Friday, December 3, 2010

Is This Emily Dickinson?

This photograph, taken in the 1850s, may be only the second known image of the reclusive American poet.


In a letter to her friend, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Emily Dickinson described her personal appearance with these lines:

"[I] am small, like the Wren, and my hair is bold, like the Chestnut bur--and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves--"

If you are familiar with Emily Dickinson, you are certainly familiar with the daguerreotype below.  It is the only verifiable photograph of the poet, taken in the winter of 1846 when she was sixteen years old.  


However, Phlip F. Gura believes that he has discovered a second image of Emily Dickinson.  He found the picture at the top of this post on Ebay in 2000.  On the front is the image of the slight, but determined-looking lady, and on the back is the legend, "Emily Dickinson, rec (or perhaps Dec), 1886."

Gura handed the photograph over to Dr. Richard Jantz, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Tennessee.  He compared morphological features of the faces in the two photographs, and confirms that it is likely these are two images of the same person.

I find this a fitting mystery for one of the most mysterious writers of them all.

And here is a poem for today from Emily Dickinson:

A word is dead

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.



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