Navigating the currents of a brilliant mind

Sighting and cataloguing the voluminous material Hans bequeathed me, and exploring publication possibilities might well have overwhelmed me, but unlike Hans I have been blessed with help, particularly that of Margaret Freeman, whom I met by happy chance via the Internet. She supported, steered, and guided me through these unfamiliar straits, and still does.

In presenting Hans’s work to scholars and public alike, we recognize the needs readers have to fit together all the elements to form an independent opinion. Hans’s introductory essays may prove puzzling, the symbol meanings may seem incredible, as may the pre-analysis assumptions for the 257 most crucial symbols. Can the reader really believe that this massive, marvelously conceived and woven-together material is the result of only half a lifetime’s work by one mind?

Similar questions have arisen with other authors from the past, such as William Shakespeare, evoking theories that his rich literary legacy is the result of a group of literary luminaries. Can it be that our “doubting Thomas” world is unable to accept the concept of single-minded genius? I’m glad I can vouch with certainty for Hans, who questioned his own findings again and again, always fearing that yet another revelation might send him back to the drawing board.

This was no neurotic compulsion for it happened to him twice: first when becoming aware in 1970 that Dickinson’s relationship with Kate Scott Anthon was a lesbian one forced him to revise his 1969 findings, and again in 1980 when he came across a perverse angle to Dickinson’s heterosexual/lesbian sexual proclivities, thus far unsuspected. In light of this new discovery, he needed to reconsider and redo a great many analyses, as he wrote to me on December 6, 1980.

We have shown some of the many literal translations of what Hans calls Emily’s Workshop Poems so the reader may see in a simple way how she created her secret language. In the Rosettastone Poems, Hans identifies the various symbols introduced by Emily, bearing in mind that Hans identified 3850 symbols “possessing double meanings or capable of being aligned with such” — out of which he then distilled and analyzed in detail 257 major ones. There were also many poems referring to a simple event in Emily’s sex life, of little interest to the uninitiated reader.