I'll begin to Sow
When the Birds begin to whistle –
Better stitches – so –
The sewing Society has commenced again – and held its first meeting last week – now all the poor will be helped – the cold warmed – the warm cooled – the hungry fed – the thirsty attended to – the ragged clothes – and this suffering – tumbled down world will be helped to it's feet again – which will be quite pleasant to all. I dont attend – notwithstanding my high approbation – which must puzzle the public exceedingly. I am already set down as one of those brands almost consumed – and my hardheartedness gets me many prayers.
- Letter to Jane Humphrey, January, 1850
Dickinson's tone in this letter is lighthearted, flippant, even. Her idea that she might be considered 'one of those brands almost consumed' reminds me of old folks shaking their heads at twenty-somethings and muttering, 'Live fast, die young.' While 'brand' can mean both a persona and a product identifier (and, at the time she wrote this, the mark inflicted on slaves – although I do not believe there is a shadow of that meaning in the poem), Dickinson uses its earliest meaning here: a piece of burning wood. She is amused that by avoiding the sewing society she is marked as a fast liver, a fire brand with not much stick left. But at least that assessment gets her many prayers.
|Example of pintucks:|
from Historical Sewing