Biography Emily Dickinson
General Summary Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson, regarded as one of America’s greatest poets, is also well known for her unusual life of self imposed social seclusion. Living a life of simplicity and seclusion, she yet wrote poetry of great power; questioning the nature of immortality and death, with at times an almost mantric quality. Her different lifestyle created an aura; often romanticised, and frequently a source of interest and speculation. But ultimately Emily Dickinson is remembered for her unique poetry. Within short, compact phrases she expressed far-reaching ideas; amidst paradox and uncertainty her poetry has an undeniable capacity to move and provoke.
Early Life Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson was born on 10th December, 1830, in the town of Amherst, Massachusetts. Amherst, 50 miles from Boston, had become well known as a centre for Education, based around Amherst College. Her family were pillars of the local community;
their house known as “The Homestead” or “Mansion” was often used as a meeting place for distinguished visitors including, Ralph Waldo Emerson. (although it unlikely he met with Emily Dickinson)
As a young child, Emily proved to be a bright and conscientious student. She showed a sharp intelligence, and was able to create many original writings of rhyming stories, delighting her fellow classmates. Emily’s father was strict and keen to bring up his children in the proper way. Emily said of her father. “his heart was pure and terrible”. His strictness can be shown through his censorship of reading materials; Walt Whitman for example was considered “too inappropriate” and novels had to be smuggled into the house. In response, Emily was highly deferential to her father and other male figures of authority. But in her own way she loved and respected her father, even if at times, he appeared to be aloof. At a young age, she said she wished to be the “best little girl”. However despite her attempts to please and be well thought of, she was also at the same time independently minded, and quite willing to refuse the prevailing orthodoxy’s on certain issues.
Religious Influence on the Poetry of Emily Dickinson
A crucial issue at the time was the issue of religion, which to Emily was the “all important question” The antecedents of the Dickinson’s can be traced back to the early Puritan settlers, who left Lincolnshire in the late 17th Century. Her antecedents had left England, so they could practise religious freedom in America. In the nineteenth – century, religion was still the dominant issue of the day. The East coast, in particular, saw a revival of strict Calvinism; developing partly in response to the more inclusive Unitarianism. Amherst College itself was founded with the intention of training ministers to spread the Christian word. Calvinism. By incrimination, Emily Dickinson would probably have been more at ease with the looser and more inclusive ideology of Unitarianism. However, the “Great Revival” as it was known, pushed the Calvinist view to greatest prominence.
Religious Belief – Emily Dickinson
The Calvinist approach to religion believed that men were inherently sinful and most humans were doomed to hell. There was only a small number who would be saved, and this could only be achieved by the adherent proclaiming his faith in Jesus Christ, as the true Saviour. There was subtle, but concerted effort, to encourage people to declare themselves saved.