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The Poetry of Emily Dickinson

The Poetry of Emily Dickinson

by Emily Dickinson

I find ecstasy in living—the mere sense of living is joy enough.

Emily Dickinson, age 16 (Courtesy of Amherst College Archives and Special Collections)

The Life and Times of Emily Dickinson

  1. 1830s
    • 1830: Emily Dickinson is born on December 10 in the family home, called the Homestead, in Amherst, Massachusetts.
    • 1837: Queen Victoria takes the throne and becomes the longest-reigning British monarch, living until 1901.
    • 1838: Dickinson's father, Edward, begins his first term in the Massachusetts General Court.
  2. 1840s
    • 1844-1845: Religious revival seizes Amherst, but Dickinson "attended none of the meetings."
    • 1848: More than two hundred people–including Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott—attend the first women's rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York.
    • 1849: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow publishes his novel Kavanagh, which Dickinson's brother smuggles into the house; the book is an early influence on Dickinson.
  3. 1850s
    • Religious revival permeates Amherst once more. Dickinson’s father, sister, and future sister in-law recount their conversion experiences and join the church. Emily Dickinson declares: “I am standing alone in rebellion.”
    • 1853: Amherst-Belchertown Railroad opens through efforts of Edward Dickinson.
    • 1855: The Dickinson family moves back to the Homestead.
    • 1857: As banks begin to collapse, the Panic of 1857 leads to a severe economic depression in America that lasts three years.
    • 1858-1865: Dickinson’s most prolific years as a poet.
  4. 1860s
    • 1861: Abraham Lincoln becomes president; the Civil War begins as Confederate forces attack Fort Sumter.
    • 1865: Civil War ends with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia; Lincoln assassinated.
    • 1865: The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is passed, abolishing slavery in the U.S.
  5. 1870s
    • 1870: After corresponding with her for eight years, Thomas Wentworth Higginson meets Dickinson for the first time.
    • Dickinson's father dies in 1874; her mother becomes paralyzed after a stroke in 1875. Dickinson will nurse her mother for the next seven years.
    • 1874: Alexander Graham Bell first conceives of the telephone, after conducting experiments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and develops it two years later.
  6. 1880s
    • Impressionist movement creates works of art known for intentionally visible brushstrokes, striking use of light, and ordinary subject matter.
    • Dickinson's health fails in 1883; she dies in 1886.
    • 1884: Writer Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), a friend of Dickinson's, publishes the bestselling novel Ramona. She was the only writer who urged Dickinson to publish her poems.
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