts...". She went back to Cambridge for further treatment in 1865, and while she continued to send pencil messages to friends, she returned to transcribing her poems in ink onto fascicle sheets. She done most of her writing, both in pen and pencil, in her bedroom at the Homestead, on a small work table with a single drawer.

Unauthenticated daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson, ca. 1848-1853

See The Poems of Emily Dickinson, volume 3, 1998, where the quotes come from; On Emily Dickinson manuscripts and her work routine, see the Emily Dickinson Museum

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