In today's world with sensational writers like J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, we must not forget of those who came before. Emily Dickinson is a prime example. She is regarded as one of America's greatest poet, living a mundane and simplistic life, she wrote with much poetic abandon. Her life of seclusion from society has been the source of speculation, interest, and has often been made glamorous. She is remembered for her poetry not her social life; her poetry was unique and was known for themes of questioning immortality and death, phrases that expressed far reaching ideas, and for its undeniable ability to move and provoke the minds of people.
Emily Dickinson was born on December 10th, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She belonged to a wealthy family. She spent most of her childhood in other homes, but she lived and later in her life died in her families home, "The Homestead", when they purchased it in 1855. Her father was very strict, believing to raise his children his way. This is shown by censorship of Emily's reading. Emily loved and respected her father, but there was a discrepancy from the two, and kept relatively independently minded.
Emily Dickinson was a bright, diligent student. She eventually took part in studies at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, where she studied a range of literary and linguistic subjects. Sickness interrupted her studies often, to the point where she was removed from college by her father and brought home; this was before she could get any formal qualifications from her studies. Her attendance at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary was not in vain – she at least broadened her knowledge of literary and linguistic subjects.
RELIGIOUS AND LITERARY INFLUENCE
Religion was the "all important question" to Emily. Emily was influenced by Calvinist beliefs. Although she was influenced by Calvinism she remained true to her own convictions. Despite this, she felt isolated and excluded from the established religion and it can be seen in her poems.
For Emily religion was not just a statement of belief, but better reflected in the beauty of nature. Despite her rejection to orthodox religion, her poetry sometimes reveals intense religious temperament.
When Emily returned from college she remained at the "Home Stead" for the rest of her life. Emily's seclusion from society is often romanticized and given impressions of simplicity and quaint attributes. On the other hand, she was a keen artist and an accomplished musician. Though at home she learned of domestic chores, and followed the ideals of early American travelers, and dressed in a somewhat puritan style. There she was introduced into works of other accomplished poets, especially Emerson, who inspired her to write and help her with her doubts about her own convictions.
Emily Dickinson had an impression of being agitated and intense, but in reality was ingenious, thoughtful and childlike. She often thought of herself childish and even tom boyish. With this in her mindset, she portrays vulnerability often seeking protection from others. This describes her relationship with her father, which she is reluctant to bring up.
For some time, her father worked for the House of Representatives in Washington, and at times would visit him. In Washington she met a preacher by the name of Reverend Charles Wadsworth. The two exchanged letters for many years, Emily seeking spiritual guidance from him.
Emily Dickinson, a person who was very shy and discomforted in a multitude of social situations, eventually withdrew from society slowly almost having an absolute seclusion from society. She was infact secluded physically from society; however, she had many written contacts with thought provoking people. Emily states that this seclusion did not close her mind, but rather opened it up.
Though her family had strong political ties, she was unconcerned for it. She did not help the war effort when the American Civil war began. She commented little on the event but she was greatly impacted by it; several of her family members and friends being killed in battle or dying of natural causes. The wars heightened her interest, attraction, and maybe fear of death; which is shown in her poems. During the War she wrote the largest number of poems in this time, influenced by the war's atmospheres.
During her inclusion she did what writers most often do: Write. She wrote well over 1700 poems, many of her poems referring to an unknown, invisible lover. This lover is speculated to be Judge Otis Lord. However, Most of her poems are purposely vague.
Emily Dickinson sadly died of Bight's Disease on May 15, 1886, which is caused by kidney degeneration. Doctor's say the accumulation of stress over the years was the cause of her premature death.
During her life, through illness and seclusion, she did experience joy. Her joy however was matched with uncertainty and doubt. Though her poetry is inconsistent in style and form, critics can't deny the natural power of her poetry and the enduring popularity and success the poetry it sustains.
Most of work was published after death, only publishing a few anonymous poems in life. Why Emily Dickinson never published publicly in life remains unknown. By luck her sister Vinne, came upon a box of Emily's that contained all of her poems. Vinne who had been instructed to burn all of Emily's letters rejected the request and latter gave the letters to her friend Mabel Todd. Mabel Todd with the help of Emily's friend Terrance Higginson they published Emily Dickinson's first edition of poems in 1893. Emily's poems gained much praise and popularity, and The New York Times claimed that Emily Dickinson would become an immortal of English speaking poets, which since then has been true ever since.