Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1830. She attended the Amherst Academy and later Mary Lyon's Female Seminary (which is now Mount Holyoke College), which she left at eighteen because she wasn't fond of the religious atmosphere.
In 1682, Emily sent four poems to Thomas Wentworth Higginson. While he praised her work, he advised her not to publish because her poetry was not written in conventional verse style.
Emily was a very private person and kept her work very secret. Only seven of her poems were published in her lifetime, and all seven were published without her permission.
After she died in 1886, approximately 1800 poems were found, many without titles. Her work was then published. Dickinson is considered one of the greatest American poets of the nineteenth century; second to Walt Whitman.
Through reading letters and poetry written by Emily, it is certain that she was in love with her friend Susan Gilbert. The two probably met in Amherst. They trusted each other, and Emily wrote her romantic letters until Susan became engaged to Austin Dickinson, Emily's brother. Emily and Susan stopped writing for two years, but began talking again when Susan and Austin moved in next door.
It is unknown if Susan shared Emily's feelings, for all of Susan's letters to Emily were destroyed after Emily died.
Emily wrote over one hundred poems about and the passion felt towards Susan. This is about three times more poems than Emily wrote about anyone else.
"Hope" is the thing with feathers--
That perches in the soul--
And sings the tunes without the words--
And never stops--at all--."--Emily Dickinson
[from The Complete Poems no. 254 (1955)]
"What soft--cherubic creatures--
These gentlewomen are--
One would as soon assault a plush--
Or violate a star--."--Emily Dickinson
[from The Complete Poems no. 401 (1955)]
"The Brain--is wider than the Sky--."--Emily Dickinson
[from The Complete Poems no. 632 (1955)]
It's a sorrowful morning Susie--the wind blows and it rains; "into each life some rain must fall," and I hardly know which falls fastest, the rain without, or within--Oh Susie, I would nestle close to your warm heart, and never hear the wind blow, or the storm beat, again. Is there any room there for me, darling, and will you "love me more if ever you come home"?--it is enough, dear Susie, I know I shall be satisfied. But what can I do towards you?--dearer you cannot be, for I love you so already, that it almost breaks my heart--perhaps I can love you anew, every day of my life, every morning and evening--Oh if you will let me, how happy I shall be!
The precious billet, Susie, I am wearing the paper out, reading it over and o'er, but the dear thoughts cant wear out if they try, Thanks to Our Father, Susie! Vinnie and I talked of you all last evening long, and went to sleep mourning for you, and pretty soon I waked up saying "Precious treasure, thou art mine," and there you were all right, my Susie, and I hardly dared to sleep lest someone steal you away. Never mind the letter, Susie; you have so much to do; just write me every week one line, and let it be, "Emily, I love you," and I will be satisfied!
Your own Emily
Her sweet weight on my Heart a Night
Had scarcely deigned to lie -
When, stirring, for Beliefs delight,
My bride had slipped away -
If 'twas a Dream - made solid - just
The Heaven to confirm -
Or if Myself were dreamed of Her -
The power to presume -
With Him remain - who unto Me -
Gave - even as to All -
A Fiction superseding Faith -
By so much - as 'twas real -
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