Emily Dickinson The Lady in White
Biography Born in Massachusetts in 1830 Died in 1886 Raised in a prominent family Very well educated Liked to read Emerson and Thoreau
Family Life • Had an older brother and a younger sister • Her father was a conservative, severe man • Emily said of him, “His heart was pure and terrible.” • Her mother was reclusive and probably not very warm • "My Mother does not care for thought-—,” and “I never had a mother. I suppose a mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled."
Romance • Never married • May have had a romantic relationship with Judge Otis Lord later in her life • Never had children
The Lady in White • Very reclusive • Practically never left her home the last ten years of her life • On the rare occasions when she was seen in public, she was wearing white dresses • May have had agoraphobia (anxiety disorder)
Her Poetry • Probably thought of more of a gardener than a poet during her lifetime • Published fewer than 12 poems in her lifetime • Those poems were highly edited • Publishers did not like her use of unconventional punctuation and capitalization
Her Death • She died at age 55 • May have had Bright’s disease (kidney issue) • Made her sister promise to burn her poetry when she died • Her sister promised
Death and Poetry • After she died, her sister found over 1700 poems Emily had written • Her sister did not keep her promise • Lavinia had those poems published, and four years after Emily’s death, her first collection of poetry was published, though the poems were edited to follow more conventional punctuation and capitalization • In 1955 (almost 70 years after her death) they were finally published as they were originally written—without heavy editing
Characteristics of her poetry • Slant Rhyme • Unusual dashes • Unusual capitalization
Slant Rhyme Words that almost ryhme Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all.
More slant ryhme He glanced with rapid eyes That hurried all abroad,— They looked like frightened beads, I thought He stirred his velvet head Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash Unbraiding in the sun,— When, stooping to secure it, It wrinkled, and was gone.
Ties to Transcendentalism • Lived and wrote during time period of transcendentalism • Read and admired Thoreau and Emerson • Poetry probably influenced greatly by Emerson • Was a non-conformist • Observed and spent time with nature • Wrote much about nature