Exceeding Legal and Linguistic Limits: Dickinson as "Involuntary Bankrupt"

In about 1878 Dickinson wrote two drafts of what appears to have been a letter intended for Judge Otis Lord. The language in the drafts may be construed as one extended metaphor in which the poet compares herself to, among other things, an "involuntary bankrupt." That term would have had a particular signification for Judge Lord, who, Dickinson knew, was well versed in the history of American bankruptcy law. In Dickinson's larger extended trope, bankruptcy functions as one of several representations of excess, a topic that may have arisen frequently during the course of Dickinson's correspondence with the Judge.