Emily Dickinson, one of the best-known American poetesses, was born in Amherst, western Massachusetts in the 1830. The house where poetess spent the greatest part of her lifetime was called the Homestead. It was built in the 1803 by her grandfather, sold and then bought out in the 1855. Her parents both graduated from the Amherst College. Emily’s father was a well-known person in the town, as he was a treasurer of Amherst College (which was earlier co-founded by her grandfather), a good lawyer and he also was a republican representative to the national legislatures.
It is said that Emily’s mother didn’t play an important role in her life, as she couldn’t provide her daughter with the amount of emotions and attention she needed. The poetess herself later referred to her as a sort of a person “to whom you hurry when you are troubled”. Her early years she spent accompanied by her younger sister Lavinia and a brother whose name was Austin. Her parents, who both were the members of the orthodox Congregational Church, tried to make of her an educated and religious woman who someday will have to take care of her own family.
But it became evident later that Emily’s individualistic approach to life, her certain personal features didn’t allow her to perform the social role that was prescribed for the women of her social status at that times. Emily received good education, especially for a women living in the 19th century. First she studied in the Amherst women’s academy and than she spent a year in a Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Both the first and the second educational establishment devoted endless hours to religious edifications, so the poet’s growing up occurred under the severe religious pressure.
At the academy she became notorious as one of the few students who refused to admit her faith in Christ on public. This fact darkened her further sojourn in that establishment, as Emily felt alienated and misunderstood at the place, where everybody shared the beliefs she didn’t fully support. Although she participated in the agency of the community of the Christian resurgence, she failed to become a convinced believer and didn’t join the church community.
In 1955 during Emily’s travel to Washington to visit her father, who was a congressman at that period, she stopped at Philadelphia to listen the sermon of the known priest whose name was Charles Wadsworth. She corresponded with him for a long period of time and he is presumed to be Emily’s first love, one of her deeply hidden romantic disappointments which inspired her writings. Another Emily’s presumable object of passion was Samuel Bowles, the editor of the “Springfield Republican”. Today some researchers say that Dickinson stayed unmarried because of the well hidden passion she had for women.
They support their viewpoint giving the feministic analysis of her verses. They also note that Emily kept very close relationship with some of her friends who were woman, and only the strict traditions and beliefs of her time didn’t allow Emily to reveal her real passions. These researchers give us the information that the poetess’s letters to her friend and sister-in-law Susanne Gilbert were thoroughly edited before publishing by her niece, to exclude all the “passionate love confessions” from there. Other scientists explain the fact of Dickinson being single by some of her personal traits which made marriage undesirable for her.
Emily was said to be very careful choosing friends and some people think that she just couldn’t find a man she could live with. Some of the researchers think that the poetess’s desire to stay unmarried was dictated by the customs which existed in the USA at those times. It was acceptable for a women to stay a spinster and to “keep the house” for the rest of her life. So, both Emily and her sister Lavinia didn’t have husbands. The only member of that family whose love life was successful was their brother Austin. He married a “genteel” girl from New-York, Susanne Gilbert who later became one of the closest Emily’s friends.
Dickinson kept corresponding with some of her friends and relatives for all her life. What is interesting is that she often wrote and received letters from her next door neighbor Susanne Dickinson, her brother’s wife. Emily’s letters are a valuable source that provides us with the information about her personality, character, and attitudes and, what is also important, her life patterns. Emily’s most productive years were 1858-1863, when the number of the poems written enlarged from 52 in the 1858 to the 366 in the 1852.
Researches strongly argue on the reason of such productivity increase and most of them agree that there was some failed love affair in Emily’s life in the late fifties. The efforts to define the object of her interest failed. Assumptions made on this topic touched almost everybody with whom Emily communicated closely, including her brother, Susan Gilbert, her sister-in-law, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Judge Otis Lord, Charles Wadsworth and her friend Kate Scott Anthon, but no evidence of Dickinson having a romantic affair with anyone of these people is not found yet.
It is known that Emily didn’t strive for the publicity at all. Only ten of her verses were published during her life and all of these under the pseudonym. Some even think that the poetess didn’t give her permission for the publication. A data exists that she was offered by Thomas Niles of Roberts Brothers publishing house to publish her book in 1883 but refused him. It is presumed that Emily valued her privacy very much and she didn’t like the idea of becoming a well-known person. Instead of printing and publishing her books Emily Dickinson made manuscripts, which were later called “fascicles”, by herself.
She begun to make them in 1958 and only death stopped her work. She shared her work in the narrow circle of her friends and relatives. Emily Dickinson was known for being an eccentric person throughout the dwellers of Amherst. From the 1970 she never wore anything except white dresses and she rarely went out of her yard. The poet rarely communicated with anyone except her family and those who wanted to talk to her had pass the “face-control” made by her sister Lavinia on Emily’s request. It seems that her inner world was so tender and vulnerable that it was hard for her to let a new person to enter there.
Emily chose her surroundings carefully, but she gave all her love and affection to those whom she found worthy of trust. Emily died in the 1886, presumably of some kind of kidney’s disease. Her sister was astonished when she found more than a thousand verses stashed in the wooden bureau in Dickinson’s cabinet. Three volumes of Emily’s poems were published by Lavinia, but she of course couldn’t enjoy her triumph or oppose to those who criticized her. But it seems to me it wouldn’t grieve her, as she said everything she wanted to say in her verses. She made her manifest to the world and now it’s our turn.
Courtney from Study Moose
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