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A brief, but patient illness is the sixth episode of the first season of Dickinson. It is the sixth episode of the series overall.


Emily takes a “sick day” to write and finds a connection with her father’s law clerk.


The entire family believes that Emily is on her deathbed, leading both her father and mother to issue gruesome confessions. However, Emily is only feigning sickness in order to stay in her room to read and write poetry.

Leaving her room in search of a book she meets her father's clerk, Ben Newton, who is also an avid fan of poetry. After finishing her poem and giving it to Ben, Emily pretends to make a miraculous recovery. She is surprised to encounter Sue, who returned after hearing Emily was on her deathbed.

Emily urges Sue to go forward with her marriage to Austin. Lavinia hires an artist to paint a portrait of her. When she is displeased with the results she makes her own attempts to sketch herself.





  • Peter Maloney as Doctor Brewster





  • The episode's title and themes are based on "A brief but patient illness" a poem by Emily Dickinson that is available to read in The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (Back Bay Books, 1976). [1]
  • In their first encounter in mr Dickinson's office, Ben recites to Emily the second stanza of Emerson's poem "Dirge".
  • When she is getting examined by the doctor, Emily recites the first two lines of "It was not Death, for I stood up".
  • Throughout the episode, we watch Emily struggle to create a poem. That poem ends up being "Tell all the truth but tell it slant".

See also[]