January 19th, 2011
Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith, editors of Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson’s Intimate Letters to Susan Gilbert Dickinson, say, “Nearly all of Susan’s letters to Emily were destroyed at the time of the poet’s death. This would have been the result of a routine ‘house-cleaning,’ reflecting the common practice in the nineteenth century to either destroy or return to the senders all letters received by the deceased” (xiii). They also maintain that “Emily and Susan’s relationship surpasses in depth, passion, and continuity the stereotype of the ‘intimate exchange’ between women friends of the period” (xiv).
Also, the poem “One Sister have I” was sent to Sue in a letter in late 1858. Dickinson later transcribed the poem, with some variants, and sewed it into fascicle two. Martha Dickinson Bianchi (Sue’s daughter) published it in 1914 from the copy she had in her mother’s papers (the fact that Sue received a bulk of Emily’s poems over the years in letters accounts for some of the division of work between the rival editors), and it is believed that Mabel Loomis Todd or Austin Dickinson scribbled out the facsimile version, meaning that Vinnie must have given them the poem with the other fascicles after Emily’s death.