Emily Dickinson has been regarded as one of the greatest American poets in the history of literature. In this short biography, you will have a closer look at her family background, early life, and contributions in literature.
Family Background and Early Life
The place of birth of the great 19th century poet was Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, to the rich family of Edward Dickinson and Emily Norcross Dickinson. They lived in a mansion located on Main Street, which was actually the first house in Amherst, Massachusetts that was made of bricks. Her father had been a lawyer just like her grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, who established the Amherst College. For twenty years, her father served as the Treasurer of the institution.
From 1840 to 1847, Emily Dickinson studied at Amherst Academy. After that, from September 1847 –August 1848, she attended the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, which was located in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She did well in terms of academics, but her father didn’t send her to back to school for formal education.
As a young woman, Emily Dickinson and her sister Lavinia were active in social gatherings. They had a lot of friends and together, they traveled to Philadelphia and Washington D.C (1854 and 1855). One of the people that had great effect on her literary career was Benjamin Franklin Newton, a young man who worked in her father’s law office. Newton was the one who first discovered her writing talent and encouraged her to pursue a literary career.When Benjamin Franklin Newton married and moved out of Amherst, they continued to keep in touch until he died in 1853.
Emily Dickinson’s intellectual and religious ideas were so much different from that of her family. She was regarded as strange, but her family still accepted her and didn’t attempt to change her views.
In 1862, she was able to write 366 poems, all in one year. There were many speculations that before this year, she went through a life crisis due to failed relationships. Some assumed that it was Charles Wadsworth, while some believe that it was Otis Lord. None of the speculations involving these married men were proven to be true.
Some of Emily Dickinson’s poems were published in Indicator (1850; Amherst College) and Republican (1852). Among her greatest works, three were published in the newspaper, Republican:
- I taste a liquor never brewed
- Safe in their Alabaster Chambers
- A narrow Fellow in the Grass
She was believed to have written 1,775 poems in total, but she only published eight of those. There were a lot of people that appreciated her genuine talent in writing poetry, such as Helen Hunt Jackson, but their efforts to publish Emily Dickinson’s works failed. All of her poems were only published in 1955 (125 years after her birth)
Emily Dickinson’s later life was filled with several deaths of her loved ones. Among these were her mother’s death, Charles Wadsworth’s death in 1882, Otis Lord’s death in 1884, and Helen Hunt Jackson’s death in 1885. She died of kidney disease, in Amherst, Massachusetts, at the age of 55.
Some of the greatest works of Emily Dickinson, who gained her popularity as one of the best American poets in the 19th century, were:
- Hope is the Thing with Feathers
- A Light Exists in Spring
- Because I Could Not Stop For Death
- T’is So Much Joy
- Behind me Dips Eternity
- A Bird Came Down the Walk
- A Narrow Fellow in the Grass
- If I Can Stop
- Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
- I Dreaded that First Robin
- A Little Road not Made of Man
- After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes