After being schooled at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, she spent a short time at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before retiring to her family's house, the Homestead. Throughout her adult life she rarely traveled outside of Amherst or very far from home. Thought of as an eccentric by the locals, she became known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even leave her room. Most of her friendships were therefore carried out by correspondence.
Dickinson was a prolific private poet, choosing to publish fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems. The work that was published during her lifetime was usually altered significantly by the publishers to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time. Dickinson's poems are unique for the era in which she wrote; they contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often utilize slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Her poems also tend to deal with themes of death and immortality, two subjects which infused her letters to friends.
Although most of her acquaintances were probably aware of Dickinson's writing, it was not until after her death in 1886when Lavinia, Emily's younger sister, discovered her cache of poemsthat the breadth of Dickinson's work became apparent. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1890 by personal acquaintances Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, both of whom heavily edited the content. A complete and mostly unaltered collection of her poetry became available for the first time in 1955 when The Poems of Emily Dickinson was published by scholar Thomas H. Johnson. Despite unfavorable reviews and skepticism of her literary prowess during the late 19th and early 20th century, critics now consider Dickinson to be a major American poet. View More »