Emily Dickinson was born on December 10,1830 in Amherst Massachusetts. She had ayounger sister named Lavina and an olderbrother named Austin.
Her mother EmilyNorcross Dickinson, was largely dependenton her family and was seen by Emily as apoor mother. Her father was lawyer,Congressman, and the Treasurer for AmherstCollege. Unlike her mother, Emily loved andadmired her father. Since the family was notemotional, they lived a quiet secure life.
Theyrarely shared their problems with one anotherso Emily had plenty of privacy for writing. During her childhood, Emily and her familyattended The First Congregational Church ona regular basis. Emily did not like going tochurch because she didn’t think of herself asbeing very religious. She refused to believethat Heaven was a better place than Earthand eventually rebelled from the church. Emily saw herself as a woman who had herown way of thinking, a way of thinkingshaped neither by the church or society.
By the time she was twelve, her family movedto a house on Pleasant Street where theylived from 1840 to 1855. Emily was alreadywriting letters, but composed most of herpoetry in this home. Emily only left home toattend Mount Holyoke Female Seminary fortwo semesters. Though her stay there was brief, sheimpressed her teachers with her courage anddirectness.
They felt her writing wassensational. At the age of twenty-one, Emily and her familymoved to the Dickinson Homestead on MainStreet. This move proved to be very difficultfor Emily. This was difficult for Emily becauseshe became very attached to her old house,which shaped her writing and personality forfifteen years. They now lived next door to herbrother Austin and his wife Susan and theirdaughter Martha. Emily and Susan becameso close that many people believe they mayhave been lovers.
A rumor perpetuated by thefact that Emily was known to have writtenmany love letters and poems to Susan. Martha attempted to protect both of theirimages and suppress the rumors. It becamecommon knowledge that Emily had some typeof very strong feelings for Susan. At the age of thirty-one Emily sent some ofher poems to a publisher, Thomas Higginson,from whom she got a very good response anda strong friendship developed. He acted asher mentor but she never seemed to havetaken any of his advice. It became evidentthat she didn’t like the idea of having herworks published, she made 40 packets ofabout twenty poems apiece from 814 poems.
She placed these in a box along with 333other poems. Emily died on May 5, 1886 at the age of 56. She had planned her own funeral. It was heldat the mansion on Main Street and ended atthe family plot near the house on PleasantStreet.
At her request, her casket wascovered with violets and pine boughs, whileshe herself was dressed in a new white gownand had a strand of violets placed about herneck. Before she died, Emily left specificinstructions for her sister and a housemaid,Maggie to destroy all the letters she hadreceived and saved. The box of packets andpoems was found with these letters, but Emilyhad not said anything about destroying them. Her sister Lavina was determined to havethese published, but Susan kept them for twoyears before they were released toHigginson. In 1890 and 1891, some of the poems werepublished. They received a great response,but no more were released until 1955, whenthe rest of her poems were published.
Though she was not religious many of herpoems do reflect Protestant and Calvinisticviews. She wrote many of her poems on pain,but unlike most Protestants she refused tobelieve that she deserved this pain. Thoughshe is viewed by many as a hermit who spentmuch of her life in isolation, she also isadmired for her style in writing. She choseher words for her poems in a way that allowsthe reader to choose the meaning. Inconclusion, she wrote nearly eighteenhundred poems, most ignoring rhyme andpunctuation. Emily’s poems did not have titlesbecause she never wanted them to bepublished.
Many of her poems are dark andmysterious but all are true works of art.