Today In History: Emily Dickinson Born
Today is Emily Dickinson’s birthday. She was born today in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1830.
Dickinson, one of America’s most celebrated and enduring poets, was a precocious child. She rarely left her home town, studying first at Amherst Academy and then at Mt. Holyoke. A tumultuous home life was counterbalanced by a school life in which she was quite popular. She started putting together hand-made books of poetry in 1858. She started to take herself seriously as a poet in 1862, when she submitted some of her poems to Atlantic Monthly. She established a longstanding working relationship with an Atlantic editor named Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who did not grant her immediate publication but encouraged her to keep refining her art.
Dickinson was prolific, writing 1,775 known poems. Although she is now considered a giant in the world of letters, she saw virtually no success when she was alive. A mere seven of her poems ever saw publication during her lifetime.
Around 1862, Dickinson became a total shut-in. She cloistered herself away in her room, where she labored at her poetry, rarely leaving the house or accepting visitors. She did have one known romantic connection, with a man named Judge Otis Lord. It was cut short before they married.
In the six decades following her death, more and more of Dickinson’s work was published. Her sister pushed for the first publication, in 1890. She is now required reading in most American literature and poetry courses.