A Quiet Passion (2016) Script

You have now come to the end of your second semester.

Some of you will remain here to complete your education.

Some of you will go out into the world.

And, as is my custom, I put to you a question of the utmost importance, which concerns your spiritual wellbeing.

Do you wish to come to God and be saved?

Those of you who wish to be Christian and saved will move to my right.

To those of you who remain and hope to be saved... you will move to my left.

Have you said your prayers?


Though it can't make much difference to the Creator.

Do I understand you correctly?

Do you believe that your Creator is indifferent to your sins?

That, in His mercy, He sees you slumber?

No, you misunderstand me. I've not got so far.

I am not even awakened yet.

And how should I repent?

I am somewhat troubled, to be sure, but my feelings are all indefinite.

The question is not how far you have advanced, but how far you ought to have advanced.

Not how you feel, but how you ought to feel.

I don't feel anything.

I have no sense of my sins. And how can I?

I wish I could feel as others do, but it is not possible.

A sinner against a Holy God and under condemnation, and liable every moment to drop into a burning hopeless eternity, yet cannot feel, cannot be alarmed, cannot "flee from the wrath to come".

And the true question is...

Are you in the Ark of Safety?

I fear I am not.

You are alone in your rebellion, Miss Dickinson.

I fear that you are a no-hoper.

Yes, Miss Lyon.

For each ecstatic instant We must an anguish pay In keen and quivering ratio to the ecstasy.

For each beloved hour Sharp pittances of years, Bitter contested farthings And coffers heaped with tears.

Father. Austin. Vinnie!

My happiness would be complete, if only Mother were with you.

The journey would have been too fatiguing for her.

We have come to take you home, Emily.

We were concerned by your last letter. You spoke of being ill.

Yes. What is it that you are suffering from?

An acute case of evangelism.

Am I really to go home? Yes.

We will go to Amherst, via Boston, and stay for a short while with Aunt Elizabeth.

I fear you don't approve, Father?

I do not like to see a woman upon the stage.

But she has a gift.

A gift is no excuse for a female to exhibit herself in that way.

And what would you have her do? Perform an act of congress aloud?

That would depend upon what key it was in.

Well, the rest of her programme is in respectable German.

And the Germans are wonderful in music.

That's true.

English, thank heaven, is not a language that can be sung.

But, Aunt Elizabeth, you love your hymn tunes.

Hymns are different. They have absolutely nothing to do with music.

Ah, the devil in music.

Don't be trite, Emily.

Oh, life!

Oh, home!

How wonderful you are!


Why are you up so late?

May I speak with you, Father? Of course.

As you may know, I like to write.

Letters, mostly... but sometimes poetry.


May I have your permission to write during the night, for quiet's sake?

I shall not disrupt the rest of the household, I promise.

Yes, you may.

It was very considerate of you to ask.

It is your house, Father.

But it is our home, Emily.

I... I have one more favour to ask of you, Father.

What is it?

You are, I believe, on cordial terms with Dr Holland, the editor of the Springfield Republican.

And the Springfield Republican publishes poetry.

I'll write to him.

And if he agrees, you may send him some of your work.

"Dear Miss Dickinson, "I have decided to publish 'Sic transit Gloria mundi'

"as it is the least wayward and shows some wit.

"As to the rest of the poetry, it is in the common metre, "childish, like nursery rhymes.

"But I must confess that the genuine classics of every language

"are the work of men, not of women.

"Women, I fear, cannot create the permanent treasures of literature."

Where's Emily?


Come here at once!

Remember, Aunt Elizabeth has celebrated the Dickinson dynasty in 55 stanzas. And every one of them dull.

Aunt Elizabeth!

Oh, at last, Emily. I was nearly kept waiting.

And what is your opinion of my poem, Emily?

I'm sure your verse is equal to your talent, Aunt.

If I were clever enough, I should probably take offence at that dubious compliment.

Oh, but, Aunt, all the best compliments are dubious.

That's part of their charm.

Did you enjoy my verses, Austin?

Very much, Aunt. They put Paradise Lost to shame.

Your children are far too sophisticated, Edward.

I'm sure part of me disapproves.

Disapproval is a heavy thing. Oh.

Besides, if I had to choose between having sophisticated children and ones that were merely docile, I should choose the former.

Docility is too much like slavery. That sounds like abolitionist talk.

No, it is not. But no Christian could ever make a case for slavery.

Please, let us not discuss this subject.

It is both improper and tiresome.

Not to those who are enslaved.

I see we have a Robespierre in our midst.

No, not Robespierre.

Charlotte Corday, perhaps.

Edward, they're as bad as you are.

I believe you've had your first poem published.


In the Springfield Republican.

It... it was printed anonymously.

That seems a little eccentric.

But in the circumstances, probably a good thing.

We can't all be Milton.

Don't pout, Emily. It's unbecoming.

Poems are my solace for the eternity which surrounds us all.

Who said that? I did.

Well, don't. It sounds unchristian.

And where's Vinnie?

Here, Aunt.

And what of you?

Oh, I am like Pilgrim, trying to improve.

A pilgrim should only ever be conscious of other people's self-improvement.

Consciousness of his own is mere vanity.

But, Aunt, vanity is such a harmless vice.

It's as shallow as the people who indulge in it.

No vice is harmless, Vinnie.

Look no further than Babylon for that.

What of you, Austin? Oh, I'm on no pilgrimage at all.

And what of vice?

Surely vice is only virtue in disguise.

And what is your opinion of your children's moral laxity, Emily?

Oh, I prefer to listen and remain silent.

That way, a prejudice doesn't seem like an opinion.

That reply was so Sphinx-like, I'm none the wiser.

Oh, cherish your ignorance, Aunt.

You never know when you will need it.


Your children astound me.

They ought to be sent to their rooms and pummelled.

Hourly. Calm down, Aunt Elizabeth.

Have a glass of currant wine. Turn vice into medicinal pleasure.

Medicinal? For your circulation.

There is nothing wrong with my circulation.

The heart asks pleasure first, And then, excuse from pain;

And then, those little anodynes That deaden suffering;

And then, to go to sleep;

And then, if it should be The will of its lnquisitor, The liberty to die.

Would you play something, Emily?

One of the old hymn tunes.

Of course.

When I was very young,

a young man who used to go to our church used to sing that.

He had a lovely voice.

So pure.

He was only 19 when he died.



God keep you well.

When He is ready, He will call me.

I hope you live for a hundred years.

What a repellent idea.

Oh, Aunt, don't say that.

I'm not afraid of death, Emily.

Nor should you be.

If we keep our souls in readiness for God, there can be no fear.

He will smooth our way.

I shall pray for you all.

And remember, keep atheism at bay.

And watch the clock that ticks for us all.




Oh, you are all impossible!

I went to thank her, but she slept;

Her bed a funnelled stone, With nosegays at the head and foot, That travellers had thrown, Who went to thank her; but she slept.

'Twas short to cross the sea To look upon her like, alive, But turning back 'twas slow.

You think you might smile, Mr Dickinson?

I am smiling!

Emily! Emily!

We have a guest.

This is Miss Vryling Buffam.

It sounds like an anagram, doesn't it?

You see before you a life blighted by baptism.

Yeah, I hope you brought to the attention of your parents their lack of thought in that respect.

I have. It makes them very cross.

But surely they will forgive you.

Ah, but will I forgive them?

Weren't you at a ladies' seminary at Fort Sumter or somewhere?

Mount Holyoke. Yes, I thought it had a military ring to it.

But that was years ago.

And were your studies as disciplined?

Algebra, geometry, the natural sciences.

And for the sake of decorum, ecclesiastical history.

I believe all women should have the same educational advantages as men.

But ecclesiastical history?

It sounds as dreary as Paradise.

We brought her home.

Did you dislike Mount Holyoke so much?

She was bullied there.

There's bullying and there's coercion.

And which did you suffer?

A unique combination of both.

It was appalling. Yes, but... it puts iron in the soul.

But what is the point of that when, in the end, we are all extinguished?

Do you fear death? No.

But I fear Heaven.

I'm afraid it will seem like an anticlimax.

Perfection usually does.

And what of Hell?

I'm sure that will be even duller than Heaven.

That will be the agony.

Will you go with us to church, Miss Buffam?

Of course not.

Going to church is like going to Boston.

You only enjoy it after you've gotten home.

We are to pray for the repose of our late pastor's soul.

Doesn't that rather depend on where it's gone?

We shall become fast friends.

Of course we shall. I'm irresistible.

Everyone says so.

When the new pastor does arrive, you must point him out to me.

So that you, too, may be saved?


So that I will know whom to avoid.

Don't enjoy your praying too much.

It might become habit-forming.

Do you come to God, sir? We do, sir.

Do you come humbly, sir?

I come as myself, Pastor.

You want to come to Christ as a lawyer?

You need to come as a poor sinner.

Get down on your knees and let me pray for you.

And then you can pray for yourself.

And you, Miss Dickinson. What of you? What of me, sir?

Will you not kneel and give yourself to God?

No, sir, I will not kneel.

Though I think that God has already given Himself to me.

That was profane. It was not meant so, sir.

Do you guard your soul, Emily? As best as I am able, sir.

And Hell? What of Hell?

Avoid it if I can. Endure it if I must.

That was irreligious, young lady. Then I beg God's pardon for my impiety.

Let us pray for all sinners.

How dare you conduct yourself in such a manner?

It is both unchristian and unseemly!

I will not be forced to piety!

You will do as you are instructed.

I know your Christian shore is safer, Father.

And I know I must seem recalcitrant, but my soul is my own.

Your soul is God's! You neglect it at your peril.

Yes, Father. And in future, you will conduct yourself in a manner that is befitting the station in life to which it has pleased God to call you.

Yes, Father.

Goodnight, Emily.

Goodnight, Father.

This plate is dirty.

It is dirty no longer.

I wouldn't have gone that far.

If I had, Father would have packed me off to a good military school and Mother would have tearfully embroidered something.

Ah. The eternal Miss Buffam.

Alas, no, sir. Father Time knocks at my door also.

And what precautions do you take?

I contrive never to be at home when he calls.

All women should aspire to that state of readiness.

No. Women should only aspire to be younger than their waistlines.

Then the unpleasant topic of age becomes almost irrelevant.

And what should men aspire to?


And in warmer weather?

Philately. It has all the dangers of sport without any of the rigour.

Your banter, Miss Buffam, is, as always, delightful.

Take it, Mr Dickinson, as the mere outpourings of a poor, tormented soul.


Now you go too far. We were trying to be ironic.

Come in.

Will you come to church, Emily? No, Father.

Why will you not come? God knows what is in my heart.

He doesn't require me to be in a pew to remind Him.

I hope that remark isn't as frivolous as it sounds.

Your soul is no trivial matter.

I agree, Father.

That's why I'm so meticulous in guarding its independence.

I reckon - when I count out all -

First - poets - then the sun -

Then summer - then the Heaven of God And then - the list is done -

But, looking back - the first so seems - To comprehend the whole -

The others look a needless show - So I write - poets - all -

Their summer - lasts a solid year -

They can afford a sun The East - would deem extravagant -

And if the further heaven - Be beautiful as they prepare For those who worship them -

It is too difficult a grace - To justify the dream -

What is it? From Austin.

Likenesses of Austin and his bride-to-be, Susan Gilbert.


Austin as handsome as ever. But she looks terrified.

We must welcome her and reassure her we are not all forbidding.

Oh, Emily, my own!

This is a luxury that is almost Parisian.

Let's not be anything today except superficial.

Yes. And superficiality should always be spontaneous.

If it is studied, it is too close to hypocrisy.

We may be superficial, but we aren't stupid.

Heaven forbid.

This is my third commencement ball, and not a hint of romance.

Do you suppose that men are frightened of a woman who teaches and is used to her independence?

Men are supposed to be fearless, aren't they?

In war, yes. In religion, always.

In love, never.

Look at that divine creature.

What a noble head he has. Like a Roman emperor.


Let's hope he's just as wicked.

As long as he has a fortune, we can take his wickedness as merely a lapse in virtue.

I think you must prepare yourself for a polka.

May I be permitted to have the next dance on your card, Miss Buffam?

I don't have a dance card, sir. I prefer to... improvise.

Isn't that rather dangerous? That is precisely why I do it.


How was the divinity?

He dances like a polar bear.

And a prig.

Did you say something to him to shock him?

Only that I'd just finished reading Wuthering Heights.

And he was scandalised.

Had he read it? No.

So I told him that to condemn a novel he had not read would be like going to Sodom or Gomorrah and being disappointed that neither were Philadelphia.

I hope he had the presence of mind to laugh.

He didn't.

He went very silent and the air became charged with unspoken profanity.

It was delicious.

Now, I must go. Miss Buffam has a tryst.

That sounds sinful. Hm.

I was told once, by a clergyman, that I should repent my sins, otherwise I would be pursued by the Devil.

"Oh, a sort of spiritual Wells Fargo," I said.

He promptly went silent, like patience on a monument.

Appalled but dumb.

For the lost soul, there will be no tomorrow.

For the lost soul, today is quite enough.

Oh, I shall miss you if you ever go.

Your honesty is sublime.

In the long term, honesty is not the best policy.

Is dishonesty? I prefer to call it diplomacy.

That way, one can turn a tactical defeat into a victory.

Who proposed that? Oh, I don't know.

Probably George Washington as he was crossing the Delaware. The wrong way.

Now, my own, I must fly.

Drive carefully, and don't do anything against God.

I'll stop yodelling, then. Very wise.

Quickly, Pendennis. Before second thoughts set in.

Oh, come in, Emily.

Shall I close the door? No. Leave it open.

It's lovely to hear the music.

It makes me recollect when your father and I went to our first commencement ball.

All those years ago.

This is my sister Lavinia.

But everyone calls me Vinnie.

And this is my other sister, Emily.

And everyone calls me Napoleon.

You come back married and a lawyer.

Harvard has clearly agreed with you, Austin.

Even more agreeable is that we now shall be neighbours.

Susan and I are moving into The Evergreens, next door.

Another thunderbolt!

But a most welcome one.

Austin and I are to practise law. Together.

Shingle has never sounded so lovely.

Is there no end to these wonders?

I welcome you both.

My son and his lovely bride.

His very lovely bride.

And this is the greatest wonder of all. Mother coming down from Mount Olympus.


Emily, as usual, dramatises.

I live a very quiet life.

No one would know I was here.

But if you weren't, oh, what a chasm you would leave.

Bees in the lavender Then the lazy owl Will you marry?

I suppose in time I shall.

Isn't that what we all do, in the end?

I don't know.

I can't imagine myself beyond my family.

Amongst strangers.

You are a strange creature, with more depth, I suspect, than any of us.

How can you say that? I haven't demonstrated that at all.

Oh, my dear, you don't demonstrate, you reveal.

When you eventually do go away, will you write?

I do not possess the propensity for long correspondence.

I suspect I have a trivial mind. But a good heart.

Don't let sentiment cloud your judgement, Emily.

Should my future husband put me out of humour, he will think he has married one of the minor Borgias.

Will you marry?

I only want my family.

It is not perfect.

It is not Paradise.

But it is far better than anything I could know.

Or want.

When you do marry...

I shall miss you. Of course you shall miss me.

I refuse to be forgotten.


Make sure your bread is ready for the agricultural fair tomorrow.

Yes. I haven't forgotten.

They feel swollen.

They are swollen, like my feet.

Miss Emily?

Will you please get my bread out of the oven?

It doesn't need all three of you to pick it up!

I believe you spoke sharply to Thomas, Margaret and Maggie yesterday.

Yes, Father. They must be treated with respect.

They are not servants, but employees.

What was that for?

For pointing out so eloquently the distinction between the two.

I was very impolite yesterday.

I would like to apologise to all three of you.

Er, no offence taken.

Then may I take it that I am forgiven?

For I am truly sorry.

But we have good news, miss.

Your bread won five dollars.

Then you must keep the money. It will ease my conscience.

It took second prize.

Oh. Second prize.

What does it feel like to be a father, Austin?


May I hold him?

We're calling him Edward. Ned, for short.

I'm nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

Then there's a pair of us - don't tell!

They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog To tell one's name the livelong day To an admiring bog!

Father? What is it?

Fort Sumter has been fired upon.

What does this mean?

It is thought that the South will secede from the Union.

Then it means civil war.

Does this mean you will be drafted, Austin?

Almost certainly.

You will remain here.

But, Father, my friends will fight. I cannot stay at home.

I will pay the $500 bond so that a substitute may fight in your place.

What about my honour, sir? Your honour, sir, will be safe in my hands.

And my conscience, Father? What of that?

It will be best if your conscience found solace in you doing your filial duty.

For those who will die in this civil war, "filial duty" will seem like cowardice.

No young man of breeding would make such a remark.

No gentleman would provoke it!


You are my only son.

I cannot see your life put at risk.

Please, Father, don't make me stay.

You are not to go! I forbid it!

I will remain here.

To fight aloud, is very brave - But gallanter, I know Who charge within the bosom The Cavalry of Woe -

Who win, and nations do not see -

Who fall - and none observe -

Whose dying eyes, no Country Regards with patriot love -

We trust, in plumed procession, For such, the Angels go -

Rank after Rank, with even feet - And Uniforms of snow.

There is a word which bears a sword Can pierce an armed man.

It hurls its barbed syllables, - And once is mute again.

But where it fell, the saved will tell On patriotic day, Some epauletted brother gave his breath away Wherever runs the breathless sun, Wherever roams the day, There is its noiseless onset, There its victory!

We went to Gettysburg to hear the speeches.

Mr Edward Everett spoke for nearly two hours.

Very rousing. And the President's speech?

Mr Lincoln was shocking in his brevity.

He spoke for about three minutes. Not memorable.

Were there many there to hear the orations?

Some said fifteen thousand.

Most of them looking for breakfast, or trying to find souvenirs of the battle.


They say that over six hundred thousand men have perished.

And for what?

To end slavery, which should never have flourished in this country in the first place.

Miss Buffam has had too great an influence over you, Emily.

If more men were as outspoken as Miss Buffam, we may not have had a war.

How dare you trivialise it in that way? The conflict was not about gender.

Any argument about gender is war, because that, too, is slavery.

That's a contemptible thing to say. Live as a woman for a week, Austin.

You will find it neither congenial nor trivial.

So you leave tomorrow?

How long will you be gone?

Two months, maybe.

Both cases are difficult, and both are being tried by Judge Lord.

And you know how fierce he can be.

Must you go for such a length of time? Yes.

A man must make his way in the world. He can't be merely decorous.

And a woman? What should she do?

Or is she destined only for decorousness?

Let's not argue.

Not on my last night at home.

I'll write.

It'll ease my unhappiness. But increase mine.

What are you doing at this hour?

It is my time for writing.

Between three am and morning.

My father allows it.

No husband would.

I came over.

I thought something was amiss. No.

It is the best time, when it feels as if the whole world is asleep and still.

Why did you take so long to consent to marry Austin?

In truth...

the thought of men in that particular respect...

turned me to stone.

Although Austin is...

very tender... and yielding to my...


Is that particular part of married life so terrible?

I do my duty.

But I have not only gained a husband,

but two sisters also.


We will be sisters.

And we shall share and read everything.

The Brontës.

George Eliot.

And, Heaven save us, Mrs Gaskell also.

And you have your poetry.

But you have a life.

I have a routine.

It is God's one concession to a no-hoper.

Does nothing give you solace?

For those of us who live minor lives, and are deprived of...

a particular kind of love,

we know best how to starve.

We deceive ourselves, and then others.

It is the worst kind of lie.

But in matters of the soul...

you are rigorous.

Rigour is no substitute for happiness.

Oh, what a call is this?

The dear ones, whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, cry "Come, come!"

And the church below, Christ's witness unto the world and the church above, with the rustling of the white robes, and the sweeping of the golden harps, cries "Come, come!"

And the angels of Heaven, lo! Rank above rank, immortal principalities, as they circle the eternal throne.

They have caught up the sound, and cry "Come, come!"

Reverend Wadsworth's sermons take the breath away!

That kind of religious ecstasy is wonderful, but back in the quiet of one's own room, it seems as remote as Spitsbergen.

Still, he is as handsome as he is ecstatic.

And he is so clean. Like a cherub after bathing.

And happily married.

To be betrothed without the swoon.

But a person may hope.

If you're too quick to hope, you'll always be disappointed.

And if I am too quick to despair, what then?

Then you will be too slow to hope.

I set too much store by friendships.

When we lose friends to death, that is the most profound loss.

When we lose them to marriage, the grief is subtler, but just as keenly felt.

We cannot keep the world, or life, at bay, Emily. Neither can we ignore it.

We can do better than that. We can be vigilant against it.

But when that vigil is over, what then?

Eternity. And in that place, no loss is felt.

But what of the kingdom to come?

That may be a gain, but only after the fact.

One day, you may marry.

I think not.

You and Austin are the handsome ones.

I am a kangaroo amongst the beauties.

No! You have a lovely face and a fine soul.

Then let us hope the man who courts me will have an interest in zoology... and all things spiritual.

Let us invite the Reverend Wadsworth to tea.

And Mrs Wadsworth.

Very well.

And you must promise me you'll behave.

I know how provocative you can be.

I will muster all the dignity I can.

That's what I'm afraid of.

Will you take coffee, Mrs Wadsworth?

Er, tea, then?

No, thank you. Mrs Wadsworth is an abstainer.

I thought abstention was only for alcohol.

For me, it extends to tea, also.

They say the Chinese drink tea for remedial purposes.

I'm glad to say that I'm not Chinese.

Some lemonade, then?

Surely God would not disapprove of lemonade?

Levity and the will of God are, I think, incompatible. Almost improper.

Just plain water would be pleasant.

Reverend Wadsworth?

Just a cup of hot water for me, thank you.

I understand from Vinnie that you are a poet?

I write verses, yes.

And what of your contemporaries?

Mr Longfellow, for instance.

His genius lies in stating the obvious.

Oh, that is too harsh. There are many fine things in Hiawatha.

I'm sorry I was cruel. But, madam, I must say in truth, Hiawatha is but gruel. Read just one stanza for the proof.


Give me something pressed from truth, and that is poetry.

I suppose you feel the Brontës do that?

Yes. And a few others.

What do you find in all that Yorkshire gloom?

The beauty of truth. The poetry of the known.

But why can't they dwell on something wholesome?

If they wished to be wholesome, I would imagine they would crochet.

Would you like to take a turn in our garden?

No, thank you.

I find this heat oppressive.

But Charles loves to be out of doors.

I myself prefer the shade.

In that case, I will take the liberty of escorting your husband around our modest garden.

And my sister can have you all to herself.

More water?

Thank you for your invitation, Miss Dickinson.

I was very moved by your sermon, sir, and wanted very much to tell you.

This is all I have to give in return.

Please say something.

Does my poetry have any worth?

They are remarkable.

Uncompromising, yes, but this is wonderful poetry.

How many have been published?



I cannot recall.

And no more? And no more.

How can you be so stoic?

It's easy to be stoic when no one wants what you have to offer.

There is, I suppose, always posterity.

But posterity is as comfortless as God.

That sounds like despair.

No, it's bitterness.

Besides... a posthumous reputation is only for those who, when living, weren't worth remembering.

Still... Ah!

To be racked by success!

But I would like some approval before I die.

If you were coming in the fall, I'd brush the summer by With half a smile and half a spurn, As housewives do a fly.

If I could see you in a year, I'd wind the months in balls, And put them each in separate drawers, Until their time befalls.

If only centuries delayed, I'd count them on my hand, Subtracting till my fingers dropped Into Van Diemen's land.

If certain, when this life was out, That yours and mine should be, I'd toss it yonder like a rind, And taste eternity.

But now, all ignorant of the length Of time's uncertain wing, It goads me, like the goblin bee, That will not state its sting.

I must have someone with a sense of humour, someone who can laugh at the world.

Taking life seriously is the shortest route to disaster.

And have you found such a one?

Someone has found me.

A Mr Wilder, a Professor of Mathematics.

And if he can find comedy in a vulgar fraction, I'm his.

But do you love him? Love? I cannot say.

It's a very beguiling idea. They even say it exists.

But how will you know?

What if you make an error?

If he is a bad choice, I'll have him killed quietly and tell everyone he died of some sort of algebraic shock.

I hope you will be happy.

That cannot be guaranteed. I'll settle for consideration.

That sounds like surrender. No, it's practicality.

And who knows? Perhaps love will come in its wake.

Then I can relax into smugness. You could never be smug.

Life catches you out, Emily. In the end, we all become the thing we most dread.

Then I will reject the world and not fulfil that prophecy.

Then you will be making the greatest of mistakes, for you will deny yourself what your spirit needs most.

And what is that? Truth. And experience.

Otherwise, your vow will be an act of cowardice.

That was hurtful. But honest.

Don't resist your vices, Emily. It is your virtues you should be wary of.

Austin once told Aunt Elizabeth that our virtues are just vices in disguise.

Now, there is a man with a sense of humour.

And does your Mr Wilder possess one?

Of a kind. He proposed to me by letter, so if the marriage is unhappy, I shall blame the US mail.

Always conform.

Keep disobedience secret.

Be outwardly docile, but in your heart, you can be as revolutionary as you like.

But isn't that hypocrisy? Of course it is.

But in America, we cherish it.

We think it makes us incorruptible.

You must never confuse the outer with the inner piety.

Only Episcopalians do that.

But I am rebellious and far from the grace of God.

You are closer to Him than anyone I know.

Always look below the surface, Emily, but don't be afraid of what you find there.

Chaos? Yes.

Then I shall confront everything.

Don't be too radical, Emily. Radicals don't thrive in this country.

But you are a radical. But I'll eventually conform.

For the sake of peace or a quiet life.

But I know that you will not, and I envy you your courage.

I suppose you shall carry lovely flowers and have Mr Mendelssohn's "Wedding March".

Flowers, yes. Mendelssohn, no.

Never play happy music at a wedding, Emily, it's too misleading.

But you shall be forever gone from us. You make it sound like dying.

Isn't it? No.

And even if it were, you must force yourself to think otherwise.

America is the only country in the world that looks upon death as some kind of personal failure.

May I get you something, Mother?

No, Emily.

You've always seemed so sad, Mother.

My life has passed as if in a dream.

As if I'd never been part of it.

After Vinnie was born, a kind of melancholia settled over me which I mistook for contentment.

Were we such a terrible price to pay?


I wouldn't be without all three of you.

To have my children about me... there could be no better medicine.


at a certain hour...

when the sun is low... the shadows lengthen...

I am filled with such a sense of longing.

I feel such a weight on my heart.

Oh, how it aches.

Oh, my dear.

Oh, my dear.

There, my lamb. There.

Reverend Wadsworth has sailed for San Francisco.

They all go. They all leave.

They all desert you.

Do not touch me!

I will not be pitied. It makes me feel repulsive.

You set too much store by physical beauty, Emily.

The only people who can be sanguine about not being handsome are those who are beautiful already.

The rest of us have only our envy to keep us warm.

You have an exquisite nature. What's the use of that in this world?

I sometimes think you are too harsh with yourself.

I have many defects. There is much to rectify!

It is just as punitive to admit to too many faults as it is to deny too few virtues.

The Reverend Wadsworth is a married man.

This kind of attachment is improper.

We can't all possess your smug rectitude.

Don't sneer at anyone's morals when your own could do with some little correction.

By that, I assume you mean Reverend Wadsworth?

He's married!

You should not attach yourself to someone who is not free to return that attachment!

You hardly know the man, except through his sermons.

Besides, he and Mrs Wadsworth are very happy.

She has led a blameless life.

She hasn't led a life at all! She's too inert for that.

If docility were love, we would all live happily ever after.

She's a good wife!

And, to be truthful, I have never understood the attraction of her husband for you.

He is hardly a Mr Rochester, and you are certainly not Jane Eyre!

That was unkind.

I'm sorry, too.

You're not smug.

But I do sermonise.

And I do over-dramatise.

But it was news that was... is hard to bear.

Oh, you are a wretched creature!

Will you never achieve anything?

We outgrow love like other things And put it in the drawer, Till it an antique fashion shows Like costumes grandsires wore.

May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.

May the Lord lift up His countenance unto you and give you peace.

We wish you all the happiness in the world.

No tears, Emily.

No tears.

Will you come? No.

Wave her my goodbye.

The dying need but little, dear - A glass of water's all, A flower's unobtrusive face To punctuate the wall, A fan, perhaps, a friend's regret, And certainly that one No colour in the rainbow Perceives when you are gone.

Look back on time with kindly eyes, He doubtless did his best;

How softly sinks his trembling sun In human nature's west!

Of so divine a loss, we enter but the gain, Indemnity for loneliness That such a bliss has been.

If we reach into the silence then we cannot be afraid, for where there is nothing, there is God.



You must eat.

You must come down now.

It's been three days.

You are wearing white.


But we're still in mourning.

So am I.

Emily? It's Mr Bowles.

He's come to Amherst specially to see you.

Well, come down, damn you.

I refuse to speak to someone who's a flight of stairs above me.

Forgive me, sir, if I'm frightened.

I never see anyone and I hardly know what to say.

You could say thank you for my publishing some of your verse.

For that, sir, you have more than my thanks. You have my gratitude.

But, sir... you have altered some of my punctuation.

Good Lord. What's a hyphen here or a semi-colon there?

To many, nothing.

But, to me, the alteration of my punctuation marks is very hard to endure.

Then I apologise.

I was merely trying to make your meaning clearer to my readers.

Clarity is one thing, sir, obviousness quite another.

The only person qualified to interfere with the poet's work is the poet herself.

From anyone else, it feels like an attack.

Miss Dickinson, this is no way to speak or behave.

If you treated a suitor like this, he would not return.

Are you sure there will be one? Of course.

Even for someone as hard to please as yourself.

Well, if he does come, he will have to be as spectacular as Disraeli and as sincere as Gladstone.

And as upright as George Washington?

George who?


Mr Emmons is coming to see us.

Our beautiful friend?

Will you come down? No.

This is discourteous. Why will you not come down and meet him?

Because he is so beautiful, and I am not beautiful enough.

He's read some of your published poems and admires them.

Admiration always masks envy.

What does envy mask?

Oh, that masks admiration.

He may come to the foot of the stairs.

Miss Dickinson? Yes.

I cannot see you. That, sir, is no matter.

It is the first time I've conducted a visit in this fashion.

It seems unfair that you can see me but I can only hear you.

That can be no hardship, sir, for I am best heard and not seen.

Er... Will you take a ride with Vinnie and me?

I do not cross my father's ground to any house or town.

That seems such a shame, especially in such lovely weather.

The weather will remain lovely whether I drive through it or not.

Then I wish you good day, Miss Dickinson.

Good day, Mr Emmons.

He will mount the stairs at midnight

The looming man in the night

No ordinary bridegroom he

But I will wait all my days

And he will come before the afterlife

Oh, please, let him come Let him not forget me!

# Since first I saw your face, I resolved

# To honour and renown you

# If now I am disdained, I wish

# My heart had never known you

# What! I that loved, and you that liked

# Shall we begin to wrangle?

# No, no, no, my heart is fast

# And cannot disentangle

# If I admire or praise you too much

# That fault you may forgive me

# Or if my hands had strayed to touch

# Then justly might you leave me

# I asked you leave, you bade me love

# Is't now a time to chide me?

# No, no, no, I love you still

# What fortune e'er betide me

# If I have wronged you, tell me wherein

# And I will soon amend it

# In recompense of such a sin

# Here is my heart, I'll send it

# If that will not your mercy move

# Then, for my life I care not

# Then, oh, then, torment me still

# And take my life and spare not #

Oh, Emily, you should have come - it was radiant.

Yes. And I'm sure you would have made it even more radiant, Miss Emily.

Ridicule is not the way to any woman's heart, sir. Least of all mine.

It was meant sincerely.

Or should I judge beauty by the common standard?

Any standard may be common. Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt.

Perhaps contempt breeds familiarity.

At any rate, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

That is no longer true, sir. For that truism has become a cliché.

Miss Dickinson, you are just a little too sharp.

And you, sir, are a little too quick to play the martyr.

Then I'll take my leave before any blood is spilt.

There are wounds which do not bleed,

but which aggrieve nonetheless.

I just assumed that you wanted to be rid of me. I meant no injury.

Nor did I, sir. I only wish to be honest.

May I call again?

If it gives you no pleasure, what is the point?

I had hoped that my company wouldn't be a burden.

A burden can always be laid down, sir.

You are not required to be another Sisyphus.

Oh, Emily, why do you behave like this?

He is a kind man and he was hurt.

I don't know.

As soon as they get too close, I feel as if I'm suffocating.

I long for... something.

But I am afraid of it.

A man may love and then cool, but it is not that way with me.

But you cannot be equal to a man.

If I cannot have equality, then I want nothing of love.

I will not be so confined that I cannot breathe.

But a rebellious spirit invites only retribution.

Then I will be silent in my rebellion, so that no one will know what my true feelings are.

God will know. But I will not be married to God.

But you are His possession and answerable to Him.

He will know of my struggle and be merciful.

And if He does not exist, then I will be eternally free.

We never know we go, when we are going We jest and shut the door;

Fate following behind us bolts it, And we accost no more.

He fumbles at your spirit As players at the keys Before they drop full music on; He stuns you by degrees, Prepares your brittle substance For the ethereal blow, By fainter hammers, further heard, Then nearer, then so slow Your breath has time to straighten, Your brain to bubble cool, -

Deals one imperial thunderbolt That scalps your naked soul.

Have you noticed any blood in your urine?

Yes, Doctor.

Back pain? Yes, Doctor.


Very severe.

She's had a fever and vomiting.

And your breathing?

It's very restricted.

You have all the common symptoms of Bright's Disease.

It's a disease of the kidneys. Is there a cure?

Not to my knowledge.

What is the prognosis, Doctor?

Diuretics and laxatives can ease some of the symptoms.

But there is definitely no cure?


Thank you, Doctor.

I'll see you out.

This world is not conclusion; A sequel stands beyond, Invisible, as music, but positive, as sound.

It beckons and it baffles; Philosophies don't know, And through a riddle, at the last, Sagacity must go.

To guess it puzzles scholars; To gain it, men have shown Contempt of generations, And crucifixion known.

Oh, no.

I can hear her sigh before she makes one.

Emily, Mother has had a stroke.



We've come to say goodnight, Mother.



Father believed...

...and Mother loved...

She achieved in sweetness what she lost in strength.

# Heil'ge Nacht

# Du sinkest nieder

# Nieder wallen auch die Träume

# Wie dein Mondlicht durch die Räume #

Your wife plays beautifully, Mr Todd.

My wife does everything beautifully, and with her whole being.

They say every man that meets her falls in love with her.

No, she says that.

# Die belauschen sie mit Lust

# Die belauschen sie mit Lust

# Rufen, wenn der Tag erwacht

# Kehre wieder, heil'ge Nacht

# Holde Träume, kehret wieder

# Holde Träume

# Kehret wieder #

Is this a private rehearsal, or is it open to the general public?

Mrs Todd, the exit is to your right.


Mrs Todd is about to depart.

This life? Or just this house?

Stop it. She'll hear you.

Goodbye, Emily.

Goodbye, Mrs Todd.

Please give my regards to Mr Todd.

A man of rare patience and fortitude.

I'll remember you to him.

Perhaps next time, Emily, when you wish to say goodbye to a guest, you might consider using semaphore.

There aren't enough flags to say what I wish to say.

Use the back stairs, Austin. It's quicker.

Oh, Emily, why do you behave like this?

Now there'll be hostility for days.

How is Susan?

Well, thank you. She's taking tea with Mabel.

Ah, Mrs Todd. And her dull narcissism.

You mistake confidence for narcissism, and womanly reticence for dullness.

Whatever else can be said of Mrs Todd, no one could ever accuse her of reticence.

Or does one only require reticence in a wife?

My wife is perfectly happy. Yes, of course.

I'm sure she sees infidelity, when accompanied by Schubert, as a delightful pastime.

A kind of musical adultery.

Real artists cannot be confined by narrow convention.

Real artists don't deceive themselves or their public.

When you have any public to speak of, I'm sure your reputation will no doubt be very secure.

In all this, Susan is the innocent party.

If you take the trouble to look, you'd see there is more to that innocence than meets the eye.

That is a despicable thing to say!

Oh, stop bickering!

My sympathies are entirely with Susan.

If she had a liaison with a married man, how would you respond?

I would not forgive her.

Yet you "admire" Mrs Todd.

An admirable woman is one thing, a wife quite another.

I don't think I've ever been this close to despising you.

Don't lecture me on how to live! And don't try to justify your position!

It is both immoral and vicious.

Susan is a good and intelligent wife.

Or do you prefer more obvious charms?

By that I assume you mean Mabel Loomis Todd?

Mrs Todd, yes. And don't tell me your intentions toward her are merely fraternal!

Especially in that semi-recumbent position!

Sometimes, Emily, you are as ugly as your poetry!

I wonder if she is that percussive with her husband!

There's nothing to be done.

Mabel's made up her mind to continue the status quo.

She is incapable of making up her mind because she is too stupid to have one!

That is a horrible thing to say.

You see what a vile person I've become.

That is too harsh.

You lash out because you are hurt or angry.

Your anger is, I think, a defence against the world.

How can you go on loving me when I don't deserve it?

Because you are so easy to love.

Oh, Vinnie.


You are not the only one who has had horrible thoughts.

Yes. Me also.

I once hoped that Mabel would go up in a balloon, then explode.

Oh, Vinnie, if that is the extent of your wickedness, your sainthood is assured, explosions notwithstanding.

Try not to provoke him.

Have you read this article in the Springfield Republican, Emily?

No. Why?

It is by Mr Bowles, who publishes some of your work.

And whom you admire, I think.

And who is also married.

What does it say?

"Why should we write?

"There is another kind of writing, only too common, "appealing to the sympathies of the reader

"without recommending itself to its subject.

"It may be called the literature of misery.

"The writers are chiefly women, gifted women, maybe, "full of thought and feeling and fancy, "but poor, lonely and unhappy.

"Also, such suffering is so seldom healthful.

"It may be a valuable discipline in the end, "but for the time being, it too often clouds, withers, distorts.

"It is so difficult to see objects distinctly through a mist of tears.

"The sketch or poem is..."

That was cruel.

Life is cruel. And cruelty knows no morality.

Are you all right?

Austin was cruel.

He was, I suppose, defending his position.

Or should we call it poetic licentiousness?

I must confess, I cannot understand his infatuation with her when she already has a husband who should satisfy her in every aspect of married life.

They say that with Mr Todd, it is a venereal case.

How do you know this? There are rumours.

Perhaps now you can view Mabel in a more favourable light.

I doubt that.

Mrs Todd may have her private troubles, but it is no excuse for Austin's infidelity.

The brother I once adored has betrayed Susan in the vilest way imaginable!

People are not saints, Emily.

You judge too harshly because you judge too highly.

Lowering a standard is the first excuse for every villainy.

And keeping to one high principle is the last refuge of the intolerant.

And what of integrity?

Austin was once fierce in his defence of it, and now it seems an encumbrance to be easily put aside!

Integrity, if taken too far, can be equally ruthless.

And do I fit into that category? Sometimes, yes!

We're only human, Emily.

Don't pillory us for that.

You're right. Of course.

I wish I had your gentle spirit.

If I castigate Austin, it is because my own failings are equally as great.

We become the very thing we dread,

and I have become embittered.

Despite your vehemence, you have a soul anyone would be proud of.

Oh, Vinnie. Vinnie.

Why has the world become so ugly?

Our journey had advanced; Our feet were almost come To that odd fork in Being's road, Eternity by term.

Our pace took sudden awe, Our feet reluctant led.

Before where cities, but between, The forest of the dead.

Retreat was out of hope, - Behind, a sealed route, Eternity's white flag before, And God at every gate.


Calm. Emily, calm yourself.

Is there nothing we can do, Doctor?

Hold her down, I'll give her some more chloroform.

Shhh. Emily, Emily.



Shhh. Emily, we're here.

Emily. Shhh.

Easy, calm. Shhh.

Shhh. Easy. Yes, yes.

Breathe, Emily. Emily.

It's all right. It's all right. Shhh. Shhh.



# She buried him before the prime

# But there, she was dead herself ere evensong time

# God send every gentleman

# Such hawks, such hounds, # And such a leman #

My life closed twice before its close;

It yet remains to see If Immortality unveil a third event to me, So huge, so hopeless to conceive, As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of Heaven, And all we need of Hell.

Goodbye to the life I used to live, And the world I used to know;

And kiss the hills for me, just once;

Now I am ready to go!

Because I could not stop for Death -

He kindly stopped for me -

The carriage held but just ourselves -

And Immortality.

We slowly drove - he knew no haste And I had put away My labour and my leisure too, For His civility.

We passed the school, where children strove, At recess - in the ring -

We passed the fields of grazing grain -

We passed the setting sun -

Or rather - he passed us -

The dews drew quivering and chill -

For only gossamer, my gown - My tippet - only tulle -

We paused before a house that seemed A swelling of the ground -

The roof was scarcely visible - The cornice - in the ground -

Since then - 'tis centuries - and yet Feels shorter than the day I first surmised the horses' heads Were toward eternity -

This is my letter to the world, That never wrote to me, -

The simple news that Nature told, With tender majesty.

Her message is committed To hands I cannot see;

For love of her, sweet countrymen, Judge tenderly of me!