20 Interesting Facts About Emily Dickinson And Her Family

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, also known as “The Belle of Amherst,” is considered one of the most original American poets of the 19th century.

Here are the top interesting facts about Emily Dickinson:

#1 She was born on December 10, 1830, to Emily Norcross Dickinson and Edward Dickinson, at the family homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts, a farm-based community that grew in her lifetime from approximately 2,700 to more than 4,000 inhabitants.

#2 Emily lived with her two siblings (younger sister Lavinia Norcross and elder brother William Austin) and parents at their homestead.

#3 In 1838–1839 and 1873–1874, her father, Edward Dickinson, was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Moreover, in 1842–1843, he served in the Massachusetts Senate. In Amherst, Massachusetts, Edward presented himself as a model citizen due to his civic work as a supporter of Amherst Academy, a treasurer of Amherst College, chairman of the annual Cattle Show, and secretary to the Fire Society.

#4 Her grandfather Samuel Dickinson is deemed with founding Amherst College. Samuel Dickinson was instrumental in laying the groundwork for what would become one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the United States. 

#5 After studying for seven years at the Amherst Academy (taking classes in Latin, classical literature, geology, botany, mental philosophy, history, and arithmetic), while at this Academy, her teachers recognized her talent for composition. However, they were also fascinated with her assemblage of a remarkable herbarium.

#6 In 1847, she briefly attended the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (currently known as Mount Holyoke College) before returning to her family’s house in Amherst. She stayed at the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary just for one year. Speculations about the reasons for her short stay include poor health, homesickness, and a refusal to sign a public confession of her faith in Christ.

#7 Only 5 poems can be dated before 1858 (when she actually began gathering her work into handwritten copies). Therefore, it is not known precisely when Emily began to write poetry.

#8 During her late teens and early 20s, she endured the deaths of a few close friends and family members, an occurrence which would considerably contribute to Emily’s seeming fascination with death, as shown in her frequently poignant poetry.

#9 During a short trip to Philadelphia in 1854, she met Reverend Charles Wadsworth who is thought to be an inspiration of numerous of her poems.

#10 In 1862, she turned to the literary critic Thomas Wentworth Higginson (a member of the Secret Six) for advice and tips about her poems. In their first correspondence, Emily asked Higginson if her poems are “breathed” or are “alive.” Thomas Wentworth Higginson called Emily a “wholly new and original poetic genius.” In 1870, they would finally meet face to face.

#11 A few scholars have hinted that some of her letters to female friends are too intimate. For instance, to Susan Huntington Dickinson, her sister-in-law and close friend, she wrote, “Susan knows/she is a Siren —/and that at a/word from her,/Emily would/forfeit Righteousness —.”


#12 While baking in the kitchen in the summer of 1884, she fainted and remained unconscious for a few hours. After this incident, Emily remained in her sickbed, and other signs and symptoms and feebleness overcame her.

#13 At the age of 55, she died of kidney disease in Amherst, on May 15, 1886, from Bight’s disease (currently known as acute or chronic nephritis), which is caused by kidney degeneration. Nephritis is commonly caused by toxins and infections, however, it is most generally caused by autoimmune disorders.

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#14 She was referred to as the “Myth of Amherst” during her life, especially due to the fact that she didn’t leave her property – the “Nun of Amherst” as well as wearing mostly only white clothes. After her death and subsequent fame, she became known as the “Belle of Amherst.”

#15 After her death, about 1800 poems came to light (her sister found 1,000 poems in Emily’s bureau and had them edited and published in 3 series). After this, she became one of the most famous American poets of all time.

#16 Only seven poems were published during her lifetime, and most were against her will and anonymous.

#17 In 1955, Thomas H. Johnson, a research professor, published the 1st scholarly collection. No alterations were made and the unconventional capitalization and punctuation were left as written by Emily.

#18 Her verse is renowned for its haunting personal voice, epigrammatic compression, lack of high polish, and enigmatic brilliance.

#19 Most of her poems refer to an invisible lover. Some biographers have speculated about who this is and concluded that she had an emotional relationship with Judge Otis Lord.

#20 Her poetry was heavily influenced after she read the Book of Revelation and by the metaphysical poets of 17th-century England.

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