In this article I have decided to introduce you to my favourite poetess. To live your whole life without ever reading one of her poems seems to me an unfair punishment. So here is the life and writing of Emily Dickinson.
Life and writing
Emily Dickinson born in Amherst in 1830 and died there in 1886, lived in a large mansion with her mother Emily (they had a lot of imagination yes), brother Austin and younger sister Lavinia.
Her family was not rich but lived a comfortable life, thanks to the perfect reputation they had for generations. In fact, her grandfather was one of the founders of the famous Amherst College and her father became a U.S. Congressman and represented the state of Massachusetts for one term.
Emily had an excellent education, studied at Amherst Academy, then at South Hale High School from which she was later withdrawn, and continued her studies in her home. Many say that there are various biblical traces in Emily Dickinson’s poetry and that in some parts it is far too religious. Despite these opinions, the writer even before she became an adult decided not to profess herself as a Christian like the rest of her family.
However, it is true that Dickinson developed a very romantic idea of death and believed in the immortality of the soul.
Emily began writing as a teenager, loved writing letters to her loved ones and often wrote her own poem on each one. If we compare them, however, the poems Dickinson made public are nothing compared to the enormous collection she kept hidden in her beloved room in Amherst. Emily’s life seems very uneventful, this is mainly due to the fact that she never left the family residence.
Emily did not marry and for years no love interest was acknowledged, but now many take a different view. In fact, many of her poems were read and admired by her best friend, Susan Gilbert. Throughout her life Emily sent her over three hundred letters, more than to any other correspondent.
Susan Gilbert was an orphaned, not well off and at that time for a poor woman the only chance to survive with dignity lay in marriage. Therefore, Susan Gilbert married Emily’s brother, Austin Dickinson.
It is thought that the marriage to her brother was not born out of sudden love but more out of a desire to remain close to Emily. But after all, one can only assume.
Emily writes of love, loss, grief and friendship, so readers, ever since publication in the 1890s, have been wondering who could have won the heart of this woman who lived by feelings and sensations.
It is certain that at least eleven of Dickinson’s poems were dedicated to Susan, but her name was removed in the first publication of the poems by Mabel Loomis Todd.
Emily’s solitary life allowed her a rare privilege. That of not having your art influenced by the trends of the time. In fact Emily did not write for an audience, she did not follow someone else’s rules or emotions, her art was her own. Nor was it intended to be read by anyone other than the chosen few.
The poems were published after the writer’s death. Her little sister Lavinia, while sorting out her things in her old room, found many letters and writings in front of her. But she was shocked when, opening a trunk, she found diaries, scattered sheets, notebooks, full of poems that no one had ever read.
The family had always known that Emily wrote poetry but never had they thought to that extent. Reading that large collection was like entering the writer’s mind, all her dreams and fears. Her whole life enclosed in those pages. And at that point her sister Lavinia decided for her, made her immortal.
Dickinson’s poems influenced a lot of the literature of the time and are still used today when discussing the poetry of the 19th century. Those poems had not been published by Emily, so one cannot know if she would have agreed, but I think she would have appreciated all the emotions her writing aroused in millions of readers. Even today, books bearing her name are published and her poems translated so that they are accessible to the whole world.
Best books about Emily Dickinson
The Poems of Emily Dickinson
Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: Poems of Emily Dickinson
Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson: Barnes & Noble Classic Collection
The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A Novel
Poems by Emily Dickinson (World Classics Book 1)
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