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A biography of the life and poetry career of emily dickinson

See Article History Alternative Title: With Walt WhitmanDickinson is widely considered to be one of the two leading 19th-century American poets. Devoted to private pursuits, she sent hundreds of poems to friends and correspondents while apparently keeping the greater number to herself. She habitually worked in verse forms suggestive of hymns and balladswith lines of three or four stresses. Her unusual off-rhymes have been seen as both experimental and influenced by the 18th-century hymnist Isaac Watts.

She freely ignored the usual rules of versification and even of grammar, and in the intellectual content of her work she likewise proved exceptionally bold and original.

Early Life Emily Dickinson

Her verse is distinguished by its epigrammatic compression, haunting personal voice, enigmatic brilliance, and lack of high polish. Early years The second of three children, Dickinson grew up in moderate privilege and with strong local and religious attachments. For her first nine years she resided in a mansion built by her paternal grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, who had helped found Amherst College but then went bankrupt shortly before her birth.

Her father, Edward Dickinson, was a forceful and prosperous Whig lawyer who served as treasurer of the college and was elected to one term in Congress. Her mother, Emily Norcross Dickinson, from the leading family in nearby Monson, was an introverted wife and hardworking housekeeper; her letters seem equally inexpressive and quirky.

Both parents were loving but austereand Emily became closely attached to her brother, Austin, and sister, Lavinia. Never marrying, the two sisters remained at home, and when their brother married, he and his wife established their own household next door.

The highly distinct and even eccentric personalities developed by the three siblings seem to have mandated strict limits to their intimacy.

Amherst homeThe home of Emily Dickinson in Amherst, Massachusetts; it was built for her grandparents about 1813. The building is now part of the Emily Dickinson Museum. She attended the coeducational Amherst Academy, where she was recognized by teachers and students alike for her prodigious abilities in composition. She also excelled in other subjects emphasized by the school, most notably Latin and the sciences.

A class in botany inspired her to assemble an herbarium containing a large number of pressed plants identified by their Latin names. One reason her mature religious views elude specification is that she took no interest in creedal or doctrinal definition. In this she was influenced by both the Transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the mid-century tendencies of liberal Protestant orthodoxy. These influences pushed her toward a more symbolic understanding of religious truth and helped shape her vocation as poet.

Development as a poet Although Dickinson had begun composing verse by her late teens, few of her early poems are extant. Two other poems dating from the first half of the 1850s draw a contrast between the world as it is and a more peaceful alternativevariously eternity or a serene imaginative order. All her known juvenilia were sent to friends and engage in a striking play of visionary fancies, a direction in which she was encouraged by the popular, sentimental book of essays Reveries of a Bachelor: Or a Book of the Heart by Ik.

A biography of the life and poetry career of emily dickinson the pseudonym of Donald Grant Mitchell.

Emily Dickinson

It may be because her writing began with a strong social impetus that her later solitude did not lead to a meaningless hermeticism. Until Dickinson was in her mid-20s, her writing mostly took the form of letters, and a surprising number of those that she wrote from age 11 onward have been preserved.

Sent to her brother, Austin, or to friends of her own sex, especially Abiah Root, Jane Humphrey, and Susan Gilbert who would marry Austinthese generous communications overflow with humour, anecdoteinvention, and sombre reflection. In general, Dickinson seems to have given and demanded more from her correspondents than she received.

Biography of Emily Dickinson

Indeed, the loss of friends, whether through death or cooling interest, became a basic pattern for Dickinson. Much of her writing, both poetic and epistolary, seems premised on a feeling of abandonment and a matching effort to deny, overcome, or reflect on a sense of solitude. Though she also corresponded with Josiah G. Holland, a popular writer of the time, he counted for less with her than his appealing wife, Elizabeth, a lifelong friend and the recipient of many affectionate letters.

In 1855 Dickinson traveled to Washington, D.

Yet it is true that a correspondence arose between the two and that Wadsworth visited her in Amherst about 1860 and again in 1880. In 1855, leaving the large and much-loved house since razed in which she had lived for 15 years, the 25-year-old woman and her family moved back to the dwelling associated with her first decade: Her home for the rest of her life, this large brick house, still standing, has become a favourite destination for her admirers.

She found the return profoundly disturbing, and when her mother became incapacitated by a mysterious illness that lasted from 1855 to 1859, both daughters were compelled to give more of themselves to domestic pursuits. Mature career In summer 1858, at the height of this period of obscure tension, Dickinson began assembling her manuscript-books. She made clean copies of her poems on fine quality stationery and then sewed small bundles of these sheets together at the fold.

Over the next seven years she created 40 such booklets and several unsewn sheaves, and altogether they contained about 800 poems. No doubt she intended to arrange her work in a convenient form, perhaps for her own use in sending poems to friends.

Perhaps the assemblage was meant to remain private, like her earlier herbarium. Because she left no instructions regarding the disposition of her manuscript-books, her ultimate purpose in assembling them can only be conjectured. Dickinson sent more poems to her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert Dickinson, a cultivated reader, than to any other known correspondent.

Biography Emily Dickinson

Repeatedly professing eternal allegiancethese poems often imply that there was a certain distance between the two—that the sister-in-law was felt to be haughty, remote, or even incomprehensible.

Susan was an active hostess, and her home was the venue at which Dickinson met a few friends, most importantly Samuel Bowles, publisher and editor of the influential Springfield Republican.

  • Anyone who has followed my poetic oeuvre over the last 25 years, 1990 to 2015, will realize that Emily Dickinson provides, for me, an inspiration perhaps exceeding any other poet;
  • Emily Dickinson died in 1886 at the age of 55 after suffering a stroke;
  • Yet as the war proceeded, she also wrote with growing frequency about self-reliance, imperviousness, personal triumph, and hard-won liberty;
  • The quote is something along the lines of;
  • Her friend and literary critic, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, would later say how tense the meeting with her was;
  • A Documentary History 1989 , edited by Willis J.

In those years Dickinson experienced a painful and obscure personal crisis, partly of a romantic nature. There has been much speculation about the identity of this individual. One of the first candidates was George Henry Gould, the recipient in 1850 of a prose Valentine from Dickinson.

All such claims have rested on a partial examination of surviving documents and collateral evidence. Since it is now believed that the earliest draft to Master predates her friendship with Bowles, he cannot have been the person. On balance, Charles Wadsworth and possibly Gould remain the most likely candidates. Though Dickinson wrote little about the American Civil Warwhich was then raging, her awareness of its multiplied tragedies seems to have empowered her poetic drive.

Building on her earlier quest for human intimacy and obsession with heaven, she a biography of the life and poetry career of emily dickinson the tragic ironies of human desire, such as fulfillment denied, the frustrated search for the absolute within the mundaneand the terrors of internal dissolution.

She also articulated a profound sense of female subjectivity, expressing what it means to be subordinate, secondary, or not in control. Yet as the war proceeded, she also wrote with growing frequency about self-reliance, imperviousness, personal triumph, and hard-won liberty. The perfect transcendence she had formerly associated with heaven was now attached to a vision of supreme artistry.

In addition to seeking an informed critique from a professional but not unsympathetic man of letters, she was reaching out at a time of accentuated loneliness.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, adapted by Archibald MacLeish, reveals the American poet's unique qualities of mind and character. She described her symptoms as an aching in her eyes and a painful sensitivity to light. Of the two posthumous diagnosesexotropia a kind of strabismusthe inability of one eye to align with the other and anterior uveitis inflammation of the uvea, a part of the iristhe latter seems more likely. In 1869 Higginson invited the poet to Boston to attend a literary salon.

She repaired an 11-year breach with Samuel Bowles and made friends with Maria Whitney, a teacher of modern languages at Smith Collegeand Helen Hunt Jacksonpoet and author of the novel Ramona 1884. Dickinson resumed contact with Wadsworth, and from about age 50 she conducted a passionate romance with Otis Phillips Lord, an elderly judge on the supreme court of Massachusetts.

The letters she apparently sent Lord reveal her at her most playful, alternately teasing and confiding. After her mother died in 1882, Dickinson summed up the relationship in a confidential letter to her Norcross cousins: But the single most shattering death, occurring in 1883, was that of her eight-year-old nephew next door, the gifted and charming Gilbert Dickinson.

Her health broken by this culminating tragedy, she ceased seeing almost everyone, apparently including her sister-in-law. The poet died in 1886, when she was 55 years old. The immediate cause of death was a stroke. When Lavinia found the manuscript-books, she decided the poems should be made public and asked Susan to prepare an edition. Susan failed to move the project forward, however, and a biography of the life and poetry career of emily dickinson two years Lavinia turned the manuscript-books over to Mabel Loomis Todda local family friend, who energetically transcribed and selected the poems and also enlisted the aid of Thomas Wentworth Higginson in editing.

When Poems by Emily Dickinson appeared in 1890, it drew widespread interest and a warm welcome from the eminent American novelist and critic William Dean Howellswho saw the verse as a signal expression of a distinctively American sensibility. Her poetic manuscripts are divided between two primary collections: Johnson, did not appear until the 1950s.

A much improved edition of the complete poems was brought out in 1998 by R. The New Critics also played an important role in establishing her place in the modern canon.

From the beginning, however, Dickinson has strongly appealed to many ordinary or unschooled readers. Readers respond, too, to the impression her poems convey of a haunting private life, one marked by extremes of deprivation and refined ecstasies. At the same time, her rich abundance—her great range of feeling, her supple expressiveness—testifies to an intrinsic poetic genius. Editions The standard edition of the poems is the three-volume variorum edition, The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition 1998edited by R.

He also edited a two-volume work, The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson 1981which provides facsimiles of the poems in their original groupings. The Gorgeous Nothings 2013edited by Marta L. A Documentary History 1989edited by Willis J. Buckingham, reprints all known reviews from the first decade of publication. Amherst College and Harvard University make their Dickinson manuscripts available online.