In the months preceding her death on May 15, 1886, Emily Dickinson requested that Emily Brontë's poem "No coward soul is mine" be read at her funeral, thereby enlisting Brontë's defiant declaration of immortality in what can be interpreted as Dickinson's own equally defiant final statement on the relation of fame to enduring art. Dickinson expressed the logic behind this request four years earlier in an 1882 letter to Roberts Brothers editor Thomas Niles in which she refused his request for a "volume of poems" (L749b) and instead sent him "How happy is the little Stone" (Fr1570E), a poem in which she alludes to "the rock of immortality" (l. 16) and the "atom" (l. 26) that appear in Brontë's poem. These allusions inform Dickinson's figurative declaration to Niles that the fame she seeks is based on fusion with the elemental fabric of the universe, not immediate approval from the contemporary reading public. Dickinson's refusal to send Niles the volume he requested is consistent with the approach to fame she develops through poems such as "To earn it by disdaining it" (Fr1445) and her 1862 letter to Higginson in which she declares, "If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her" (L408). The path to fame Dickinson lays out through her funeral and other works like these paradoxically requires that the aspirant author risk obscurity by rejecting fame in the immediate present with the hope of attaining a more enduring form in the future. Dickinson's association of lasting fame with rock takes on literal as well as metaphoric meaning when read in the context of Edward Hitchcock's 1851 volume, The Religion of Geology and Its Connected Sciences, and contemporary linguistic theories espoused by Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and Richard Chenevix Trench.


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pp. 51-69
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