THE CAPSULE OF THE MIND BY THEODORA WARD

The first biography of Emily Dickinson that I read, was the one by Cynthia Griffin Wolff, which I didn’t review here, but mentioned on the blog, and which is a very large and very erudite work. Going through the Amazon reviews of the book, I found mentioned The Capsule of the Mind: Chapters in the Life of Emily Dickinson, an earlier biography, published by the Harvard University Press in 1961. I honestly thought it would go deeper into the mind of the elusive poet. Can you blame me

I have to confess to big disappointment. This biography is much less profound and largely utilizes the same method of poem analysis for the elucidation of the events in the life of Emily Dickinson. This is how I realized that my effort to go deeper and understand more from the poet’s life is futile. She never wanted to be remembered as anything else but The Poet. That’s all she left behind, and even that keeps puzzling the scholars. She never even dated or titled her flowers (poems). They have been sorted by handwriting, because it appears that her handwriting changed continuously, from one year to another. She never took photographs of herself. In the end she never met anyone anymore. After her death, most of the letters (the biographers’ treasure) have been burned.

There are so few documents left of her life, that it is delusional to imagine that any biography will ever be able to uncover more than the little that is already known. The capsule of Emily Dickinson’s mind can only be penetrated through her poetry. This is how Emily Dickinson wanted it. And from now on I think I am going to respect her wish.

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