While in Washington, Dickinson ran into one of her childhood friends, Helen Fiske, and Fiske's husband, a soldier named Edward Bissell Hunt. Dickinson found Hunt captivating, and Hunt was fascinated by Dickinson. Some scholars have said that Dickinson fell in love with Edward Hunt, although there is no evidence to back up this claim. However, Dickinson did write in a letter at the time that Edward Hunt intrigued her more than any man she had met before.
After three weeks in Washington, Dickinson traveled to Philadelphia to visit with her old school friend Eliza Coleman. Eliza's father, Reverend Lyman Coleman, was pastor of the Presbyterian Academy of Philadelphia, and through him Dickinson made the acquaintance of a serious, dark-eyed man named Dr. Charles Wadsworth. Wadsworth was a preacher at Arch Street Presbyterian Church. He was a brilliant man, and Dickinson felt immediately drawn to him. He was married, but he took to Dickinson immediately and when she left, they began a long correspondence. Wadsworth occasionally visited Dickinson in Amherst. Dickinson turned away more and more visitors as the years passed, including her good friend Samuel Bowles, but she never turned away Dr. Charles Wadsworth.
Dickinson's trip to Washington proved that she had both the social and the intellectual gifts to be part of that world. However, after returning home from her trips to Washington (and subsequently Philadelphia), she retreated for good into her cloistered, self-made world. Three portraits hung on the walls of her room: George Eliot, Thomas Carlyle and Dr. Charles Wadsworth.