Emily Dickinson: A Solitary Life As a teenager, Emily Dickinson led a solitary life on the family homestead. Secretly creating hundreds of poems and letters with minimal to no socializing. This allowed her to express her art form uninterrupted and allow us to gain access into her life today.
Emily Dickinson was born on December 10th, 1830 and grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts. Dickinson is the middle child of Edward and Emily Norcross Dickinson. Her parents and older brother, Austin, lived with Edward’s parents, Samuel Fowler and Lucretia Gunn Dickinson, and several of Edward’s siblings (“Emily Dickinson Museum”).
In 1832, her sister Lavinia Norcross Dickinson was born. Dickinson started studying botany at the age of nine and helping her mother in the garden at the age of twelve. Along with gardening she enjoyed baking as well. Her day to day schedule included; attending school, taking in church activities, reading, learning to sing, playing the Piano, writing letters, and taking walks. In 1847, she started attending Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, now called Mount Holyoke College, even living on campus for an entire year.
By 1855, Dickinson had never traveled outside of Amherst, until she went as far as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dickinson had led a full life as a child and young adult which allowed her to write her poetry that we read today. “His heart was pure and terrible and I think no other like it exists” (L418).
Dickinson’s father, Edward, was an American politician from Massachusetts. He worked at Amherst and served as the state legislator.
Edward was a serious man taking his fatherly duties seriously while providing for his family. “I never knew how to tell time by the clock till I was 15. My father thought he had taught me, but I did not understand and I was afraid to say I did not and afraid to ask anyone else lest he should know” (L342b). In 1856, her brother, Austin Dickinson married Susan Gilbert a childhood friend of Emily. After their marriage, Austin and Susan settled in a house next to the Homestead. They named their house “The Evergreens.” On June 19th, 1861, Emily welcomed her first nephew named Edward, Ned for short. In 1866, Martha Gilbert Dickinson, Emily’s niece was born. In 1875, Thomas Gilbert Dickinson, Emily’s second nephew is born. During that year, Dickinson’s mother suffers a stroke, leaving her partially paralyzed.
Emily’s relationship with her mother was strained, especially in her younger years. Emily and her sister Lavinia became chief caregivers for their ill mother until she passed away in 1882. Dickinson died of kidney disease in Amherst Massachusetts, on May 15, 1886, at the age of 55. She was laid to rest in her family plot at West Cemetery (“A&E Television Networks”). After her death Dickinson’s sister Lavinia found more than a thousand of her poems and declared that they must be published. Lavinia was able to get a majority of her sisters work published. Titled The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by literary scholar Thomas H. Johnson was published in 1955. This allowed readers to study her development as a poet, beginning a huge wave in Dickinson research.
Living a solitary life with a strict upbringing, Emily had a lot to dream about and write down in her poetry. Loving her niece and nephews as well as taking care of her mother, Emily had a big heart for her family. Lavinia finding her poems and getting them published was a nice display of affection toward her sister, even it came after her death.