An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia

By Jane Donahue Eberwein | Go to book overview

W

WADSWORTH, CHARLES ( 1814-1882) Dickinson referred to this minister of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia as My closest earthly friend and My Shepherd from 'Little Girl'hood (L765 and 766). On a family trip to Washington in early 1855, the Dickinson sisters stayed with the Coleman family, congregants of the Arch Street Church; during her visit, Dickinson heard Wadsworth preach and almost certainly met him. In the following years, the Colemans mailed copies of his sermons, and there developed an intense relationship between the poet and the minister. Wadsworth visited her at the Homestead in March 1860, and there is persuasive evidence that Dickinson asked him to call again during the summer of 1861; his second visit to the Homestead did not take place, however, until August 1880.

The spring and summer of 1861 brought crisis for both the minister and the poet. Wadsworth, though an unyielding Union supporter, believed that slavery was not in itself a sin in God's eyes, that America's greatest sin had been the wicked and hypocritical assaults "launched against our Christian brethren of the South" ( Lease 11-12). Shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter, forty-seven southern presbyteries severed their relationship with their governing body in Philadelphia. Wadsworth's position became increasingly precarious at the Arch Street Church, and he eventually accepted an invitation to preside over Calvary Church, San Francisco -- a church founded by his close friend William Anderson Scott (a southerner whose congregants would not support his ardent secessionist sympathies).

What must have been an extensive Dickinson-Wadsworth correspondence is missing. Surviving among Dickinson's papers is a single, solicitous, pastoral note, undated and unsigned (in Wadsworth's handwriting and bearing an embossed crest "C W"); in it, the minister conveys his distress at "the affliction which has befallen, or is now befalling you" and urges her to write, "though

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An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chronology xv
  • Abbreviations xix
  • A 1
  • B 13
  • C 38
  • D 61
  • E 92
  • F 107
  • G 122
  • H 131
  • I 154
  • J 162
  • K 169
  • L 171
  • M 188
  • N 205
  • O 218
  • P 222
  • R 243
  • S 256
  • T 279
  • U 294
  • V 296
  • W 301
  • Y 311
  • Appendix A - Fascicle Listings of Dickinson Poems 313
  • Appendix B - Major Archival Collections for Dickinson Research 339
  • Bibliography 343
  • Index of Poems Cited 361
  • General Index 371
  • About the Contributors 387
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