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H bMS Am 1118.95, Box 9

Dated 1884. Ink, on two white sturdy leaves. Sheet folded into two leaves and then in thirds. Writing on both leaves, with poem on first and third pages and a note on the fourth. "Hyssop" is a highly aromatic and pungent plant used in purificatory sprinkling rites by the ancient Hebrews. Poem is dated a little over a year after Gib died and thus about ten months after Mabel and Austin's affair began. Susan is still withdrawn from society in grief over the loss of Gib, and her note on the fourth page speaks to the complexities of the situation as well as indicates that exchanging writing with another writer/reader was habitual. By this point Susan's handwriting has fairly generous spaces between letters, as does Emily's of this period. As does Emily in a few instances (perhaps most notably in the "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" recorded in F 10), here Susan indicates breaks by placing lines between stanzas (Emily often indicated breaks between poems by placing lines between them; Susan's practice in a fascicle she copied of others' poems is to indicate separations between both poems and stanzas with lines, so their copying practices echo one another's). The familiarity of Susan's note to the recipient and the ease with which she asks for the writings' return to her suggest close proximity as well as intimacy and argue for Emily as the addressee. This exchange seems further documentation of Susan and Emily's writing workshop, one in which poetry was "sermon. . .hope. . .solace. . .life" (as Susan declared in a 1900 letter to Curtis Hidden Page).

Important also is the fact that Matty (Martha Gilbert Dickinson Bianchi), who would become one of the most widely published woman writers of her day, also appears to have become a participant in what might be called Susan and Emily's writing workshop; in 1884, Matty is eighteen years old and preparing to go to school at Farmington, a move she had put off the year previous because of the loss of young eight-year-old Gib. In her autobiography Life before Last: Reminiscences of a Country Girl (currently being edited for publication by Barton St. Armand and Martha Nell Smith), Matty makes clear how devastating this loss was, noting that she and her older brother Ned were afraid to mention his name in their parents' presence, that the Dickinsons did not hold their annual Commencement party in 1883, that Susan withdrew for more than a year and suffered from shingles, and that Austin "manlike, hardened his will after the first outburst of despair, and set a face of flint to the world" (p. 120 of MDB's typescript).

In Ned's Notebook, he transcribes "Hyssop," as well as Susan's poem "Irony," along with poems by Emily and probably Matty. On the verso of Ned's "Hyssop" is a poem probably written by Matty entitled "Foreboding."