Emily Dickinson

(1830 – 1886)

Emily DickinsonBiographical Sketch

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (Amherst, MA, USA, December 10, 1830 – Amherst, MA, USA, May 15, 1886) was an American poet. Little known during her life, she has since been regarded as one of the most important figures in American poetry.

Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts into a prominent family with strong ties to its community. After studying at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, she briefly attended the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family’s house in Amherst.  Evidence suggests that Dickinson lived much of her life in isolation. Considered an eccentric by locals, she developed a penchant for white clothing and was known for her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, to even leave her bedroom. Dickinson never married, and most friendships between her and others depended entirely upon correspondence.

While Dickinson was a prolific writer, her only publications during her lifetime were 10 of her nearly 1,800 poems, and one letter. The poems published then were usually edited significantly to fit conventional poetic rules. Her poems were unique for her era. They contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends, and also explore aesthetics, society, nature and spirituality.

Although Dickinson’s acquaintances were most likely aware of her writing, it was not until after her death in 1886 – when Lavinia, Dickinson’s younger sister, discovered her cache of poems – that her work became public. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1890 by personal acquaintances Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, though both heavily edited the content. A 1998 New York Times article revealed that of the many edits made to Dickinson’s work, the name “Susan” was often deliberately removed. At least eleven of Dickinson’s poems were dedicated to sister-in-law Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson, though all the dedications were obliterated, presumably by Todd. A complete, and mostly unaltered, collection of her poetry became available for the first time when scholar Thomas H. Johnson published The Poems of Emily Dickinson in 1955.

Read more about Emily Dickinson on Wikipedia.



  • Poems by Emily Dickinson (1890)
    – Editors: T.W. Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd.
  • Poems: Second Series (1891)
    – Editors: T.W. Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd.
  • Poems: Third Series (1896)
    – Editor: Mabel Loomis Todd.
  • Single Hound; Poems of a Lifetime (1914)
    – Editor: Martha Dickinson Bianchi.
  • The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (1924)
    – With an introduction by her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi.
  • Selected Poems (1924)
    – Editor: Conrad Aiken.
  • Further Poems of Emily Dickinson Withheld from Publication by Her Sister Lavinia (1929)
    – Editors: Martha Dickinson Bianchi and Alfred Leete Hampson.
  • Poems for Youth (1934)
    – Editor: Alfred Leete Hampson; foreword: May Lambertson Becker; illustrations: George and Doris Hauman.
  • Bolts of Melody: New Poems (1945)
    – Editors: Mabel Loomis Todd and Millicent Todd Bingham.
  • The Poems of Emily Dickinson (1955)
    – 3 vols.; editor: Thomas H. Johnson.
  • The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (1960)
    – Editor: Thomas H. Johnson.
  • The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson (1981)
    – 2 vols; editor: Ralph W. Franklin.
  • New Poems of Emily Dickinson (1993)
    – Editor: William H. Shurr.
  • The Essential Dickinson (1996)
    – Selected and with an introduction by Joyce Carol Oates.
  • Final Harvest: Emily Dickinson’s Poems (1997)
    – Selected and with an introduction by Thomas H. Johnson.
  • The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson (2003)
    – With an introduction and notes by Rachel Wetzsteon.
  • Selected Poems (2006)
    – Editor: Jackie Moore.
  • The Pocket Emily Dickinson (2009)
    – Editor: Brenda Hillman.
  • Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries (2010)
    – Editor: Helen Vendler.
  • Wild Nights: Selected Poems (2012)
    – Editor: Miriam Chalk.
  • The Gorgeous Nothings (2013)
    – Editors: Marta Werner and Jen Bervin.
  • Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them (2016)
    – Editor: Cristanne Miller.
  • Letters of Emily Dickinson (1894)
    – 2 vols; editor: Mabel Loomis Todd.
  • The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson (1924)
    – Editor: Martha Dickinson Bianchi.
  • The Letters of Emily Dickinson (1958)
    – 3 vols; editors: Thomas H. Johnson and Theodora van Wagenen Ward.
  • Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson’s Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson (1998)
    – Editors: Martha Nell Smith and Ellen Louise Hart.
  • Emily Dickinson Letters (2011)
    – Selected and edited by Emily Fragos.
Online editions of Emily Dickinson’s works


A Selection of Quotes


“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.”

“There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.”

“One need not be a chamber to be haunted.”

“We never know how high we are till we are called to rise.
Then if we are true to form our statures touch the skies.”

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.”


“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?”

Find more quotes by Emily Dickinson on Wikiquote and Goodreads.