I had a terror since September, I could tell to none; and so I sing, as the boy does by the burying ground, because I am afraid.
You inquire my books. For poets, I have Keats, and Mr. and Mrs. Browning. For prose, Mr. Ruskin, Sir Thomas Browne, and the Revelations. I went to school, but in your manner of the phrase had no education. When a little girl, I had a friend who taught me Immortality; but venturing too near, himself, he never returned. Soon after my tutor died, and for several years my lexicon was my only companion. Then I found one more, but he was not contented I be his scholar, so he left the land.
You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog large as myself, that my father bought me. They are better than beings because they know, but do not tell; and the noise in the pool at noon excels my piano.
From an April 1862 letter Emily Dickinson wrote to Thomas Wentworth Higginson.
See more American literary icons on American money by Shannon May.
And, by the bye—
In his last novel The Last Novel, David Markson lamented a lack of—
America’s Emily Dickinson dime?
—this preceded by:
Before the Euro, the portrait of Yeats on Ireland’s twenty-pound note.
America’s Whitman twenty-dollar bill, when?
The Melville ten?
“I Am in Danger—Sir—” by Adrienne Rich
“Half-cracked” to Higginson, living,
afterward famous in garbled versions,
your hoard of dazzling scraps a battlefield,
now your old snood
mothballed at Harvard
and you in your variorum monument
equivocal to the end—
who are you?
you, woman, masculine
for whom the word was more
than a symptom—
a condition of being.
Till the air buzzing with spoiled language
sang in your ears
and in your half-cracked way you chose
silence for entertainment,
chose to have it out at last
on your own premises.