Otis Phillips Lord (1812-1884) is perhaps best known in modern times as the late-life lover of Emily Dickinson*. In his own day however, he was a highly respected judge serving on the Massachusetts Superior Court from 1859-1875 and Supreme Judicial Court from 1875-1882, and a Massachusetts legislator serving as representative, senator, Speaker of the House and as a member of the Constitutional Convention. Lord was known (and sometimes feared) for his sharp intellect, keen wit and powerful use of language and oratory… less known, was his skill with the humorous sketch.
Many of his cartoons are drawn on the back of printed material from the 1854 Massachusetts House of Representatives, the year that Lord was Speaker of the House, and reflect events from legislative sessions. These sketches are part of a group of documents by or relating to Otis P. Lord that are a part of the Emily Dickinson Collection at Amherst College. Other documents include correspondence, legal opinions, certificates, and copies of legal documents including Lord’s will. While there is little documentation on the origin of these items, they were likely gathered by Mabel Loomis Todd or Millicent Todd Bingham as a part of their research into the life of Dickinson, quite likely for Bingham’s book Emily Dickinson: A Revelation that focused on the relationship between Emily Dickinson and Otis Lord. While Dickinson may never have seen these particular sketches, they certainly highlight a witty irreverence that she must have enjoyed greatly in later years.
“I can’t undertake to lift that load! The derrick’s not invented that will”
[Declinative] of Mr. Hohne’s New patent 20 tons Derrick to attempt the elevation of one copy of the Debates of the late Convention to Revise the Constitution.
Mr. H–K–L–. – “Here I’ve bin and gone and undertaken to drive this pesky animal ‘xactly t’other way, and can’t come it no how I can fix it! Cuss the whole breed of Berksheere hogs say I! specially Hoosack Bores! And there’s the Western Railroad Corporation has furnished me with a rope that Wou’dn’t hold a Woodchuck – let along a ‘tarnal strong critter like this. O, Lord! my fingers are cut to the bone! And there’s Farmer Whitney cutting up all sorts of shines and laughing at me on ‘t’other side of the fence! Aint it aggravating!”
*scans of selected correspondence from Dickinson to Lord (copies or drafts, not the sent letters) can be found on the Amherst College flickr site.