A copy of a letter written by Emily Dickinson to her friend Abiah
P. Root of Springfield, MA. Nov.6,1847 Lettre written date:
Copy of Original Letter
Mt Holyoke Seminary. Nov.6,1847My dear Abiah,
I am really at Mt. Holyoke Seminary & this is to be my home for a long year. Your affectionate letter was joyfully received & I wish that this * might make you as happy as your's did me. It has been nearly six weeks since I left home & that is a longer time, than I was ever away from home before now. [ED's Home 1830-1855] I was very homesick for a few days & it seemed to me I could not live here. But I am now contented & quite happy, if I can be happy when absent from my dear home & friends. You may laugh at the idea, that I cannot be happy when away from home, but you remember that I have a very dear home & that this is my first trial in the way of absence for any length of time in my life. As you desire it, I will give you a full account of myself since I first left the paternal roof. I came to S. Hadley six weeks ago, next Thursday.[The Seminary in 1846] I was much fatigued with the ride & had a severe cold besides, which prevented me from commencing my examinations until the next day, when I began. I finished them in three days & found them about what I had anticipated, though the old scholars say they are more strict than they ever have been before.[Description of examinations, see pages 2-3 & 6 of Susan L. Tolman's journal] As you can easily imagine, I was much delighted to finish without failures & I came to the conclusion then, that I should not be at all homesick, but the reaction left me as homesick a girl as it is not usual to see. I am now quite contented & am very much occupied now in reviewing the Junior studies, as I wish to enter the middle class.[catalog, 1847-8] The school is very large & though quite a number have left, on account of finding the examinations, more difficult than they anticipated, yet // there are nearly 300 now. Perhaps you know that Miss Lyon is raising her standard of scholarship a good deal, on account of the [number of applicants] this year & on account of that she makes the examinations more severe than usual. You cannot imagine how trying they are, because if we cannot go through them all in a specified time, we are sent home. I cannot be too thankful that I got through as soon as I did & I am sure that I never would endure the suspense which I endured during those three days again for all the treasures of the world.
I room [signatures with room number 67] with my Cousin Emily, [portrait as a child] who is a Senior. She is an excellent room-mate & does all in her power to make me happy. You can imagine how pleasant a good room-mate is, for you have been away to school so much. Everything is pleasant & happy here & I think I could be no happier at any other school away from home. Things seem much more like home than I had anticipated & the teachers are all very kind & affectionate to us. They call on us frequently & urge us to return their calls & when we do, we always receive a cordial welcome from them. [Number of students visiting teachers, ca 1847] *
I will tell you my order of time for the day [Timing of Bells] as you were so kind as to give me your's. At 6. o'clock, we all rise.[Bell list from 1843-7, note differences] We breakfast at 7. Our study hours begin at 8. At 9. we all meet in Seminary Hall for devotions.[Seminary Hall] At 10 ¼. I recite a review of Ancient History in connection with which we read Goldsmith & Grimshaw. At 11. I recite a lesson in "Pope's Essay on Man" which is merely transposition. At .12. I practice Calisthenics & at 12 ¼ read until dinner, which is at 12 ½. and after dinner, from 1 ½ until 2. I sing in Seminary Hall. From 2 ¾ until 3 ¾. I practice upon the Piano. At 3 ¾ I go to Section, where we give in all our accounts for the day, including Absence--Tardiness--Communication--Breaking Silent Study hours--Receiving Company in our rooms & ten thousand other things, which I will not take time or place to mention.[Rules and Regulations] At 4 ½. we go into Seminary Hall & receive advice from Miss Lyon in the form of a lecture. [Rules for the Sabbath] We have supper at 6. & silent study hours from then until the retiring bell, which rings at 8 ¾, but the tardy bell does not ring until 9 ¾, so that we dont often obey the first warning to retire. [Daily Schedule] Unless we have a good & reasonable excuse for failure upon any of the items that I mentioned above, they are recorded & a black mark stands against our names. As you can easily imagine, we do not like very well to get "exceptions" as they are called scientifically here. My domestic work is not difficult & consists in carrying the Knives from the 1st tier of tables [Basement Drawing Showing Dining Area] at morning & noon & at night washing & wiping the same quantity of Knives. [Dining Room] I am quite well & hope to be able to spend the year here free from sickness. [Letter from Malvina Stanton Lang] You have probably heard many reports of the food here & if so I can tell you, that I have yet seen nothing corresponding to my ideas on that point, from what I have heard.[The Pie Circle] Everything is wholesome & abundant * & much nicer than I should imagine could be provided for almost 300 girls. [Making Bread] We have also a great variety upon our tables & frequent changes. [Recipes p.1,2,3] One thing is certain & that is, that Miss Lyon & all the teachers seem to consult our comfort & happiness in everything they do & you know that is pleasant. When I left home I did not think I should find a companion or a dear friend in all the multitude. I expected to find rough & uncultivated manners, & to be sure I have found some of that stamp, but on the whole, there is an ease & grace [Harriet Sanford '49 for an example of this] & a desire to make one another happy, which delights & at the same time surprises me very much. I find no Abby * or Abiah or Mary but I love many of the girls. Austin, came to see me when I had been here about two weeks & brought Viny. & Abby. I need not tell you how delighted I was to see them all, nor how happy it made me to hear them say that "they were so lonely". It is a sweet feeling to know that you are missed & that your memory is precious at home.
This week, on Monday I was at my window, when I happened to look towards the hotel & saw Father & Mother, walking over here as dignified as you please. [Family silhouette] I need not tell you that I danced & clapped my hands, & flew to meet them for you can imagine how I felt. I will only ask you do you love your parents? They wanted to surprise me & for that reason did not let me know they were coming. I could not bear to have them go, but go they must & so I submitted in sadness. Only to think, Abiah, that in 2 ½ weeks I shall be at own dear home again. You will probably go home at Thanksgiving time & we can rejoice with each other.
You dont know how I laughed at your de-scription of your introduction to Dan" Webster & I read that part of your letter to Cousin. Emily. You must feel quite proud of the acquaintance & will not I hope be vain in consequence. However you dont know Gov" Briggs & I do so you are no better off than I. I hear frequently from Abby & it is a great pleasure to receive her letters. Last eve. I had a long & very precious letter from her & she spoke of see" a letter from you. You probably have heard of the death of O. Coleman How melancholy!! Eliza has written me a long letter giving me an account of her death, which is beautiful & affecting & which you shall see when we meet again.
Abiah, you must write me often & I shall write you as often as I have time. But you know I have many letters to write now I am away from home. Cousin. Emily. says "give my love to Abiah".
For more information please visit:
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, Emily Dickinson Collection [http://www.mtholyoke.edu/archives/index.html]
Amherst College Archives and Special Collections: Emily Dickinson Collection [http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/amherst/ma167_main.html]
Emily Dickinson Museum [http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org]
Five College Digital Access Program (Mount Holyoke College tab) [http://http://clio.fivecolleges.edu/]
Harvard College Library, Houghton Library Modern Books and Manuscripts Collection [http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/houghton/collections/modern/dickinson.cfm#web]
Manuscripts and Archives at Yale University Library [http://www.library.yale.edu/mssa/]