The Indicator

Welcome to the Consecrated Eminience, the blog of the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections. Our goal here is to share tid bits of college history and the many hidden gems that are housed in the Archives within Frost Library. Please feel free to make comments, ask questions, and make suggestions for things you would like to see on this blog.

The first appearance of Emily Dickinson in print strikes me as the perfect subject for our first post.

Emily Dickinson’s brother Austin was a member of the Amherst College Class of 1850, and several of his friends edited the student publication The Indicator: A Literary Periodical Conducted by Students of Amherst College.

The Indicator
The Indicator. Feb. 1850.

The “Editors’ Corner” in the February 1850 issue opens with a scene of the editors gathered together “in our little den, while the golden light of an Amherst sun (which even the dingy windows could not restrain), was peering in to enliven and cheer our ‘mirth and youthful jollity.'” They are interrupted by their printer who tells them that they need to come up with four more pages of text to fill out the next issue. This exchange is followed by a description of the bleakness of the month of February, which is broken only by the bright spot of St. Valentine’s day:

But St. Valentine’s day, although as rough as the blasts of Siberia, brings fun and frolic enough along with it, and this year brought quantum sufficit to us. Many a chary epistle did we receive, and many did we send–but one, such an one. I wish I knew who the author is. I think she must have some spell, by which she quickens the imagination, and causes the high blood “run frolic through the veins.” Yes, the author, of such a gew gaw–such a frenzy built edifice–I should like to know and talk with, for I don’t believe her mouth has any corners, perhaps “like a rose leaf torn”!

But I’ll not keep you in the door way longer, but enter the temple and decipher the thoughts engraved there.

The full text of Dickinson’s “Valentine” can be found in Thomas Johnson’s The Letters of Emily Dickinson (Belknap Press, 1958) as Letter number 34. It is a delightful bit of nonsense, believed originally to have been sent to George H. Gould, a classmate and fraternity brother of Austin Dickinson. There is simply no evidence about what role, if any, Dickinson herself played in the publication of this bit of text.

The other magazines produced by Amherst College prior to the Civil War are not quite as famous, but they are all fascinating in their own ways. A brief history of some of these titles is available on the Archives & Special Collections website:

One thought on “The Consecrated Eminence

  1. Hi Mike,
    While nosing around online I discovered the info you posted concerning the journal of a trip to Japan in 1936 by my Aunt Lilla (Perry), my Grandmother’s sister. Would love to be able to read about that trip. Is that journal available for general viewing? It’s never been copied?

    Btw, Lilla was a steely but fascinating character. She later wrote a book about snuff bottles which is still considered a major source about that topic. She gave piano lessons to the children of many movie stars. As a child I was both frightened by and fascinated with her fantastic house in LA filled with all manner of Japanese antiquities. She also was a good friend of Carl Sandburg and wrote a book about that friendship.

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