"Sorrow is unsafe, when it is real sorrow." The recipient of this letter is the wife of Rev. Jonathan L. Jenkins, who was minister at Amherst's First Church of Christ, from 1867 to spring 1877. The Jenkinses are remembered in connection with the Dickinson family primarily because Edward Dickinson asked Rev. Jenkins to counsel his grown daughter, Emily, in religious matters sometime around 1870. The father was deeply concerned as to the state of Emily's soul, but was assured by Jenkins that she was "sound."
This letter to Mrs. Jenkins was written just after the family moved to Pittsfield, where Rev. Jenkins had preached his first sermon in April 1877. In the letter, Dickinson makes clear reference to a growing rift between her brother Austin and his wife Susan. Apparently Mrs. Jenkins has paid a call on the couple before she left Amherst in May. The scripture the poet refers to is Matthew 28:20.
"It was pathetic to see your Voice instead of hearing it, for it had grown sweetly familiar in the House, as a Bird's. Father left us in June—you leave us in May—I am glad there will be no April till another year. Austin brought the note and waited like a hungry Boy for his Crumb of the words. Be sure to speak his name next time, he looks so solitary.
"He told me he could not sleep Friday Night or Saturday Night, and rose and read lethargic Books to stupefy himself.
"Sorrow is unsafe when it is real sorrow. I am glad so many are counterfeits—guileless, because they believe themselves.
"Kiss Diddie and Mac for us—precious Refugees, with love for our Brother, whom with yourself, we follow the peculiar distance 'even unto the end.'
"Perhaps it is 'the end' now—I think the Bell thought so, because it bade us all Good bye when you stood in the door.
"You concealed that you heard it. Thank you."
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