Letter 3, sheet 7,
Very romantic image of them alone in the woods, an image of extasy, of being in “bloom”, of flying in the “Ether”. There is a release at the end tied to the image of “in white” which alludes to marriage, to virginity, to a new beginning?
These letters feel uncomfortably personal, like she wouldn’t want us reading them?
Letter 3, sheet 6,
The imagery is like that of a bride “in white” and growing into old age (“cane”) but there is a great distance between them, perhaps the distance between heaven and earth, between horizon and shore. There is a real longing here, a genuine desire to be together with “master” but also the anxiety that perhaps she might “disappoint” (wound?)
Letter 3, sheet 5,
Carlo sighting! So then when the sea / horizon overtakes her, she imagines her and master switching places? Is this what she means by dying as fast as she could, that she wants to switch places? Is she waiting for death, to go to that “untried country”?
Letter 3, sheet 4,
Perhaps the volcanic imagery is a symbol of her heart’s passion which might have caused both of them pain, and that’s why she needs a leech to bleed out the excess in her which is larger than her (letter 1, sheet 1, letter 2, sheet 1)? Is she overflowing with pain? With passion? Is there a difference? Then she combines the horizon with the edge of the sea, as if the horizon is closing in at her?
Letter 3, Sheet 3,
She continues with the theme of redemption in relation to repression and that which is forbidden. This leads into her wondering if master’s heart is in the same place as hers, so does she mean to admit she’s done something wrong which requires redemption but only because she’s human and makes mistakes of the human heart? Is it jealousy? Is the wound a wound she caused?
Letter 3, Sheet 2,
She’s asking for “Redemption”, and she’s asked this before in letter 2 when she asked not to be banished. Is this “redemption” related to the image of Thomas and Christ’s wounds? And how is she altered, is it only in age since she still loves the same? She also wants to breathe the same air that “master” has, inhabit the same space, feel the same thing, but she feels sorrow at their separation.
Letter 3, Sheet 1,
She begins with a wound again (like 2’s Tomahawk) then follows it up with the image of doubting Thomas and Jesus’ wounds as proof of faith. Does she think of “master” this way, as like Christ’s wounds that she must see to believe in him? Is “master” a wound she feels? And this is related to the image of the heart, first seen on this sheet as the one “He built … in me”. Wound leads to heart.
It is really unusual how much she worked on these letters, but then it might offer some insight into how she went about the writing process with her numerous revisions in pencil and ink, and how she turned “He” into “I dont”. I wonder why she’d make such a careful alteration, but then later add many changes in pencil below? Did she mean for the letter to be done at one point then thought of something new to add?
Letter 2, Sheet 4,
Again with the nautical / boat imagery she likes to use about the journey of life being like an ocean voyage (and a nice play on the word “tug”). And who is the “tug”? Is it “master”, is it inspiration? She seems so eager to please and not offend and I’m also reminded of those imaginary conversation we have when we’re lonely and want to express ourselves but can’t in person.
Letter 2, Sheet 3,
This feels very stream of consciousness in how she goes from “wonder” stinging her more than the bee to saying the bee never stung her – is this thinking / writing the “gay music” she hears? But overall she talks of injury, of a “Tomahawk in [her] side” but she does not complain (like ‘I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself” DH Lawrence). Has “master” hurt her? What’s the injury?
Letter 2, Sheet 1,
Again, more uncertainty in her inability to find the right words. Here she describes being shunned like an odd “Backwoodsman” who has is on the verge of being banished from civilization, from “master”. She wants forgiveness and at this point in the letter she seems more certain of her word choice once she asks for forgiveness. Are these related?
“As Dickinson wrote she also revised – cancelling words, substituting others, and setting down unresolved alternatives as she proceeded” – “unresolved” being the greatest thing about her writing. I love how this intuits her process as an inertia that she worked with, as if she saw writing as riding a current, making a rudder correction as she went, but not worrying about the journey having any specific meaning.
Letter 1, Sheet 4,
The idea of sickness still lingers and though she seems relieved that Master isn’t in “Heaven”, she is still concerned for their health and wants to hear news, but from whom? How? They way the lips speak of “Dawn”, or the way sailors long for home but can’t communicate to the land? There’s a real longing in this letter for news of health, connection, and its relationship to the universe.
Letter 1, Sheet 3,
Interesting image of the lips whispering at sunset which are also saying “Dawn” somewhere else in the world. She loves to write about movement and the cycles of the universe, specifically circular movement.
She writes about being like the sailor at sea that wants to come home – perhaps on the Sabbath? She connects the hills to the blue waves.
Letter 1, Sheet 2,
She speaks of the “Violets” that are next to her (perhaps in the garden as well on her desk), and she mentions “Spring”, so could master be the season of renewal that cures (sick) winter?
She wants to create, like an artist, but she scolds the flowers?
Funny how there is a connection to The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock with “to and fro” & “Mr. Michael Angelo”. Did Eliot know of this letter?
Letter 1, sheet 1:
We learns she and Master are sick, and perhaps she thought he was “in Heaven” (dead), but she hears his voice again and that makes her happy. Could master maybe not be a person, but something else, a force, like nature? Like a season which she hears coming like a bird chirping when long (sick) winter is over?
I love how it’s the analysis of her handwriting, specifically the word “the” which gives us a clue as to when these letters were written. I mean, we don’t know the “the” of the poems, so all we can do is analyze the how of the “the” (not the why of the “the”).
I sometimes get the impression that if Emily were looking down on us that she’d be having a great time seeing all the trouble she’s put us through.
I think the fact these they aren’t dated, and their composition is so obscure makes me think that these might have considered these to be some other form of writing all together, not letters, not poetry, but maybe something we don’t have a word for?
Why did Lavinia burn all of Emily’s correspondences? Of course since the Master letters weren’t part of those correspondences then they might have been in with her poems, so could she have considered these letters something else?
“Dickinson did not write letters as a fictional genre”. Do we know this? Maybe she didn’t have the pure intent of fiction in mind, but if she wrote these as a creative piece then they would be part of the fiction genre. Dickinson was ahead of the curve, artistically speaking, in so many other ways, why deny she went even further?