The Possible’s Slow Fuse Is Lit By the Imagination!

Emily Dickinson? Susan Gilbert Dickinson? Martha Dickinson Bianchi? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The ability to envision something novel and appealing is vital to the formulation and accomplishment of worthwhile goals. A robust imagination initiates the process.

The poet Emily Dickinson employed the apt metaphor of lighting a fuse to express this notion. Would you please help to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Emily Dickinson lived between 1830 and 1886. She was a prolific correspondent, and she sent hundreds of letters to her sister-in-law Susan Gilbert Dickinson who was a beloved friend and supporter.

Martha Dickinson Bianchi was Susan’s daughter and Emily’s niece. In 1914 she published “The Single Hound: Poems of a Lifetime”, a posthumous collection of works by Emily Dickinson based on manuscripts held by Martha’s family. Each poem was assigned a number, and the quotation appeared in the four-line item numbered XXVII. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

The gleam of an heroic act,
Such strange illumination —
The Possible’s slow fuse is lit
By the Imagination!

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Possible’s Slow Fuse Is Lit By the Imagination!


  1. 1915 (1914 Copyright), The Single Hound: Poems of a Lifetime by Emily Dickinson, Poem: XXVII, Quote Page 29, Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link

We Turn Not Older With Years, But Newer Every Day

Creator: Emily Dickinson, prominent U.S. poet

Context: The quotation occurred within a letter from Dickinson dated 1874 that appeared in a collection of missives published posthumously in 1894. The letter was sent to a cousin who was not named. Emphasis added to this excerpt: 1

Affection is like bread, unnoticed till we starve, and then we dream of it, and sing of it, and paint it, when every urchin in the street has more than he can eat. We turn not older with years, but newer every day.

Acknowledgement: Great thanks to Hella Kuipers who inquired about this quotation.


  1. 1894, Letters of Emily Dickinson, Edited by Mabel Loomis Todd, Volume 2 of 2, Chapter VI: To the Misses, Date specified for letter: 1874, Start Page 276, Quote Page 276 and 277, Roberts Brothers, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link