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"Dreamed of your meeting Tennyson in Ticknor and Fields": a transatlantic encounter with Britain's Poet Laureate

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In an 1866 letter to her sister-in-law Susan Gilbert Dickinson, Dickinson wrote, "Dreamed of your meeting Tennyson in Ticknor and Fields - Where the Treasure is, there the Brain is also - " (L320). What is apparent in this enigmatic comment is that Sue and the English poet Tennyson are disparate, absent, and constitute parts of Dickinson's "Treasure," and that Dickinson's dreaming "Brain" has united them in the Boston publishing house of Ticknor and Fields. This provocative interconnection of Sue, Tennyson, and Ticknor and Fields reflects the likelihood that the friends read and discussed Tennyson's works and the fact that the majority of the editions of this poet that were shared between the two Dickinson households were published by Ticknor and Fields. This essay explores the implications of this dream of a transatlantic encounter between the woman who was one of the great loves of Dickinson's life and Britain's Poet Laureate. It speculates about why Dickinson specifically associates Sue with Tennyson, considering what Tennyson's name connoted in America at this time in the context of nineteenth-century literary celebrity and in relation to Dickinson's fears about publication and publicity. It then explores another connection between Sue and Tennyson from the early 1850s, when Tennyson was at the height of his fame, and Sue and Dickinson's relationship was at its most passionate and intense. It suggests that Dickinson's dream refers to her and Sue's reading of Tennyson's In Memoriam (1850) and speculates about the ways in which this text influenced the letters Dickinson wrote to Sue at this time, identifying shared themes, motifs, and ideas in Tennyson's and Dickinson's writings, as they articulate and spiritualize same-sex love through a discourse of mourning and death, loss, and deferred restoration
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-77
Number of pages22
JournalThe Emily Dickinson Journal
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011
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