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601Emily Dickinson's biography: "DEAR MR BOWLES"

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  • billarnoldfla
    Nov 29, 2012

      Hi, Dickinsonians.

      Letter 272 (Johnson) was written in ink by Emily Dickinson
      on "especially lightweight" stationary "intended for overseas
      correspondence" given to her by Susan Dickinson. There is no doubt
      that Susan Dickinson, her confidante who kept her Secret Love
      with Samuel Bowles well hidden, knew Emily Dickinson wrote to her
      Master Samuel Bowles who had gone across the Sea Blue to Europe.
      Emily Dickinson says so in her letter to Sam, dated August 1862.
      The provenance of the letter is that it was saved by the family
      of Samuel Bowles and donated to Amherst College Library, where it
      now resides for the world to take note of. It reads in part:

      Dear Mr Bowles.

      ...when you get Home, next Winter...

      Summer a'nt so long as it was, when we stood looking at it,
      before you went away, and when I finish August, we'll hop the Autumn,
      very soon--and then 'twill be Yourself. I dont know how many will be
      glad to see you, because I never saw your whole friends, but I have
      heard, that in large Cities--noted persons chose you. Though how glad
      those I know--will be, is easier told.

      I tell you, Mr Bowles, it is a Suffering, to have a sea--no care
      how Blue--between your Soul, and you. The Hills you used to love when
      you were in Northampton, miss their old lover, could they speak--and
      the puzzled look--deepens in Carlo's forehead, as Days go by, and you
      never come.

      I've learned to read the Steamer place--in Newspapers--now. It's
      'most like shaking hands, with you--or more like your ringing at the

      We reckon--your coming by the Fruit.


      It is easier to look behind at a pain, than to see it coming...

      How sweet it must be to one to come Home--whose Home is in so many
      Houses--and every Heart a "Best Room." I mean you, Mr Bowles.

      Sue gave me the paper, to write on...for have not the Clovers,
      *names*, to the Bees?


      Now, Dickinsonians, for an exegesis, based on her biography:

      I have edited this letter, to be emphatic on Emily Dickinson's
      relationship with her Master, Samuel Bowles. Remember: he had visited
      her in April, she had gone into turmoil, written myriad letters and
      poems, dressed in white, went into seclusion, and now, she gets special
      stationary for overseas mail, and in August, at the height of the summer
      season when she always had a visit from Samuel Bowles, Emily Dickinson
      *confesses* her innermost angst, actual suffering at the Sea Blue which
      separates them.

      She recounts she knows he is the "Bee" which has so many "Clovers"
      [ aka anagram, Clever Lovers ] that he cannot remember their
      *names* and she emphasizes the word by underlining! She recalls for him
      what it meant to her to have her "old lover" in nearby "Northampton" in
      the summer of 1861 when he almost died. She IS metaphorically
      "The Hills" and Samuel Bowles even autographed one of her anonymously
      published poems in his newspaper with the referent "Pelham Hill, June, 1861."
      It was Poem 216, and he had published it the summer before and she is
      herein acknowledging their "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" memories.

      Obviously, the poem's first line, and second "Untouched by Morning,"
      contain SAM in capital letters and internal anagrams of Sam b in "Safe...
      Alabaster...Chambers." The metaphors within the first stanza are
      chillingly about these cold, calculating "lovers."

      Let us repeat: Samuel Bowles published Poem 216 and signed it with
      a clear moniker of "Pelham Hill, June, 1861," as bold as you can get as
      to *who* was its author to those in the know, such as Lavinia, Austin,
      and Susan, as well as Emily Dickinson, its author, who in this followup
      letter reveals he, Samuel Bowles, was the tomb partner in the poem,
      the "old lover" who even her dog Carlo misses, he was *there* in
      "The Hills" so often!! Quite a metaphor for secret "lovers"!!!

      So often, she notes, Samuel Bowles *knows* and she reminds
      him that between "you" [Sam] and "your Soul [herself: Emily] is that
      "sea--no care how Blue." And "Blue" she was, while he was away.

      This is hardly the letter of a cloistered nun, but more the letter
      of his "Queen Recluse" in wait for his return, dressed in white, bridal
      as the pure snow, that coming winter, when he would come, to visit his
      white "Clover" again--yes, he, Sam come to "The Hills"!

      We are still on square one: love :)

      Bill Arnold

      Bill Arnold
      MFA, U-Mass, Amherst
      Dickinson Scholar
      Independent Scholar
      Independent Scholar, Modern Language Association
      Professor of world literature classics
      Author, EMILY DICKINSON'S SECRET LOVE: Mystery "Master" Behind Poems,
      230 pages, 1998.
      ISBN 1-892582-00-7

      "There is magic in the web" Shakespeare (Othello, Act 3, Scene 4)

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