Dickinson is a handy touchstone of shyness, though perhaps she wasn’t quite the recluse we want to imagine. She was, after all, well known in Amherst as a knowledgeable botanist and master gardener, which implies that she rubbed a few shoulders. And she carried on lively correspondences with many people; though a shy person might hide behind pens and stationery, Dickinson’s letters display an openness and humor that are far from bashful.
The most telling observation comes, perhaps, from Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Dickinson’s editor: on first meeting her, he observed, “she talked soon & thenceforward continuously . . . sometimes stopping to ask me to talk instead of her but readily recommencing.” Introverted, perhaps; protective of her poetry, certainly; but simply shy?
In any case, though, paroxetine would certainly have changed things, probably not for the better . . .
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