American poet Emily Elizabeth Dickinson lived from December 10, 1830, to May 15, 1886. Although she was not well-known when she was alive, she is today acknowledged as one of the most significant individuals in American poetry.
Dickinson was born into a well-known family with deep links to the neighbourhood in Amherst, Massachusetts. She spent her formative years studying for seven years at the Amherst Academy, then briefly attending the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before moving back to her family's Amherst home. There is proof that Dickinson lived alone for a sizable chunk of her life. She became fond of wearing white clothing and was once noted for her hesitation to welcome acquaintances or, later in life, even leave her bedroom. She was seen as strange by the neighbours. Dickinson was never legally wed, and most of her relationships with other people relied only on letter-writing. Despite being a prolific writer, Dickinson only had 10 of her almost 1,800 poems and one letter published during her lifetime.
The published poems were often heavily revised to adhere to sound conventional poetic norms, and her poetry was exceptional for the time. They have few lines, sometimes have no titles, frequently employ slant rhyme, and use unusual capitalization and punctuation. Though Dickinson's acquaintances were likely aware of her writing, it wasn't until Lavinia, Dickinson's younger sister, found her collection of poems after her passing in 1886 that her poetry gained widespread recognition. Private friends Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd uploaded their first book of poetry in 1890, albeit both carefully modified the material. The name "Susan" was regularly purposefully deleted from Dickinson's writing, according to a 1998 New York Times story. Even though all the dedications have been erased, most likely by Todd, at least eleven of Dickinson's poems were written with Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson in mind. The Poems of Emily Dickinson, published in 1955 by Thomas H. Johnson, an Emily Dickinson student, provided readers with the first access to a comprehensive and largely unaltered anthology of her poetry.
Family and Early Childhood
- On December 10, 1830, Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born in her family's home in Amherst, Massachusetts, into a well-known but not very affluent family. Her father, Edward Dickinson, served as a trustee for Amherst College and as an attorney in the city of Amherst. Her patrilineal ancestors had immigrated to the New World during the Puritan Great Migration two hundred years ago, where they had thrived. Samuel Dickinson, a former founder of Amherst College, is Emily Dickinson's paternal grandpa. He built the Homestead in 1813, a massive residence on the town's Main Street that served as the focal point of the Dickinson family's existence for more than a century.
- Edward Dickinson, the eldest son of Samuel Dickinson, served as Amherst College's treasurer from 1835 until 1873. He also served in the Massachusetts Senate (1842-1843), House of Representatives (1838-1839), and 10th congressional district (1842-1843). He wed Massachusetts native Emily Norcross on May 6, 1828. Three kids were born to them: William Austin, Emily Elizabeth, and Lavinia Norcross, also known as Lavinia or Vinnie.
- By all accounts, younger Dickinson was a polite young lady. Dickinson's Aunt Lavinia described her as "absolutely happy and contented-She is a very excellent toddler and yet little trouble" during a protracted visit to Monsoon when she was two years old. The girl's love of music and her particular aptitude for the piano, which she referred to as "the moosic," were other topics covered by Dickinson's aunt.
- Dickinson attended the majority of faculty in a two-story Pleasant Street structure. "Ambitiously classical for a Victorian girl" was how she was educated. Her father followed their progress even while he was on business since he wanted his kids to get a good education. When he was seven years old, Dickinson urged his family in a letter to "keep studying and learning so that you may tell me when I return home how many new things you have learned." Despite Dickinson's repeated use of strong language to characterize her father, her writing implies that her mother was typically cold and distant. Dickinson stated that she "always raced Home to Awe [Austin] when I was a youngster whenever something happened to her. Even though she was a terrible mother, I preferred her above all others.
- Amherst Academy, a former boys' school that had just recently opened its doors to female students, welcomed Dickinson and her sister Lavinia on September 7, 1840. Around the same time, her father purchased a home on North Pleasant Street. Austin, a sibling of Dickinson, subsequently referred to this enormous new house as the "mansion" over which he and Dickinson reigned as "lord and lady" when their parents were away. The place not mentioned is near Amherst's cemetery, which one local priest characterized as "forbidding" and "treeless."
- Dickinson attended the academy for seven years, receiving lessons in Latin, botany, geology, history, "mental philosophy," mathematics, English and classical literature. Dickinson used to be "extremely clever" and "an excellent scholar, of exemplary deportment, and trustworthy in all faculty obligations," according to Daniel Taggart Fiske, the school's most influential person at the time.
- Due to illness, she had to skip a few terms, and the most prolonged absence was in 1845-1846, during which she was only enrolled for eleven weeks. Still, she appreciated her demanding studies and described the academy as "a wonderful institution" in a letter to a friend.
- Dickinson was worried by the "deepening danger" of death, particularly the deaths of those close to her from an early age. When Sophia Holland, a close friend and second cousin of Dickinson, experienced typhus and died in April 1844, Dickinson was shocked. "It felt to me I must die too if I could now not be authorized to watch over her or even look at her face," she recalled, reflecting on the incident two years later. Since she had been so discouraged, her parents sent her to stay with family in Boston while she healed.
- She returned to Amherst Academy to resume her studies after improving her health and spirits. A spiritual awakening in Amherst in 1845 led to 46 confessions of trust from Dickinson's fellow students. "I in no manner had such ideal calm and delight as the brief moment in which I believed I had discovered my Savior," Dickinson wrote to a friend the following year in letter form. She continued that her greatest delight was "communicating with the wonderful God and knowing that he would hear to my petitions."
- The euphoria was short-lived because Dickinson never formally professed his faith and only occasionally went to church regularly. She wrote a poem with the opening line, "Some maintain the Sabbath going to Church - I hold it, keeping at Home," about the time she stopped attending church. During her final year there, Dickinson becomes comfortable with Leonard Humphrey, the academy's popular new young principal, in a friendly manner.
- Dickinson finished her last term at the Academy on August 10, 1847, and then enrolled in Mary Lyon's Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, which would later develop into Mount Holyoke College. South Hadley is roughly ten miles (16 kilometres) from Amherst, and she barely spent ten months in the seminary. Dickinson loved the females at Holyoke, but she didn't develop any enduring relationships there.
- Her brief stint at Holyoke has been attributed to various reasons, including bad health, her father's desire for her to remain at home, and rebellion against the school's evangelical zeal. She doesn't like the teachers' emphasis on discipline, or she's just feeling homesick.
- Regardless of her reasons for leaving Holyoke, her brother Austin appeared to "bring her home at all functions" on March 25, 1848. Dickinson spent her time with her family back in Amherst. She started baking for the family and enjoyed attending community functions and activities in the developing college town.
Writings and influences
- When Dickinson was eighteen, her family became friends with a young attorney, Benjamin franklin newton. Newton had been "with my Father two years, earlier than moving to Worcester - in pursuing his studies, and was plentiful in our household," according to the letter composed with Dickinson's help after Newton's passing. Newton had a significant influence on Dickinson in the past, albeit their connection was probably not romantic. He would become the second of several older men Dickinson would refer to as her instructor, preceptor, or master (after Humphrey).
- She was presumably introduced to William Wordsworth's writings by Newton, and the first collection of poetry by Ralph Waldo Emerson gave her a liberating impact.
- Later, she stated that he had "touched the secret Spring" and that she had learned his name through her father's law student. She was well regarded by Newton, who respected and believed in her as a poet. He wrote to her when he was approaching death from TB, saying he would wish to stay until she achieved the glory he had predicted.
- Researchers think Newton is the topic of Dickinson's 1862 remark, "When a young Girl, I had a Friend, who taught me Immortality - but approaching too near, himself - he by no means returned."
- Dickinson was familiar not just with the Bible but also with popular literature of the day. She was probably impacted by Lydia Maria Child's Letters from New York, another present from Newton. There were even more of them.
- In the latter half of 1849, a friend brought her a copy of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and her brother smuggled a copy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Kavanagh into the house for her. The impact of Jane Eyre cannot be quantified, but Dickinson named her one and only dog, a Newfoundland, "Carlo", in honour of the character St. John Rivers' dog.
- William Shakespeare had a significant effect on her life as well.
Death And Afterward
- In her latter years, Dickinson kept writing, but she ceased editing and arranging her poetry. Lavinia, her sister, was also forced to pledge that she would burn her documents. Lavinia lived at the Homestead until her death there in 1899, and she never wed.
- Dickinson watched as death followed death, and her world was upended. "The Dyings have been too deep for me, and sooner than I should grow my Heart from one, another has arrived," she wrote in the fall of 1884. She had seen "a tremendous darkness approaching" that summer and passed out as she was baking. She stayed asleep far into the night and struggled with her health for several weeks afterwards.
- On November 30, 1885, her weakness and symptoms caused Austin enough worry to postpone a day trip to Boston. Despite being confined to her bed for a few months, she could still send a final wave of letters in the spring.
- In what is believed to be her final letter, she sent the following to her cousins Louise and Frances Norcross: "Little Cousins, I got a call. Emily". The day was once dreadful... she stopped breathing that horrible respiration just before the [afternoon] whistle sounded at six, Austin wrote in his diary on May 15, 1886, following many days of increasing symptoms.
- Emily Dickinson passed away at the age of fifty-five. Dickinson's primary physician identified Bright's illness as the cause of death and estimated that it had been present for two and a half years.
- After Dickinson passed away, Lavinia and Austin requested that Susan cleanse her body. In addition to writing Dickinson's obituary for the Springfield Republican, Susan included four lines from one of her poems at the end: "Morns like these, we parted; Noons like these, she rose; Fluttering first, then firmer, To her honest rest." Lavinia used to be utterly content that Sue had to arrange everything because she knew it would be done with love. Dickinson was reportedly laid to rest in a white casket with a "knot of blue field violets," a lady's slipper orchid, and a vanilla-scented heliotrope.
- Higginson, who had only met her twice, attended the burial ceremony, which was conducted in the library of the Homestead and featured Dickinson's favourite poem by Emily Bronte, "No Coward Soul Is Mine." For burial in the family grave at West Cemetery on Triangle Street, Dickinson requested that her "coffin no longer be driven but carried thru fields of buttercups."