Dickinson, Emily (Elizabeth)

Dickinson, Emily (Elizabeth)

biographical name


Emily Dickinson, c. 1850.—The Granger Collection, New York

(born Dec. 10, 1830, Amherst, Mass., U.S.—died May 15, 1886, Amherst) U.S. poet. Granddaughter of the cofounder of Amherst College and daughter of a respected lawyer and one-term congressman, Dickinson was educated at Amherst (Mass.) Academy and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. She subsequently spent virtually all her life, increasingly reclusive, in her family home in Amherst. She began writing in the 1850s; by 1860 she was boldly experimenting with language and prosody, striving for vivid, exact words and epigrammatic concision while adhering to the basic quatrains and metres of the Protestant hymn. The subjects of her deceptively simple lyrics, whose depth and intensity contrast with the apparent quiet of her life, include love, death, and nature. Her numerous letters are sometimes equal in artistry to her poems. By 1870 she was dressing only in white and declining to see most visitors. Of her nearly 1,800 poems, only 10 are known to have been published during her lifetime. After posthumous publications (some rather inaccurate), her reputation and readership grew. Her complete works were published in 1955, and she has since become universally regarded as one of the greatest American poets.

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