Emily Dickinson in Love: The Case for Otis Lord

Emily Dickinson in Love: The Case for Otis Lord

Emily Dickinson in Love: The Case for Otis Lord

Emily Dickinson in Love: The Case for Otis Lord


From the award-winning author of Poe the Detective: The Curious Circumstances Behind "The Mystery of Marie Roget" comes a compelling argument for the identity of Emily Dickinson's true love

Proud of my broken heart

Since thou didst break it,

Proud of the pain I

Did not feel till thee...

Those words were written by Emily Dickinson to a married man. Who was he?

For a century or more the identity of Emily Dickinson's mysterious "Master" has been eagerly sought, especially since three letters from her to him were found and published in 1955. In Emily Dickinson in Love, John Evangelist Walsh provides the first book-length treatment of this fascinating subject, offering a solution based wholly on documented facts and the poet's own writings.

Crafting the affair as a love story of rare appeal, and writing with exquisite attention to detail, in Part I Walsh reveals and meticulously proves the Master to be Otis Lord, a friend of the poet's father and a man of some reputation in law and politics. Part II portrays the full dimensions of their thirty-year romance, most of it clandestine, including a series of secret meetings in Boston.

After uncovering and confirming the Master's identity, Walsh fits that information into known events of Emily's life to make sense of facts long known but little understood--Emily's decision to dress always in white, for instance, or her extreme withdrawal from a normal existence when she had previously been an active, outgoing friend to many men and women.

In a lengthy section of Notes and Sources, Walsh presents his proofs in abundant detail, demonstrating that the evidence favors one man so irresistibly that there is left no room for doubt. Each reader will decide if he has truly succeeded in making the case for Otis Lord.


What song the sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed
when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions,
are not beyond all conjecture

Sir Thomas Browne

Though she was a plain-looking woman, Emily Dickinson managed to interest and even fascinate a goodly number of men both young and old. Small and thin, standing barely an inch or two over five feet, weighing when young less than a hundred pounds—“like the Wren,” she described herself—by all accounts she had in her favor something more lasting than physical allure. At least on those men susceptible to a rare combination of wit, an impish charm of manner and mind, and sharp intelligence, it appears she exerted an instant, strong appeal.

Still, as her niece recalled, she did have some pleasing, not to say striking, features. “Her dark, expressive eyes,” wrote Martha Bianchi, “with their tint of bronze, and Titian hair set off by her white skin, were always considered remarkable by others. Indeed the richness of her hair and eyes were her salient points, oftenest commented on. She had regular features, and her upper lip, a trifle long, gave her face a slightly ascetic appearance.”

Living in a college town, two minutes’ walk from the main college buildings, with a father who was a high official of the school, all . . .

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