Emily Dickinson is one of the greatest American writers and poets whose experiments with language and self-expression redefined the first-person narrative.
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts on December 10, 1830. She and her siblings attended Amherst Academy, where she immersed herself in her studies, applying aspects of what she learned in her writing. Also, she came to know people who exposed her to the poetry of well known writers, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
After a background in progressive education from Amherst Academy, Dickinson entered Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in the fall of 1847. However, the strict religious discipline and a lack of lasting friendships made her feel isolated and she left after a year. When Dickinson returned home, she was stricken with sadness to hear that Amherst Academy’s principal, Leonard Humphrey, passed away from brain congestion. She had come to know him during her last year at the Academy,
In the 1850s, Dickinson developed a close relationship with her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert, to whom she sent over three hundred letters over the course of their relationship. Later in the decade, Dickinson withdrew more from the outside world, spending her time writing and taking care of her ailing mother.
In 1858, Dickinson began the project that would become her legacy: she created nearly forty hand-bound volumes that would eventually contain nearly 1800 poems. Later, Dickinson befriended Samuel Bowles, the owner and editor-in-chief of the Springfield Republican, and sent some of her poems and letters to him for publication. After heavily editing her poems, he published them anonymously in his journal.
Dickinson continued to write during the last years of her life. However, she stopped organizing her poems, even asking her sister to burn some of her papers. When her mother passed away, followed by her niece, Dickinson was adversely affected by their deaths and reflected upon them in her writing.
In 1886, Dickinson passed away at the age of 55.
Dickinson was not publicly recognized during her lifetime: the first volume of her work was published posthumously in 1890 and the last was issued in 1955. Her legacy lives on in her correspondence and poetry, which provides a window into her creative style and ways of expression.
A couple of Dickinson’s poems were published in children’s magazine, St. Nicholas, as featured in the June 4, 1891 Bridgeton Pioneer.
This brief segment, featured in the March 17, 1908, The Star and Newark Advertiser, discusses some aspects of Dickinson’s life.
(Contributed by Kristi Chanda)
“Emily Dickinson.” (2021). Poets.org, Academy of American Poets. Received from poets.org/poet/emily-dickinson.
“Emily Dickinson.” (2021). Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation. Received from www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/emily-dickinson.