Emily Dickinson is often regarded as one of America’s most prolific poets. Her famous poems, such as ‘Because I couldn’t stop for Death,’ ‘Success is Counted Sweetest,’ and a slew of others, have found a home not just on the shelves of large libraries, but also in the curricula of prestigious colleges. It’s strange that, despite her eloquent writing talents, she spent most of her life alone, rarely interacting with family or society. Those who have read her poetry may attest to the fact that the majority of her best pieces have a calm, mournful tone to them. In her youth, she not only composed 1100 poems, but also hundreds of letters that mirrored flawless formulations of the finest creative work in American literature. Because of her isolation, her work was mostly published posthumously; her contemporaries were unaware of her incredible creative ability. Her poetry have been praised for their unconventional punctuation and capitalization of letters, as well as their short lines with a lot of substance.
Childhood and Early life
She was born as Emily Elizabeth Dickinson on 10December 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, into a literate, respectable and distinguished family. Samuel Dickinson, her grandfather, founded the prestigious Amherst College.
Edward Dickinson, a skilled lawyer and trustee of Amherst College, and Emily Norcross, a former student of ‘Monson Academy,’ had her. Emily is Emily’s mother’s name. At their property, she lived with her parents and two siblings, William Austin, her older brother, and Lavinia Norcross, her younger sister.
Following the birth of Lavinia, the family relocated to Pleasant Street in order to accommodate Edward’s burgeoning political and legal career and to provide a larger home for his children.
Edward desired to offer a high-quality education for his children. Emily received an education that was not often granted to girls during the Victorian era. She obtained a classical education that was exclusively available to the wealthy.
Emily attended an Amherst elementary school before enrolling in the Amherst Academy. She was a clever and observant student who also enjoyed piano and household tasks, particularly gardening.
She began her study at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1847 after seven years of formal schooling at Amherst Academy (1840). This was the first and longest time she had been away from her family for a year.
Abiah Root, Abby Wood, Emily Fowler, Susan Gilbert (who subsequently married her brother William) and her dearest friend and cousin Sophia Holland were among Emily’s female pals when she was a young child.
She also had a couple of male pals, such as Benjamin Newton and Henry Vaughn Emmons.
But she never expressed any fondness for any of her male acquaintances beyond friendship.
But what turned events for Emily was the abrupt death of Sophia Holland; she was so upset by the occurrence that she had to be taken away to Boston to heal from the trauma.
The loss of Sophia raised many doubts about death and mortality in Emily’s mind. Her morbid preoccupation with death was heightened by the fact that her house’s backyard overlooked a cemetery. As a result, it’s assumed that the death of her loved ones imposed on her psyche the sorrow of mortality, which she later expressed in various poems.
Emily’s tutor, Benjamin Franklin Newton, a student of Edward Dickinson, had high admiration for her and exposed her to William Wordsworth’s writings. In 1848, he gave her Ralph Waldo Emerson’s collected works, which she characterized as written to “tap a secret spring.”
She read everything from ‘The Holy Bible’ to contemporary literature when she was 20, and she penned a letter to her brother about her growing interest and desire to write. She also stressed the importance of individuality, emphasizing how different she felt from others.
A poet and an essayist
Between 1858 and 1865, her work took a continuous stride forward. She produced various songs about environment and flora, as well as ballads honoring a ‘Master’ or ‘Sire’ who was rumored to be her love, gospel poems based on Bible parables, and poetry about death and mortality.
Her family returned to the farm, and her brother married Susan, with whom he had three children. Susan, who was now a mother, had to dedicate the most of her time to her children, gradually separating herself from Emily Dickinson.
Resignation from Society
Her mother developed a persistent disease not long after.
As a result, Emily assumed the job of caring for her mother. During this period, Edward purchased a conservatory, which Emily used to grow climate-sensitive plants in. She secluded herself to the confines of the estate, finding consolation and reprieve solely in the time she spent writing and gardening.
She had written over 1000 poems by the age of 35, which she organized into manuscripts, and she had given roughly 50 of them to Samuel Bowles, the main editor of the ‘Springfield Republican,’ of which he published a few anonymously in his magazine.
She continued to write throughout the late 1860s. She, on the other hand, ceased collecting her poems, which turned into poetic art fragments. She met judge Otis Phillips Lord, a distinguished and older man, in 1872.
According to historians, the two wrote a lot of letters to each other and she was in love with him, but their ages were a barrier. With his death in 1884, all speculations came to an end.
During her years on the planet, she got no accolades. She avoided social situations as much as possible. She was tired of the letters she had written and desired that they be burned.
She exclusively wrote her poetry and letters to close family and friends who admired her writing abilities, and she never sought praise for them. She was only labeled a “transcendentalist” after her poems were published, much like her contemporary Ralph W. Emerson.
Major Projects of Emily Dickinson
The majority of Emily Dickinson’s works were published after her death. After the poet’s death, her sister Lavinia salvaged the majority of her works. Her sister burned most of her letters because she had promised Emily, but she recognized the importance of her sister’s poems and wanted the world to recognize them.
T. W. Higginson published an edited edition of Emily Dickinson’s poetry in 1890 with the help of Mabel Loomis Todd, although they meticulously edited her work to suit the rules of punctuation and capitalization.
The first scholarly collection was published in 1955 by Thomas H. Johnson. They were perfect replicas of her manuscripts, with the exception that they were nameless and just numbered. There were no changes made, and the unorthodox punctuation and capitalization were left exactly as she had written them.
Johnson and Theodora Ward collaborated on ‘A Complete Collection of Dickinson’s Letters,’ which was released in three volumes in 1958. Emily Dickinson’s original materials were published in 1981 as ‘The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson.’ However, it is assumed that the chronology of her poetry and letters is still inaccurate, and that they are not kept in chronological order with the puns, sarcasm, and humour that she intended.
Personal History and Legacy
Emily Dickinson’s health began to deteriorate after the tragic death of her youngest nephew in 1883, according to sources. She became quite frail and bedridden, but she continued to write despite her condition.
She died on May 15, 1886, at the age of 55, from a kidney ailment known as ‘Bright’s Disease.’ She was carried through a blossoming field of buttercups to her burial location, where her casket was laid in the family cemetery, as per her last wish.
The home has since been conserved as a museum due to the extensive heritage that stood in the ‘Homestead,’ particularly contributing to Emily Dickinson’s prolific work.
Susan Gilbert’s daughter and Emily’s niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, was instrumental in the publication of her aunt’s works such as ‘Emily Dickinson Face to Face’ and ‘Letters of Emily Dickinson.’ Millicent Todd Bingham, Emily’s daughter, has also helped to spread the word about her mother’s work.
Emily’s herbarium, which has 66 pages of rare plant species from her garden, is now kept at Harvard University. Amherst College’s unique collections also house the renowned poet’s original photograph and hair.
The ‘Amherst College’ also bought the ‘Evergreens’ home of William and Susan Dickinson and converted it into a museum available to the public, renaming it the ‘Emily Dickinson Museum.’
Estimated Net Worth
Emily Dickinson’s net worth is believed to be in the range of $1 million to $5 million dollars. Her major profession as a poet has brought her a great deal of fortune.
Emily Dickinson’s personal life is shrouded in mystery, and she appears to have shied away from such feelings. Despite the fact that she had received a marriage proposal from an Amherst graduate named George H. Gould, she turned it down and died a spinster.