Emily Dickinson was a female poet who joins Walt Whitman as one of the most influential poets of the 19th Century. In addition to contributing to the literary world, Dickinson was a trailblazer for women and for the creation of a unique literary style despite harsh criticism and calls for conformity. Below is a brief glance at the life and works of Emily Dickinson.
•Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1830.
•Dickinson enjoyed being in the solitude of her home and rarely left her home or had visitors over to see her. Much of Dickinson’s young life was spent alone either reading or writing.
•Dickinson was brought up in a Puritan New England town which encouraged a Calvinist, orthodox, and conservative approach to Christianity. Her upbringing became a strong influence in her literary work.
•Dickinson did however meet the Reverend Charles Wadsworth with whom she became very close. Around 1860, when the two had to separate, Dickinson was very upset and her poetry reflects this lonely time in her life.
•In the late 1860s Dickinson was still living a reclusive life but did keep regular correspondence, mainly with family members.
•Emily Dickinson lived with her mother, father and siblings for most of her life. Her sister Lavinia and brother Austin were particularly close companions to Emily as they too stayed at home and did not have much contact with others.
•Susan Gilbert, Dickinson’s friend growing up, ended up marrying her brother Austin and they moved next door to the family home.
•Dickinson’s poetry is a reflection of these times of loneliness. However there are some poems in Dickinson’s collection that are intimately inspirational and show a very different side of Dickinson.
•Dickinson held a great admiration for the work of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and John Keats.
•Emily Dickinson died in Amherst in 1886.
Upon her death, Dickinson’s family discovered 40 hand-bound volumes of more than 800 of her poems, and at last count the total collection of Emily Dickinson’s work was at 1,789 poems.
The first volume of Dickinson’s work was published posthumously in 1890 and the last volume of her work was published in 1955.
Most of Dickinson’s poems were altered prior to publishing in order to make them conform to the literary style and rules of the day. Their chronological order was also altered during these first printings. The original order of the works (chronological and grammatical) was not restored until 1981, when Ralph W. Franklin used the physical evidence of the paper in the hand-bound volumes themselves to restore Dickinson’s proper literary order.
Below is a short list of some of the more well known works of Emily Dickinson:
A Charm Invests A Face
A Narrow Fellow in the Grass
A wounded deer leaps highest,
Because I Could Not Stop for Death
Come slowly, Eden!
Death Sets A Thing
Did The Harebell Loose Her Girdle
Heart, we will forget him!
Hope is the Thing with Feathers
I Died for Beauty, but was Scarce
I Felt a Funeral in My Brain
I Went to Heaven
I’m Nobody! Who are You?
I’ve Known a Heaven Like a Tent
My Life Closed Twice Before it Closed
She Sweeps With Many-Colored Brooms
Success is Counted Sweetest
The Bustle in a House
The Mystery of Pain
The Only News I Know
The Pedigree of Honey
There Came a Wind Like a Bugle
There Is A Word
There’s a certain slant of light,
There’s Been a Death in the Opposite House
This Is My Letter To The World
This Quiet Dust was Gentlemen and Ladies
We Like March
When Roses Cease To Bloom, Dear
Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
Click here for recommended Emily Dickinson websites.