Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson was an American poet. She published few poems during her lifetime, but she is now one of the best-known versifiers of our times.

Beginnings

Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, on December 10, 1830. Members of her family were well known for their political and educational activities. Her grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, was a founder of Amherst College. Her father, Edward Dickinson, was the college's lawyer and treasurer. He also served on the Massachusetts General Court, in the Massachusetts Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives. Her mother, Emily Norcross Dickinson, was a quiet, sickly woman most of her life. Her brother, attorney William Austin Dickinson, married Emily’s best friend, Susan Gilbert. Emily's sister, Lavinia Norcross Dickinson, collaborated with Susan to publish a large part of Emily’s work posthumously.

Emily received her early education at Amherst Academy from 1834 to 1847. She then enrolled at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1847, but suffered from severe homesickness and went home after one year of study. She never returned to school.

A cloistered existence

Throughout Dickinson's life, she seldom left home, and visitors were rare. However, people she did have contact with exerted a huge impact on her poetry. One in particular was the Reverend Charles Wadsworth, whom she met on one of her rare trips to Philadelphia. He came to Amhearst to visit her in 1860, then left for the West Coast. Some biographers believe that his departure caused severe heartache for Emily, which surfaced in her poetry over the next few years. Although it is certain Wadsworth was an important part of Emily’s life, it is unclear whether they were involved in a romantic relationship. A few other possibilities of unrequited love figure in her verse, including Otis P. Lord, a Massachusetts Supreme Court Judge, and Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield Republican.

By the 1860s, Dickinson lived in nearly total isolation from the outside world. However, she remained active with voluminous correspondence, and was an avid reader. Her family served as her companions. Her brother chose to live adjacent to the family home with his wife, Susan. Like Emily, her sister also lived at home for her entire life.

Dickinson's poetry frequently reflects her loneliness, but her verse also is marked by the possibility of happiness. Much of her work was influenced by the Metaphysical poets of 17th-century England, along with her upbringing in a Puritan New England town that encouraged a Calvinist, orthodox, and conservative approach to Christianity. She also was an admirer of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, as well as John Keats.

During her lifetime, Dickinson was not a recognized poet. She was a prolific versifier; when she wrote to friends, she enclosed a poem in her letters. Dickinson wrote more than 1,700 poems, but only seven were published while she was alive, five of them in the Springfield Republican.

A quiet life closes

Emily Dickinson died in Amherst on May 15, 1886. Following her death, Lavinia and Susan co-edited three volumes of her verse, from 1891 to 1896. Despite its editorial imperfections, the first volume became popular. In the early decades of the 20th century, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, Dickinson’s niece, transcribed and published more poems, and in 1945, the release of Bolts Of Melody completed the task of bringing her poems to the public. The publication of Thomas H. Johnson's 1955 edition of Emily Dickinson's poems finally gave readers a complete and accurate text.

Dickinson’s work has exerted a considerable influence on modern verse.

---- Selected Quotes ----

Quotes by Emily Dickinson.

Regarding Attending Church
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church — I keep it, staying at Home— With a Bobolink for a Chorister — And an Orchard, for a Dome—
Regarding Truth and Beauty
I died for Beauty — but was scarce Adjusted in the Tomb, When One who died for Truth, was lain In an adjoining Room — He questioned softly "Why I failed"? "For Beauty," I replied. "And I — for Truth, — Themself are One — We Brethren, are", He said —


Quotes regarding Emily Dickinson.

By Randall Jarrell
Her poetry is the diary or autobiography — though few diaries or autobiographies compare with it for intentional and, especially, unintentional truth — of an acute psychologist, a wonderful rhetorician, and one of the most individual writers who ever lived, one of those best able to express experience at its most nearly absolute.
In Harper's magazine, 195

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Amherst and Hadley, Massachusetts by Daniel Lombardo.
Once part of Hadley, Massachusetts, the town of Amherst is known the world over as the home of celebrated poet Emily Dickinson. This photographic port...