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Archive for the ‘Emily Dickinson’ Category

Following the lamentable events in the town of Amherst last night, and as the community awaits an estimate of the damages and the full list of casualties, we felt that it would be appropriate to take a look back at the history of Emily Dickinson related violence in Amherst.

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Professor Snell.
In the tool shed.
With a piece of wood
.

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Things are already not what they seem:  Prof. Ebenezer Strong Snell (1801-1876, Class of 1822) was not a murderer, a murder did not take place in his tool shed, and he used the piece of wood as a door wedge.  So why does our title mention “murder,” and why would anyone save such an inconsequential-looking piece of cheap pine long enough for it to enter our archives?

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What’s up with this letter?  For years it’s been lying around in a drawer flaunting its sketches in a come-hither way sure to grab my attention.

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Despite my tendency to swoon at the sight of old paper with writing on it, it was always immediately obvious that it would take some effort to figure out what was going on in this one. Passing glances at the text didn’t illuminate the subject matter in a way that attracted a longer gaze, and fact that the writing laces around and through and between the sketches (kind of like this post) added to the effort required to read it. It was also clear that the writer meant to be entertaining, so a reader would have to catch up with a sense of humor that might belong to another age. (more…)

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Appleton Museum GuideWhen Millicent Todd Bingham and Richard Sewall wrote their biographies of Emily Dickinson, they each included a section about the influence upon the poet of President Edward Hitchcock and Amherst College. Bingham and Sewall sought to show that one can see in Dickinson’s poems – in her ideas, imagery, and unexpected vocabulary – the effect of Hitchcock and the college he helped establish.

The science cabinets at the College were among Dickinson’s Amherst-related influences.  They housed specimens of minerals, shells, fossils, and animals gathered by Hitchcock and his colleagues over the course of their careers and were important campus attractions.  Edward Dickinson, the poet’s father, contributed $50 to the Woods cabinet and $100 to Appleton, and his children were no doubt part of the thousands of people who visited them over the decades. There is evidence that Emily attended the opening of the Woods Cabinet (mineralogy, meteorology, geology) in the Octagon in 1848, and she probably also visited the Appleton Cabinet (zoology and ichnology) when it opened in 1855.

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Celebrating the coming of spring, I took a gleeful stroll through our Rare Books Collection and pulled out some of my favorite harbingers of the season.  This also happens to be a great way of highlighting our substantial holdings in Natural History, Earth Science, and Nature .  And, of course, Emily Dickinson, who cannot meet the spring unmoved.  She and I have that in common.

Emily Dickinson "I cannot meet the spring unmoved," AC 230, F 1122, J 1051

Emily Dickinson “I cannot meet the spring unmoved,” AC 230, F 1122, J 1051

Our holdings in Ornithology include an outstanding copy of the double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, as well as the Richard L. Soffer (Class of 1954) Ornithology Collection.

Richard L. Soffer ’54 has donated an extensive collection of volumes about birds, with many books specifically focused on the various methods and techniques that have been used to reproduce illustrations of birds. The books in the collection provide examples of every type of illustrative technique: hand painting, woodcut and wood engraving, etching and engraving, lithography, and modern photomechanical methods.

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Brasher, Rex, and Lisa McGaw. Birds & trees of North America. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1961.

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The success of Jen Bervin and Marta Werner’s recently published The Gorgeous Nothings suggests that this might be a good opportunity to say something about another modest yet gorgeous nothing from our collection.

While researching a minor detail of Emily Dickinson’s biography during the summer of 2012, I came across a folder that caught my eye.

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Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, Sonnet V: XVI

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, Sonnet V: XVI

Between March 15 and May 17, 1857, there were thirteen births recorded in Greenfield, Massachusetts. In the same two months, there were four maternal deaths from puerperal fever (or “childbed fever”), a highly contagious infection. Those were not good odds for a pregnant woman.¹

The third of those four deaths, on May 12, was that of Anna (formally Hannah) Tuckerman, beautiful and deeply beloved wife of poet Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821-1873). Anna was 29 and had already borne three children, one of whom had died shortly after birth, while the other two, Edward and Anna, were now, in 1857, children of 7 and 4 respectively. The fourth birth – that of her son Frederick – went well enough at first; that is, the child was born on May 7 and lived. But shortly after his birth, Anna began to suffer the effects of the infection. Letters in the archives from shocked relatives – her husband’s aunt, her sister- and brothers-in-law – reveal that she “suffered fifty convulsion fits & seemed to suffer intensely” and that her illness lasted five days. Her husband, who was probably with her all through the birth and subsequent illness, was “all but frantick [sic] with grief…” “What will poor Frederick do!” wrote his sister-in-law, Sarah Tuckerman, ” and those poor children too, left without a mother!  How short is life, how near is death to us.  I feel so sad that I can hardly write.”

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