Philips Verses in Solitude (live, 2000)

We premièred Julian Philips’ Verses in Solitude at the Bromsgrove Concerts’ Mixing Music series in 2000. It’s an extended piece for soprano, baritone and piano – hence why the voice is over on the left and not in the centre. Andrew Foster-Williams was the baritone. . .

It narrates the correspondence between Emily Dickinson and her literary mentor (and eventual publisher) Thomas Wentworth Higginson. In this extract, she has received her first reply from him:

A new and wholly original poetic genius, distinct on my mind at first reading. So elusive of criticism – an unsolvable problem; where to place it? I ventured on questions, evaded with naive skill…

And here is what she writes in return:

Mr Higginson,
Thank you for your surgery, not so painful as I supposed.
You asked how old I was? I made no verse – but one or two – until
this winter – Sir –
You inquire my Books – For poets – I have Keats. For prose – Mr Ruskin.
You ask on my Companions Hills – and the sundown – and a
Dog – large as myself, that my Father bought me.
He buys me many Books – but begs me not to read them
Is this – Sir – what you asked me to tell you?


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