Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Scarce Emily Dickinson Letter Comes To Auction

by Stephen J. Gertz

A rare three-page autograph letter by Emily Dickinson, written in pencil and signed  “Emily," is being offered by Profiles In History in its Property of a Distinguished American Private Collector sale December 18, 2012. 

It is estimated to sell for $20,000 - $30,000.

Written in Amherst during Autumn 1884 to Mrs. Samuel E. Mack, the reclusive American poetess expresses her pleasure in Mrs. Mack's recent visit and quotes from Last Lines, a poem by Emily Brontë.

Dickinson writes in full:

It was very dear to see Mrs. Mack. A friend is a solemnity and after the great intrusion of Death, each one that remains has a special pricelessness besides the mortal worth --- I hope you may live while we live, and then with loving selfishness consent that you should go ---

Said the Marvellous Emily Bronte

Though Earth and Man were gone And suns and Universe ceased to be And thou wert left alone,
Every Existence would Exist in thee--

Tenderly, Emily

Letters by Dickinson are extremely rare. This missive - oddly addressing her correspondent  in the first sentence in the third person  -  was published in the Letters of Emily Dickinson  edited by T.H. Johnson, no. 940, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958), noting that Dickinson quoted the same poem of Emily Bronte in a letter to another friend, Maria Whitney.

The letter was last seen at Christie’s New York, 15 December 1995, lot 16, when, along with related material, it sold for $16,000.

Images courtesy of Profiles In History, woth our thanks.

1 comment:

  1. The hope, at the point of death, "with loving selfishness consent that you should go", is an incredible reversal from a normally expected fear of death to "selfish consent". I wonder if Emily Dickinson actually felt this, convinced of immortality, or if she ever thought deeply about the reality of immortality, or whether she was mainly offering comfort.


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