Emily Dickinson was born on the 30th of December in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was a bright child of Edward Dickinson, a successful lawyer, and Congressional Member. Her mother, Emily Norcross Dickinson, was a timid woman who married Edward in 1828. Her family had had deep roots in England, where her grandfather founded Amherst College. He taught there for many years until his death in 1874.
Since she belonged to a literate and elite family, she had an opportunity to attend the best educational institutions. Starting her early education in a one-room primary school in Amherst along with other siblings, Lavinia and William Dickinson. Emily soon moved to Amherst Academy which later became a college. Initially, she studied botany, sciences, zoology, and the subjects listed in the curriculum. Despite attaining enough scientific knowledge, her taste for literature did not witness any decline. She continued reading literature and started writing poems. Her declining health forced her to leave formal studies and join Mount Holyoke Female Seminary for religious education.
Despite belonging to an elite class, Emily was inclined to religion. It is interesting that she led a mysterious and tragic life after abandoning studies at the age of seventeen and yet preferring to stay at her mansion. Another mystery is her life without any love affair and no marriage. She isolated herself from the outside world and focused on producing unique literary pieces one after another. Despite facing health problems and psychological issues, she documented her thoughtful ideas in her poems very well.
When she left Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, she got emotionally disturbed and stayed at Dickinson House for the rest of her life, where she died of kidney disease at the age of 55 on May 15, 1886. She is buried at West Cemetery, her family cemetery, while her home was turned into a museum.
- She kept most of her writings to herself. Only ten poems had been published during her lifetime.
- Her family home was built in the 19th century by her grandfather, Samuel Dickinson. It was later turned into a museum in 2003.
- She was an anti-social person and used to communicate with her friends through letters.
- She spent the last fifteen years of her life locked up in a room.
She led a traumatic life because of her fragile health and her anti-social nature. However, these obstacles did not stop her from producing extraordinary literary pieces. She studied science during her early years, yet she pursued her interest in literature and started writing during her youth. Leonard Humphrey, Amherst Academy’s head, is stated to have impacted her the most as he gifted her a book. She wrote numerous poems during her lifetime, yet little of her work were published before her death. Following her death, her sister, Lavinia Dickinson, found hundreds of poems Emily wrote over the years. Nonetheless, the first volume of her works appeared in 1890, though, some of her poems were not published as of 1955.
Though she could not shine during her lifetime, her marvelous literary pieces added a lot to the world of literature. She gained immense popularity on account of pensive ideas she inserted into her poems. Her isolated life provided her a chance to observe things closely. The ideas of beauty, death, loneliness, madness, and transience of life entered her poems such as; “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died”, “Much Madness is a Divinest Sense” and “Success is Counted Sweetest.” These poems show the recurring thematic strands in most of her literary pieces like love, unavoidable death, nature, and mankind. Regarding literary devices, she often used metaphors, similes, symbolism and sensual imagery to create a unique style.
Emily Dickinson’s Works
- Best Poems: Some of the best poems she wrote during her lifetime include; “Because I Could not Stop for Death”, “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died”, “Wild Nights”, “Success is Counted Sweetest” and “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.”
- Letters: Although she spent most of her life writing poetry, her occasional letters, also became literary pieces. She wrote many letters to her friends expressing her ideas about poetry.
Emily Dickinson’s Impact on Future Literature
Emily Dickinson did not earn popularity during her lifetime. However, her unique writing style and literary qualities of her masterpieces brought notable changes to the changing aspects of world literature. She had significant impacts on many generations of poets, playing a pivotal role in the development of American poetry. Her uniqueness lies in making death a kind fellow. She expressed her thoughts and ideas in her poems so well that even today poets tend to imitate her unique style, considering her a role model for writing poetry.
Famous Quotes of Emily Dickinson
- God is sitting here, looking into my very soul to see if I think right thoughts. Yet I am not afraid, for I try to be right and good; and He knows every one of my struggles. (Letter to Abiah Root, January 29, 1850)
- If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way? (Letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1870)
- “Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
requires a sorest need.”(Success is Counted Sweetest, Poem)
- “Hope” is the thing with feathers —
that perches in the soul —
sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all”. (Hope is the Thing with Feathers, Poem)