In evaluating Emily Dickinson’s biography and poems, I surmised that excluding the love of father, brother, and her deceased nephew, Emily’s knowledge of romantic love, by first-hand experience, is questionable. The pure-of-mind reader may believe that what familiarity she had about love matters might have been based mainly on her extensive reading of literature. Emily was an avid reader and was particularly fond of, among others, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Dickens. She especially doted on the Bronte sisters, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot (182-183).
According to “The Norton Anthology’s” biographical sketch on Emily, she had never married or had factually known a sexual partner. The Biography relates that some believed that she might have been the lover of any one of the men she had close relations with. Through her poetry and letter writing, her public can only speculate about her having had affairs with married men, and with Susan Gilbert, her childhood female friend, who later became her sister-in-law (182-184).
One of Emily’s poems that make the some readers believe that she did in fact not pass on without experiencing carnal knowledge is:
Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild Nights should be
Futile the winds
To a heart in port, –
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart!
Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in Thee!
In the majority of her poetry, Emily portrays many more poems’ whose themes deal with death, immortality and nature, than with romantic love. Love, however is present throughout a good number of her poem’s, though subtle at times. The latter of course, is left up to the imagination of the reader.
In her poetry, Emily writes with ardor; and though she never mentions a lover by name, it is believe that the object of her affections was a reverend from Philadelphia named Charles Wadsworth. The object of her love poems could have also been any of the other male acquaintances mentioned in the biography. She could have, also been fantasizing.
Emily’s love themes are ardent, with metaphors that show the many emotions associated with love and even carnal knowledge. Her poems exemplify the very loving and passionate person she really was, though she was a recluse with a selected society of friends (192). This similes were established throughout most of her poems; whether they theme was love, death, nature or immortality.
Some of her love poems were intense and give a picture of a volatile and explosive love. Emily love poem’s had very extraordinary settings (202 & 206). Emily writes of controlled love, and love that could not be demonstrated and had to be suppressed. Her feelings and desires at being more than a clandestine lover are demonstrated in at least two of her poem’s where she mentions either being a wife or not having the title. She frequently ended her love poems in such a way that was not romantic, it seem that one of the parties involved always got hurt at the end (754 & 1072).
Not with a club the heart is broken,
nor with a stone;
A whip so small you could not see it,
Emily’s poetry venerates males, (customary of women in that Victorian era), by placing them in an exalted position. To her, men were Lords, Kings, Masters, Fathers and Lovers. Women solely existed to serve, please and complement men. This is illustrated in poem (205).
She rose to his requirement — dropt
the playthings of her life
to take the honorable work
of women and wife
Some of Emily’s poem’s that tended to make the reader belief that there existed one or more clandestine relationships in her life are poems such as “Title divine is mine” and “Tell all the truth and tell it slant” (211&212)
For a person who supposedly had no know lover, Emily wrote beautiful love themes that only an experience person, in my opinion, could have written. This observation is based on the many poems’ that portray volatile love affairs, and emotional love and tenderness. She was truly a great writer.