Friday, May 15, 2009

Emily Dickinson's death

It was on this day in 1886 that Emily Dickinson died at the age of 55. She wrote:
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.
She had been ill and grief-stricken for years. In 1874, her father, whom she adored, had a stroke and died. The funeral was held in family home, but Emily stayed in her room during the service with the door ajar. A year later, her mother had a stroke, which rendered her paralyzed and with memory loss. Dickinson wrote, "Home is so far from Home.

When she was in her 40s, the reclusive Emily Dickinson had a romance with an aging widower, Massachusetts Supreme Court Judge Otis Phillips Lord. They wrote to each other every Sunday, and their correspondence was the highlight of her week.

Dickinson's mother died in 1882, then her favorite nephew died of typhoid fever, and in 1884, Judge Lord died of a stroke. Dickinson wrote, "The Dyings have been too deep for me, and before I could raise my heart from one, another has come."

Emily Dickinson died of Bright's disease on this day in 1886. Her coffin was white and surrounded by violets.

Dickinson had made her sister promise to burn all of her letters (though some survived), but didn't give any instructions about her notebooks. There were 40 notebooks, along with various loose sheets of paper, and these contained about 1800 poems.

The first edition of Dickinson's poems was published in 1890 and edited by Mabel Loomis Todd, a woman who had an affair with Emily's brother. This edition and many after it made sweeping edits to her poems. It wasn't until 1955 that Dickinson's poems were finally published just as she herself had written them---with punctuation, capitalization, and obscure diction intact. The volume, compiled by Thomas H. Johnson, in now the authoritative edition of Emily Dickinson's poetry.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Murph,

There is supposed to be a book about Mabel Loomis Todd's affair with Emily's brother. I don't know the title - and I've been swamped with work, but plan to look it up this summer. Have you read the children's book, Emily by Barbara Cooney? Check it out...I wonder what the truth is about Emily?

This week in New England is supposed to be beautiful.. I can smell the lilacs! Enjoy these next few days!