Dickinson was a witty and popular student at Amherst Academy and at Mt. Holyoke but was viewed as somewhat unconventional. She made a few trips to Philadelphia and Boston but rarely left Amherst. She preferred her home, where her stern lawyer father, invalid mother, spinster sister, and domineering brother created a colorful, if oppressive, family life. In 1858, Dickinson began collecting the many short poems she wrote into small, hand-sewn books. In 1862, she wrote an editor at the Atlantic Monthly, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, to evaluate her work. He felt her work wasn’t yet ready to publish but became her mentor, and the two corresponded for many years.
Dickinson had only one romance that is known about today, with Judge Otis Lord. Although it looked like the two would marry, the romance ended. Dickinson was increasingly reluctant to leave the house after 1862 and would often decline even to see visitors. Although she wrote 1,775 poems, only seven were published in her lifetime. All were deceptively simple, endless variations on the same pattern. Dickinson died at the age of 56.
In 1890, thanks to her sister’s efforts, Poems by Emily Dickinson was published, followed by more volumes over the next 60 years. In 1955, The Complete Works of Emily Dickinson was published.