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Emily Dickinson

Important Terms, People, and Events

General Summary

1830–1847: Childhood Years

Terms

Abolitionist Movement  -   · A social movement organized in the North to abolish the institution of slavery, upon which the economy of the South depended. The movement gained most of its influence during the three decades preceding the Civil War.
Assonant rhyme  -   · Repetition of related vowel sounds, or the rhyming of vowels rather than whole words. Dickinson often used assonant rhyme in her poetry in order to retain the most apt word choices for her meanings, rather than picking two words that rhymed but did not convey meaning most accurately.
Congregationalism  -   · The type of Protestantism that the Dickinsons practiced in their Amherst church. It differs from other kinds of Protestantism because of its organization–it allows each congregation control over its own affairs, rather than centralizing power. It holds to the principle that God is the true head of each church, not a bishop or other religious leader.
The Great Revival  -   · A religious movement that swept New England around 1850. A renewal of religious conviction and activity, it mandated a recommitment to Jesus Christ and the tenets of Christianity. The movement boosted the temperance cause.
Temperance -   · An organized effort that culminated in Prohibition, its great success. The Temperance movement urged people to abstain from drinking alcohol. Temperance was a political as well as a social issue, since proponents of Temperance sought government control over liquor, not just licensing.
Transcendentalism -   · A philosophical and literary movement popular in New England between about 1836 and 1860. Its central precepts focus on the divinity of man and his relationship to nature. It leaned on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and the English romantic poets Coleridge and Wordsworth. In America, Ralph Waldo Emerson was the most prominent proponent of Transcendentalism.

People

Martha Dickinson Bianchi  -  Sue and Austin's daughter, she was Dickinson's niece. She co-edited a volume of her aunt's poetry.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning -  One of the most famous poets of the nineteenth century, English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of Dickinson's favorite writers. Browning's long prose poem Aurora Leigh was one of Dickinson's favorite works of fiction and made a huge impact on her poetry. Dickinson borrowed many images from this work and expounded upon them in her poems.
Samuel Bowles -  Editor and publisher of the Springfield Daily Republican newspaper, which was one of the most influential newspapers in the country during the mid 1800s. Bowles was also a good friend of both Austin Dickinson and Emily Dickinson.
Austin Dickinson -  Dickinson's older brother, he married Dickinson's best friend, Sue Gilbert. A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, he later became treasurer of Amherst College and succeeded his father Edward Dickinson in his law practice.
Edward Dickinson  -  Dickinson's father, and a lawyer and treasurer of Amherst College. He was elected to the Massachusetts state legislature and eventually became a U.S. representative in the Thirty Third Congressional session (1853–1855).
Emily Norcross Dickinson  -  Dickinson's mother, she was active in the Amherst community and won awards for her cooking and gardening skills.
Lavinia Dickinson  -  Dickinson's younger sister, she discovered Dickinson's stash of poems after Dickinson's death, and was responsible for introducing the world to Dickinson's genius. She co-edited three volumes of Dickinson's poetry.
Ned Dickinson  -  Dickinson's nephew, he was the son of Sue and Austin.
Susan Gilbert Dickinson  -  Dickinson's closest confidante, and wife to Austin Dickinson. Sue held informal salons in her parlor and was an avid and intelligent reader. She and Dickinson were literary kindred spirits and Dickinson sent her many poems for critique.
Thomas Gilbert Dickinson  -  Dickinson's nephew. A precocious child, he died of typhoid fever at the age of eight.
George Eliot -  George Eliot was the pseudonym of Marian Evans, a renowned English novelist. Her novel The Mill on the Floss was a major influence on Dickinson's writing, and Eliot's portrait hung on the wall of Dickinson's room.
Ralph Waldo Emerson -  A favorite writer of both Sue Gilbert Dickinson and Emily Dickinson, Emerson was a major literary figure of the mid-1800s. Through his essays, poems, and famous lectures, he became the leading voice of Transcendentalism in America.
Henry Emmons -  One of Dickinson's suitors, he was a handsome, well-read student at Amherst College with whom Dickinson spent a great deal of time.
George Gould -  A college friend of Austin's and an early love interest of Dickinson's. He was a theology student at Amherst College. He was rumored to have proposed to Dickinson.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson -  He was a man of letters and a decorated army lieutenant who was unusually forward thinking both socially and politically. He was in favor of women's rights and abolition. The regiment he commanded during the Civil War was the first black regiment in U.S. military history. The movie Glory is based on his book about his experiences, which is titled Army Life in a Black Regiment. He and Emily Dickinson corresponded from 1862 until her death in 1886 and she considered him an indispensable critic and mentor.
Josiah Holland -  Dickinson family friend, he was a Springfield doctor with a literary bent. Holland joined Samuel Bowles on the Springfield Republican, writing occasional book reviews. Dickinson enjoyed the Holland home for its warmth and familial affection.
William Howland -  A young man who worked in Edward Dickinson's law office, he received a Valentine poem from Dickinson that so impressed him, he sent it to the Springfield Republican for publication. The poem, Dickinson's first published work, was published anonymously.
Leonard Humphrey -  The young principal of the grammar school Dickinson attended, he was a kind, supportive man. Humphrey recognized Dickinson's intelligence early on, and lent her books from his library. As she grew old her became a great friend. He died young.
Helen Fiske Jackson  -  One of Dickinson's oldest friends, she began writing for publication in the early 1860s. She wrote a number of novels and articles, as well as a work of nonfiction titled A Century of Dishonor, a history of the government's mistreatment of American Indians.
Judge Otis Lord  -  A prominent lawyer, a political comrade of Edward Dickinson, and a judge on the bench of Massachusetts' Superior Court. He and Dickinson became unlikely friends despite their twenty-year age difference, and hints of a romance emerged after Lord's wife died.
Benjamin Franklin Newton  -  A friend of Dickinson's in the late 1840s and early 1850s, he worked in Edward Dickinson's law firm. Newton was a radical thinker, favoring Transcendentalism and introducing Dickinson to a number of books and ideas.
Mabel Loomis Todd  -  One of Dickinson's Amherst neighbors, she was Austin Dickinson's mistress from the early 1880s until his death. She was fascinated by Dickinson, though the two never met face to face. After Dickinson's death, Mabel Todd edited a volume of Dickinson's poetry called A Bolt of Melody.
Dr. Charles Wadsworth -  A brilliant, brooding Presbyterian preacher whom Dickinson met in Philadelphia during a visit to an old school friend. The two corresponded by letter for many years, and when Wadsworth moved to San Francisco, Dickinson fell ill, possibly from the shock of his departure.
John Winthrop -  Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, he arrived in Salem from England in 1630. Winthrop founded the settlement that later became Boston.

Events

Civil War -  The conflict between the Northern and the Southern states, which seceded and formed the Confederacy. The war lasted from 1861 to 1865 and was one of the bloodiest conflicts in U.S. history, resulting in over 600,000 deaths.
Dred Scott case  -  Officially called Scott v. Sanford, this case was argued before the United States Supreme Court from 1856–1857. Dred Scott, a slave from Missouri, accompanied his master to Illinois and then to the Wisconsin territories, where slavery was illegal. When his master died, Scott sued his master's widow for his and his family's freedom, stating that because he was in a free state, he was no longer a slave. The Supreme Court ruled against Scott. Their decision meant that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in new states and territories.
Kansas-Nebraska Act  -  A bill passed by Congress on May 30, 1854, granting statehood to the Kansas and Nebraska territories. The bill intensified the slave debate in America because it directly contradicted provisions in the Missouri Compromise, which barred the extension of slavery into new states. The legality of slavery, according to this new law, would be decided by "popular sovereignty"–that is, by the inhabitants of the territory.
1850 Compromise -  A series of legislative measures meant to assuage Southern fears that slavery was on the way out, and to reassure Northern anti-slavery forces that slavery was not going to be extended. Under this compromise, California was admitted as a free state, New Mexico and Utah territories were organized with the possibility of choosing to make slavery legal, and slavery was prohibited in the newly organized District of Columbia. In addition, the fugitive slave laws were made more strict.

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