Skip to Content

16 Interesting Facts About Emily Dickinson You Might Not Know

Sharing is caring!

Emily Dickinson, a name well known for her phenomenal work in the art of poetry, was an American poet that almost didn’t see the light of day (in many ways). 

As her literary work was mostly written in solitude without the gaze of the public eye on her progression as a writer, she remains a poet steeped in intrigue. From her daily life at her family home to the fascinating way her poetry was written, Emily Dickson was a unique artist for her time in the 18th century. These interesting facts about Emily Dickinson will help you understand how that was the case.

Looking to learn more about the woman behind the famous lyrical stanzas? We’ll guide you through the wonderful ways which made Emily Dickinson rank along the literary greats of poetry, such as Walt Whitman.

16 Interesting Facts about Emily Dickinson

1. Only 10 Poems Were Published While She Lived


Image by Emily Dickinson on Facebook

While Emily Dickinson remains a top contender for one of the most famous American poets in history, a mere fraction of her work was open to the public eye in her lifetime. This includes ten poems and a letter, which has speculation regarding whether she was aware of these publications.

She mostly wrote to her loved ones and kept the vast majority of her literary work in handmade bindings of paper that she kept for her eyes only.

2. She Had Famous Family Members


Image by The Emily Dickinson Museum on Facebook

While not necessarily from a family of means, Emily Dickinson had successful and highly educated family members. Her grandfather, Samuel Dickinson, founded the illustrious Amherst College (which soon became a family tradition).

Her father, Edward Dickinson, was the treasurer of Amherst College and had a short stint as a member of the Massachusetts Congress. Following his father’s footsteps, Emily Dickinson’s brother also became a successful lawyer and Amherst College treasurer.

You might enjoy reading my articles Interesting Facts about Walt Whitman, Interesting Facts about Edgar Allan Poe, Interesting Facts about English and Interesting Facts about Language.

3. Her First Letter Published Was a Valentine’s Letter

Emily Dickinson attended Amherst College for a few years, which was a tradition in her family. This was where her first literary piece was published in the college’s designated newspaper, the Amherst College Indicator, in 1850. The title of the Valentine’s letter was “Magnum bonum, harem scarum”.

4. She Was a Homebody


Image by The Emily Dickinson Museum on Facebook

While many find the familiar comfort of one home a safe haven of sorts, Emily Dickinson truly took this sentiment to the next level. Often referred to as a type of hermit, she spent the majority of her life in her family home.  

Today, many speculate that the poet could have suffered from agoraphobia, which is the fear of wide open spaces beyond confined walls. Other afflictions she potentially suffered from include severe anxiety and depression.

It has been said that in her later years, she would remain in her chambers when guests arrived and would only communicate with them behind closed doors.

However, she found great pleasure in her solitude at her homestead and often wrote themes referring to the household in a lighter tone.

5. Emily Dickinson Did Not Conform to Societal Norms


Image by The Emily Dickinson Museum on Facebook

As stated above, Emily Dickinson opted to spend the majority of her time in her own home, which would seem like a conventional space for a woman to be during this period. However, she was well-educated and attended a higher education establishment, an unusual feat for a woman in the late 18th century.

She also never married a suitor and bore no children while spending her time in solitude to focus on her writing. While many might deem the poet a homely stay-at-home figure, she actively fought against the overbearing patriarchal norms expected from women. 

6. She Was an Avid Gardener


Image by The Emily Dickinson Museum on Facebook

Other than being inside her family home, she spent a significant amount of time on the mansion property tending to the garden. This served as a great inspiration for her poetry and the recurring theme of nature in her literary work. 

During her time at higher education institutes, she also studied botany and often added and referenced scientific horticulture terminology in her poems. The plants in her family garden included roses and fig trees, which she attended to amongst the other female family members in the house.

7. Nearly 1800 Dickinson’s Poems Were Written and Mostly Unpublished


Image by The Emily Dickinson Museum on Facebook

After her death, a treasure trove of unpublished work was found in her home, which had no instructions attached to dispose of or publish its contents. Her Sister, Lavinia, decided that the extensive repertoire of poetry should be published.

However, Thomas Wentworth Higginson (a friend of Emily) and Mabel Loomis Todd (Emily’s brother’s mistress) edited the poems for public consumption. This means that most literary work we see today has been stripped down and filtered in some way.

8. She Had a Complicated Relationship With Her Family


Image by Harvard Art Museums on Wikicommons

While many might think an individual so tightly bound to her family home would have a close-knit relationship with her loved ones, this was not necessarily the case. Emily held her relationship with her sister Lavinia close to her heart but was said to have a troubled relationship with her mother.

9. She Had a Strange Poetic Style


Image by The Emily Dickinson Museum on Facebook

As a poet, Emily Dickinson marched to the beat of her own drum. She wrote with gusto and a lust for the literary art form and less for the typical and traditional style poems written in her time. 

She used a sequence of unusual stylistic methods, which included irregular capitalisation usage and odd punctuation choices in her poems. Many theorize that her lyrical way of writing poetry is due to her interest in playing the piano.

10. The Dickinson Family Had a Dog Called Carlo


Image by The Emily Dickinson Museum on Facebook

In her youth, Emily Dickinson spent a large amount of time in the nearby surroundings of her home and had a furry companion to keep her company on her many walks. Her dog Carlo was a gift from her father, and she spoke affectionately about him in her letters and poems.

11. Her Sister Was Told to Burn Her Letters After Her Death


Image by The Emily Dickinson Museum on Facebook

As her sister, Lavinia, was a close confidant to Emily in her lifetime, the poet gave her sister an important task to fulfil after her death. Emily requested that all the letters she had collected over the years from loved ones and friends be destroyed after her passing.

While most letters that she received in her lifetime were disposed of, since there were no instructions on what to do with her poetry, they were published.

12. She Wrote Love Letters to an Anonymous Person


Image by The Emily Dickinson Museum on Facebook

After her death, as stated, a great majority of her letters were destroyed to uphold her privacy after her demise. There were, however, a few critical tokens of her intimate writing that were left behind and discovered.

Letters with a common theme of love and passion were recovered and addressed to a mysterious “Master.” Among these letters, Emily Dickinson references the two individuals’ long relationship with passionate undertones.

13. She Turned Her Back on Religious Practice

Emily grew up in a Calvinistic household that frequently participated in religious activities. She, however, never accepted or participated in these rituals with conviction, which led to her decision not to be accepted into the church.

This religious standpoint made her feel like an outcast among her family and peers, and she would often touch on the subject of religion in her poems. This included the question of immortality and the notion of God.

14. Her Cause of Death is Steeped in Speculation

emily-grave interesting facts about emily dickinson

Image by Own work on Wikicommons

Before her death, the poet experienced various family deaths, including her father, mother and nephew. In 1886, Emily died in her home, suspected to be from kidney disease, which was also stated on her death certificate.

However, many believe the poet might have died from either high blood pressure or heart failure due to the peculiar health-related symptoms she wrote in letters to individuals. Her gravestone is situated in Amherst in the West Cemetery.

15. The Dickinson Family House is Now a Museum


Image by Daderot on Wikicommons

From the stunning gardens to the iconic desk where Emily put pen to paper, the family homestead is now open to the public to live out their literary dreams. Not only is the legendary house available to peruse, but also the next-door residence where her brother lived.

With over 8000 artefacts to ponder and explore, this house has a mesmerising maze of rooms and items to discover on the premises. 

16. The Civil War Affected Her Poetry

The emergence of the Civil War played a pivotal role in Emily Dickinson’s poetic voice and inspiration. Apparently, during this tremulous period, she wrote nearly half the amount of her entire poetry collection.

She used the theme of war as a metaphor in a wide variety of her poems and also referenced the Civil War efforts and news in several of her letters. Many believe that her poem ‘It Feels A Shame To Be Alive’ was about this historical event.

New Interesting Facts Checker

At New Interesting Facts, we have an editorial policy and a 3 step review process to ensure we get our facts straight. However, we are a very small team, and we sometimes get it wrong, or information becomes outdated. Please let us know if you think we’ve gotten something wrong.


Like this post? Why not share it?

Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!