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10 Facts About Emily Dickinson

10 Truthy Facts About the Belle of Amherst, Emily Dickinson

Today is Emily Dickinson's 139th birthday — God, you'd think she was a vampire! But, no, she sadly only lived 56 years, yet in that time she wrote 1,800 poems. Not bad. To honor the Belle of Amherst, we've collected 10 tidbits about her life.

  1. Emily left an all-female seminary, which is now Mount Holyoke College, after a year. Homesickness and poor health are speculated reasons, but another popular one is fear of punishment after refusing to publicly profess her faith to the Congregational church.
  2. She was engaged to Rev. George Gould, a student at Amherst College, but her wealthy father broke it off because he was just a poor student.
  3. Most likely the oft-cited affair she had with a married minister in Philadelphia was in fact her young love from Amherst, Rev. George Gould. It's believed that her disappointment upon returning home triggered her initial withdrawal from society.
  4. The last time she left Amherst, MA, was a trip to Boston 12 years before her death. There an eye doctor forbade her to read and write.
  5. She struck up a correspondence with Atlantic Monthly editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and they became lifelong friends. Their relationship is examined in White Heat, a December must read.

To see the other five,


  1. Only seven poems were published during her lifetime, and most were anonymous and against her will. She was confident of posthumous success.
  2. Late in life (though she died in middle age at 56), she had a relationship with a Judge Otis Lord, a widower and friend of her father. He even proposed marriage to her, but she turned him down, saying: "Don't you know that you are happiest while I withhold and not confer?"
  3. Though we now know she was no spinster, it's believed that her decision to seclude herself was to secure the independence to write.
  4. After her death, her sister found over 1,000 poems in Emily's bureau. She had them edited and published in three series, but all of her 1,800 poems were not published until 1955.
  5. Emily was referred to as the "Myth of Amherst" throughout her life and, when she took to wearing only white and not leaving her property, the "Nun of Amherst." After her death and subsequent fame, she became the "Belle of Amherst."

Source: Flickr User shaletan

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