Emily Dickinson was a brilliant American poet, and an obsessively private writer. During her lifetime, only seven of her eighteen hundred poems were published. Dickinson withdrew from social contact at the age of twenty three and devoted herself to her secret poetry writing.
Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts on December 10, 1830. There she spent most of her life living in the house built in 1813 by her grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson. His part in founding Amherst College in 1821 began the family tradition of public service continued by Dickinson's father Edward and her brother Austin. All men in the Dickinson family were attorneys at law and the ...view middle of the document...
" In 1850, Emily wrote similar feelings to her friend Jane Humphrey: "Christ is calling everyone here, all my companions have answered, even my darling Vinnie believes she loves, and trusts him, and I am standing alone in rebellion. Dickinson's experience at Mount Holyoke uncovered her independence that fueled her writing and led her to cease attending church by the time she was thirty. After Dickinson's religious awakening, she returned to Amherst in 1848. Around 1850, she began to write seriously.
During this time, Dickinson increasingly withdrew from public view. Dickinson, however, did appear in public for commencement receptions, after the sixties, she was rarely seen. Dickinson left the house on a rare occasion, and went to Boston to see a doctor about eye problems. She lived all her life in her father's house, staying dressed only in white. During the last twenty years of her life she rarely left the house. Despite her withdrawal from the public eye, Dickinson kept in touch with a wide community of friends and acquaintances, including such well-known literary figures as Helen Hunt Jackson. The 1,150 letters in The Letters of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson and Theodora Ward in 1958, represent a mere fraction of what she actually wrote.
Although Dickinson never married, she did have several significant relationships with close friends, and mentors. Many biographers have tried to find a link to Dickinson's passion inspired poetry, but no one has been found to be her inspiration. It is hard to believe that there was no love in Dickinson's life because she wrote about such passions so intensely and convincingly in her poetry.
Dickinson's writing was the quatrain of three iambic feet, the type described in one of the books by Isaac Watts in the family library. She used many other forms as well, and gave complexity to a simple hymnbook, constantly altering metrical beat to fit her thought at the time. Dickinson chose to stray from the conformity of writing at the time and wrote with off-rhymes, varying from the true in a variety of ways that also helped to convey her thought and its tensions. Dickinson stripped her language of unnecessary words and saw to it that those that remained were vivid and precise.
On April 15, 1862, Dickinson wrote to Thomas Higginson, a literary man, and asked him if the poems she wrote were "alive". Higginson, recognized the uniqueness of Dickinson's poems, but advised her not to publish them. Higginson however remained Dickinson's adviser. Throughout the year of 1862, Dickinson resisted all requests from her friends to publish her poems. Due to her obstinacy, only seven poems were published during her lifetime, five of them in the Springfield Republican.
During the Civil War, Dickinson wrote some of her greatest poetry. She wrote at least eight-hundred poems during this time. Dickinson was a strong believer in abolition, but that was not the source of her writing. Dickinson looked inside of...