Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ahoyed, from the mixed-up files of Belle's correspondence, of just today...

Dear Mr. Sewall, I write by circuitous accidental route - or perhaps there are no accidents. Currently, I am happily immersed in reading your father, Richard B. Sewall's, biography of Emily Dickinson. (Chastened by his prescient admonition, I read Volume 1 in its entirety before proceeding to the second).

Also, I enjoy reading a Facebook page, entitled The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson.

Yesterday I glanced at some of the comments there and was intrigued to see a reference to "Richard Sewall's blog." I googled, and came upon - indeed - Professor Sewall's blog, with reference to his unpublished memoirs of 40 years of teaching at Yale, and your single post that alluded to its eventual online publication. Your post is from some years ago, and having googled further, I am wondering if your father's memoirs are available somewhere online, or in some other form. I would be very interested to read them, though I was not a student of his, nor at Yale, but am sure that his memories and observations would make for a rich, insightful, and very rewarding read.

This morning I checked the Facebook comment again - and see that I had misread it - the commenter referred to Richard Sewall's "biog" - not blog. It seems that I need
stronger reading glasses.

Still - it seems that your father did, in fact, have a blog - and I would love to read his entries, all thirteen chapters. (And would promise, as I'm sure he would like, to read them in order.)

Thank you very much for your kind attention to my query. Sincerely yours, Belle
Message from Belle to the creator & editor of The Secret Life of E.D. Facebook page
Hi Lenore - I'm ensconced in Richard B. Sewall's fascinating biography of Emily Dickinson. I am on page 457 and just now read the following poem she wrote - and immediately your FB page sprang to mind, and I started
having very odd thoughts about E.D.'s mortality, and "heaven" being a form of posthumous attention - that we mortals alive today, are "saints" from the point of view of our deceased predecessors. I probably ought to ponder this line of thought more.... but here's the poem

#431 (about 1862)

Me - come! My dazzled face
In such a shining place!
Me - hear! My foreign Ear
The sounds of Welcome - there!

The Saints forget
Our bashful feet -

My Holiday, shall be
That They - remember me -
My Paradise - the fame
That They - pronounce my name -
Hope all's well with you, Saint Lenore...
Of Emily Dickinson's poem Professor Sewall immediately following writes, "... in this tiny dialogue poem, its heaven is remote; and the only immortality she sees is the immortality of being remembered, presumably (a thought that preoccupied her about this time) for her poetry."

I had such a feeling of tiny epiphany, of recognition, when I came upon this poem and passage in the bIog. I don't know that I believe in heaven or not, and honestly, I tend not to look at the question of it head-on. I much prefer to consider it sideways. Perhaps Heisenberg's uncertainty principle applies here? To my mind, (the notion of) heavenly Paradise squirms, doesn't perhaps wish to be viewed empirically. Someone was on Tavis Smiley a few weeks ago, a fellow, a San Francisco DJ as I recall, who has written a book on his Doubt in faith. I watched only a few minutes, then shut it off, because the man seemed so constrained by his intellect, from the little I heard him say, he seemed to require 'proof,' that he hadn't yet been 'convinced,' -- and the "rational" like. And my response, as I set about the kitchen getting lunch on the table, was - he's going about it wrong, that's not how it's apprehended, there are different forms of knowledge.

E.D. herself was skeptical, resistant, reluctant, to absorb prevailing Christian fundamentalist views as spiritual revivals swept through like fierce pandemics about her, but leaving her, in a way, quarantined, unfevered, immune, though reeling. But she considered and felt deeply such matters, making sense of them on her own, deeply-felt terms.

E.D.'s amazing poem. It reminds me, too, of the work that 1.0 does, unearthing bones and artifacts of ancient civilizations. Could his deceased subjects have possibly dreamed that someone like him would come aeons later to remember them? To tell their story, utter their name? I should think that in some way they might be overjoyed to know that he has devoted his life, written whole books, on the subject of these utterly vanished peoples. And I hope too, that he will one day (carrying it forward) be similarly remembered, by virtue of the significant tracings he left behind, in the same spirit in which he dedicated his most recent scholarly book, to a now-deceased pioneering archaeologist (utterly obscure, unknown name to me) who was an inspiration to him, and lives on, thus acknowledged - My Holiday, shall be/That They - remember me -

I suppose I am trying to look at the question head-on... I get glimmerings, moments of intuition, such as quite a while ago, an epiphany (blogged about, here) on glimpsing in its simple profundity, a spiderweb at the conservation area.

And I'll end this post with a wonderful quote from Professor Sewall & Son's blog, a passage from Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.
And how nobly it raises our conceit of the mighty, misty monster, to behold him solemnly sailing through a calm tropical sea; his vast, mild head overhung by a canopy of vapor, engendered by his incommunicable contemplations, and that vapor - as you will sometimes see it - glorified by a rainbow, as if Heaven itself had put its seal upon his thoughts. For, d'ye see, rainbows do not visit the clear air; they only irradiate vapor. And so, through all the thick mists of the dim doubts in my mind, divine intuitions now and then shoot, enkindling my fog with a heavenly ray. And for this I thank God; for all have doubts; many deny; but doubts or denials, few along with them, have intuitions. Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye.
From today's mixed-up correspondence files again

Yes, if it isn't too much trouble I think it would be a lot of fun to check out the Gym... will be on lookout for keys, and will let you know as soon as they arrive. Thanks again for everything, and hope you're looking forward to your getaway with as much pleasant anticipation as I am to mine. xo, Belle

P.S. It occurs to me (I hit the brakes before hitting send) - I workout at home in my underwear (shhh!). Obviously I'll need something more, er, sporty, for G***'s Gym. What do women our age wear there? I'll pick something up at K***s if I have to! I don't get out enough, sigh....
yours, Emily Dickinson


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