Born December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, Emily Elizabeth Dickinson is considered one of America's greatest and most original poets of all time.
One of the most celebrated poets in American history, Emily Dickinson's first anthology of poems was actually published four years after her death. Reclusive and elusive, Dickinson was considered both an eccentric and a woman of intrigue and mystery in her time.
A prolific writer, she wrote nearly 1,800 poems during her lifetime and but just 10 poems were published while she was alive. Dickinson was an introvert and spent much of her life in isolation, preferring to communicate with most of her friends by letter instead of face to face.
Emily Dickinson's poems were generally lyrical short poems with a single speaker. Only 10 poems out of all of Dickinson's poems were titled. Most poetry by Emily Dickinson is known by the first lines of the poems or by titles given by people who edited the poetry posthumously. Many of her poems reflect her beliefs on death and spirituality, and are classics of the American poetry canon.
Emily Dickinson's Childhood
Learn about the childhood of the famous American poet, and find out about Emily Dickinson and her early education.
1. Emily Dickinson was born Emily Elizabeth Dickinson on December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her family was prominent in their community. Her father was a lawyer and trustee of Amherst College and her paternal grandfather was one of the founders of Amherst College.
2.Dickinson was the middle child of three children. She had an older brother named William Austin and a younger sister called Lavinia.
3. Emily went to school at Amherst Academy for seven years with her sister Lavinia. Amherst Academy considered Emily to be exceptionally gifted and intelligent. During her seven years there she studied classical literature, English, botany, Latin, geology, history, philosophy and arithmetic.
4. Emily was also gifted in music, having a special talent on the piano.
5. Emily's second cousin Sophia died of typhus when Emily was a teenager. The cousins were very close friends and Emily was left traumatized by her death. She had to take time out from school in order to recover. This was the first death to really affect her, and it left her with a preoccupation with the prospect of death.
Interesting Facts About Emily Dickinson's Life
Find out all about the life and iconic characteristics of the poet Emily Dickinson with our biography of Emily Dickinson, detailing up to her death on May 15, 1886.
6. The great extent of Emily Dickinson's poetry was only discovered after her death. Only 10 poems were published while she was alive but her younger sister Lavinia discovered 1,800 of Dickinson's poems in her bedroom after she died.
7. The poems she published during her lifetime were all published anonymously, and may have been published without her even knowing. These poems were published in newspapers. Emily hated the idea of selling her poetry and becoming famous. However, she did enjoy sharing her poems with those close to her. One of her closest friends, Susan, received 250 of her poems.
8. During her late twenties and early thirties, Emily was prolific in her poetry writing, penning almost 1,100 poems during this time. This period was a conflicting time for Emily, as her family moved house during this time, making her unhappy. The Civil War was also going on, which made this time a turbulent period for Emily.
9. Emily had several mentors throughout the course of her creative life. She corresponded with Thomas Wentworth Higginson up until her death. Editor of the Atlantic Monthly, he put out an advertisement looking for aspiring new poets to which Dickinson responded. Higginson was impressed by her poetry but found it hard to understand Emily, who wasn't interesting in having him publish any of her poetry.
10. Emily Dickinson lived in the same house in Amherst for most of her life. She spent 15 years elsewhere when the house was sold, but the family later re-bought the house and moved back in. Both Dickinson and her sister were born and died there.
11. Emily wasn't particularly close to her parents. Her father was sceptical of her interest in writing and was unsupportive of her passion. Her mother was cold towards her and their relationship only warmed when her mother became seriously ill. Though never close in life, Dickinson was very affected by her death and wrote that she felt much closer to her mother in death than she had in life.
12. Emily Dickinson wasn't interested in traveling. She traveled just once in her lifetime to go to Boston just over a decade before her death. Prior to this she had never left her hometown of Amherst, and after leaving Boston, she never left Amherst again.
13. Although Emily never married, she is thought to have had love affairs, as evidenced by the love letters and romantic poetry found in Emily Dickinson's home after she died. She is thought to have had a love affair with Judge Otis, a friend of her father's. The two may even have contemplated marriage after the death of the Judge's wife. They were never to be a couple however, as the Judge's health began to deteriorate, and he died two years before Emily Dickinson died.
14. Dickinson was a great fan of the book 'Jane Eyre'. She even named her dog Carlo after a dog from the novel!
15. Legend has it that Emily only wore white clothing in the final years of her life. Emily's white pique dress, on display in her bedroom in the museum, is iconic in itself. A dress typically only worn indoors to do informal activities and chores in, Emily wore this dress both in and outdoors, ignoring the dress code of the day.
16. Although in her own writing Emily reveals her taste for other styles of clothing and fabric colors, she has become associated with the color white. No one knows why she suddenly decided to almost always wear white, but it may have been a spiritual choice. While Emily refused to go to church with her family, she may have decided to wear white all the time to signify her religious devotion outside of the church. Nuns and religious devotees typically wore white at that time.
17. She may also have been inspired by Dickens' Miss Havisham, the character Aurora Leigh from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's epic poem of the same name, the Snow Maiden from Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Snow-Image: A Childish Miracle',or the 'Book Of Revelation'.
18. The last two decades of Dickinson's life were spent in isolation. She rarely left the house, and would hide whenever the doorbell rang, or answer the door whilst standing in the dark so she wouldn't be visible to the visitor. This may have been solely due to social anxiety or she may have had a health condition which made her uncomfortable being seen by people.
19. However, she may have preferred solitude so that she could focus on her inner world and her creativity. The deaths of her mother, her favorite nephew and several other close friends increased her preference for solitude, and exacerbated her nervous disposition. She was a prolific letter writer however, and she continued writing many letters throughout this final period.
20. Following the deaths of several loved ones, Emily became depressed and her health began to deteriorate. She was bed-bound for several months before dying at the age of 55 at her Amherst home on May 15, 1886. Her death was recorded as having been caused by Bright's Disease, which we now know of as acute kidney disease. Some, however, believe Dickinson died from complications related to high blood pressure.
21. There have been numerous Emily Dickinson biographies published since her death and there is also an American TV series based on the life and times of Emily Dickinson, called 'Dickinson'.
Facts About Emily Dickinson Poems
Find out about the characteristics of Emily Dickinson poetry and what were the most famous poems by Emily Dickinson.
22. Just 10 of the 1800 poems she wrote have titles. The titles for the rest of her poetry were taken from the first lines of the poems, or were given by posthumous editors.
23. Dickinson wrote lyrical poetry. Most of the poems are short, with a single speaker who identifies as "I" throughout the poems. Dickinson's style was simple and she relished in breaking conventional poetry writing rules. Her poetry often features half-rhymes, some of which are only faintly recognisable as rhymes.
24. Her stanza and rhyme formation was likely inspired by the Protestant hymn-writer Isaac Watts. She also broke punctuation rules and did what she wanted with capitalizing and not capitalizing letters in her poems. She was very avant-garde in her poetry and literary rule breaking.
25. Some of her poems have several manuscript versions, where Emily plays with form, experimenting with breaking the poems into different stanzas.
26. Emily was particularly talented in the use of metaphor. She would use concrete imagery to describe abstract concepts to great effect.
27. Considered one of the best poems by Emily Dickinson, 'Because I Could Not Stop For Death' is one of the most famous poems she wrote, and is a good example of the outlook of Emily Dickinson on death. The writing suggests the speaker is experiencing immortality, and reflecting back on her death from some future point in eternity.
28. Another poem demonstrating Dickinson s spiritual outlook on death is 'I Heard A Fly Buzz - When I Died', which describes the moment of death and the speaker being aware of a fly buzzing around the room. This poem further demonstrates Dickinson's spiritual bent, and her belief in an afterlife.
29. Another well-known poem by Emily Dickinson is 'I'm Nobody, Who Are You?'. With its erratic rhyming and satirical tone, Dickinson celebrates the idea of being anonymous and being content to live life out of the spotlight in this poem
30. The last poem Dickinson wrote before her death was 'So Give Me Back to Death', which demonstrates her acceptance of her coming death, and her lack of fear at its prospect.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our incredible Emily Dickinson facts then why not take a look at our other interesting facts pages, like our Boudicca facts, or our Julius Caesar facts?
At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.
We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.
Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.
Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.
Sponsorship & Advertising Policy
Kidadl is independent and to make our service free to you the reader we are supported by advertising.
We hope you love our recommendations for products and services! What we suggest is selected independently by the Kidadl team. If you purchase using the buy now button we may earn a small commission. This does not influence our choices. Please note: prices are correct and items are available at the time the article was published.
Kidadl has a number of affiliate partners that we work with including Amazon. Please note that Kidadl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.
We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.