- Kate’s Keepsakes, Book One: A Kiss for Emily
Fifteen years ago, an elderly relative gave me three Osgood Vest Pocket Series books, published by James R. Osgood and Co. of Boston between 1875 and 1877, and a variety of other items that she said belonged to a friend of her mother. She had found the box in the attic of her childhood home in Hackensack, New Jersey, in the mid-seventies. Because of my interest in the arts, antiques and poetry, she passed the box on to me. All three volumes—The Tent on the Beach by John Greenleaf Whittier, Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Favorite Poems of Lord Byron—are illustrated and bound in red leather. They have a decorative leaf pattern and the publisher’s signet tooled in black on the front covers. The titles and authors’ names are embossed with gilt lettering.
Each book has poems and dedications hand-written in blue ink inside the front or back covers, with dates between 1877 and 1881. The poems are either altered or re-arranged versions of previously printed poems: in the Byron, “Another Year,” published anonymously in the Christian Treasury; in the Whittier, Felicia Hemans’s “Songs of Affection”; and in the Longfellow, “The Sweet Old Chapters,” also published anonymously. While the handwriting matches that found in Catherine Scott Turner Anthon’s travel diaries, she appears to be the inscriptions’ addressee: the dedication in Evangeline, for example, reads “From Emilie to Kate – In memory of the holy Christmas time of 1877 and of the opening of the New Year of 1878.”
Because there is a strong possibility that Anthon left these books in my relative’s house; because the dedications in all three are addressed from “Emilie to Kate” and the dates match times when it is likely the two women were in communication with each other; and because of the substance of the writing, I believe that Emily Dickinson may have sent these messages to Kate Anthon, [End Page 96]
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perhaps in annual Christmas or New Year notes from 1877–78 to 1880–81, each containing a poem revised or rewritten by the poet (see Figure 1).
Kate may then have transcribed these poems along with their dedications into books that she treasured and associated with Dickinson. Kate was known to leave boxes of her most precious items with friends because she worried she might lose them during her travels. She also might have copied the poems into these books because she wanted to keep the original messages with her, and have a back-up copy in safe keeping.
Emily and Kate met in 1859. The last recorded correspondence between them was in 1866. According to R. W. Franklin, in 1877 Dickinson wrote—but apparently did not send—two poems to Kate while she was in Amherst visiting her close friend Susan Gilbert Dickinson: “I shall not murmur if at last” (Fr1429) and “We shun because we prize her Face” (Fr1430). Anthon did not report having received either poem when she sent other letters and poems that she did receive to Mabel Loomis Todd for her 1894 collection of Dickinson’s letters. As the messages in the three books I now own suggest, however, it is possible that Anthon received messages or even gifts from Dickinson that she did not report. Dickinson often gave books to friends and may have given these books to Kate. For example, Dickinson gave Mary Channing Higginson a copy of Emerson’s Representative Men (also published by Osgood), inscribed “To M C H from Emily Dickinson Christmas 1876” (L478).
I am at a preliminary stage in conducting research on these items to establish their provenance and to learn as much as possible about the known relationship between Kate Anthon and Dickinson. If these items prove in fact to represent a relationship between the women that continues beyond 1877, it would give support both to Rebecca Patterson’s...