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572Dickinson's biography: Who was the Master of 1,000 love poems?

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  • dickinson1890
    Feb 23, 2011

      Hi, Dickinsonians:

      Emily Dickinson got her definition for *Master* from her reading
      in Charles Dickens--an author Samuel Bowles and she communicated
      about in their correspondence. In my book *Emily Dickinson's Secret
      Love* of 1998, most readers find convincing Chapter 9, "Lady in White
      Ship-Wrecked at Sea, Sam Swam Away, 1862." Therein you will note,
      I wrote, about her semiotic usage of the "Master-Scholar" dichotomy
      long before she wrote to Higginson, who was her *third* scholar.

      Consult page 143:

      "Miss Emily's biography is fraught with wrong interpretations of
      'who' was 'Master.' ...In September, 1861, Sam Bowles became
      'deathly' ill and took his cure for a month or more in Northampton,
      next door to Amherst. In Letter 241, of October 1861, Miss Emily
      wrote Sam, '"Swiveller" may be sure of the "Marchioness."' In
      Charles Dickens' *The Old Curiosity Shop* it was the 'small servant'
      girl of fourteen who Dick Swiveller became indebted to and finally
      married. This last *fact* should not escape us. When Dick was
      'deathly' ill, it was she, the Marchioness, who sat by his bedside a
      full month and nursed him back to health. Obviously, Letter 241
      indicates Miss Emily was *there* for Sam Bowles in Northampton.
      Forever grateful, Dick Swiveller said 'we'll make a scholar of the
      poor Marchioness yet!' Dick Swiveller intervened and educated her
      into a 'scholar' and schooled her a half-dozen years in the social
      graces, so by nineteen she was 'good-looking, clever, and
      good-humored.' We know for *fact* Sam Bowles was at the Dickinson
      Homestead in 1849 for tea when Miss Emily was nineteen. Thus, in the
      Dicken's tale, Dick Swiveller realized that the 'young lady saving up
      for him after all' the years had made herself worthy, and he married
      her. End of tale. In real life, Miss Emily was telling Sam that he
      could 'be sure' of her. Precisely, she meant he could be sure of her
      love and devotion, forever."

      "In April 1862, despite her pleading for him to stay in America,
      Sam Bowles sailed to Europe for his health. Within the week, Miss
      Emily wrote Higginson, the Boston editor, calling herself 'Your
      scholar.' Referring to the sickness of Sam Bowles, who she feared
      would die, she wrote Higginson, 'I had a terror--since September.'
      Devoted to Sam as the Marchioness was to Dick, Miss Emily began to
      dress in white and refused the company of men. Her hope was that in
      the 'spirit' of the tale, someday they might marry in real life. if
      not, they were wedded in *spirit*. Forevermore."

      Thus, the tale of the "Master-Scholar" relationship between
      "Master" Sam and "Scholar" Miss Emily really finds its definition
      within Letter 241 of October 1861 and not the 1828 Webster's
      dictionary. And, within the literary allusion by Emily Dickinson to
      Dickens' *The Old Curiosity Shop*. Dickinsonians will find the
      relationship of "Master" Dick to "Scholar" Marchioness exactly as
      she envision it to her "Master" Sam from herself--"Scholar" Emily
      Dickinson. Her poetry and writings show that she viewed their
      relationship as a *Secret Love* relationship, leading to a spiritual
      marriage made in Heaven, and destined for Paradise, as Immortals
      in world literature.

      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)