How Did Emily Dickinson Die? A Life of Solitude

Cover image featuring Emily Dickinson for the post How did Emily Dickinson die

One of the most influential poets who enriched English literature was Emily Dickinson. Her genius and uniqueness spoke for themselves. Known for her unconventional pattern of writing poetry with a combination of dashes and pauses. While her death revealed a lot of her hidden poems, the reason for her death lies in the uncertain zone. How did Emily Dickinson die?

A consensus for the reason for her death is kidney failure, but there is a small slice of people who believe it was something else. This article will explore the cause of the death of Emily Dickinson, about her life and childhood. I’ll also discuss some of Emily Dickinson’s facts and her family. 

How did Emily Dickinson die? 

Emily Dickinson was never a social person. She did not even want her works to be published. Just like herself, she wanted her works to stay under the cover of darkness, revealing them only to a select few. 

As her age progressed, she started suffering from health issues. She had trouble with her eyesight which was a major hindrance in her poetry writing. She is also said to have suffered from high blood pressure which is not too far-fetched as later in her life she saw an increased amount of household responsibilities. 

Emily Dickinson died from Bright’s disease. Bright’s disease is the inflammation of the kidneys in which there is a condition called acute or chronic nephritis. This occurs due to the presence of albumin in the urine. Albumin is a protein found in eggs, etc. Bright’s disease was discovered by English physician Robert Bright in 1827. 

Emily Dickinson was 55 years of age when she died on May 15, 1886, in Amherst, Massachusetts. 

Did Emily Dickinson die of Epilepsy?

This notion is more of speculation and less of a fact, but it was necessary to mention it when we are writing an article on how did Emily Dickinson die. The idea comes from Dickinson’s biography called Lives Like Loaded Guns. The title of this book consists of alliteration, just like many of her poems did. 

Lyndall Gordon, a senior research fellow at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, who is also the author of Dickinson’s biography, suggests that Emily Dickinson may have suffered from epilepsy. Was it the cause of her death is not certain but it did play an important role in her life.

Gordon says that many of Emily Dickinson’s poems talk about a handicap and it may point towards a possibility of her having the disease. There is no evidence to support this idea, but if we believe that Dickinson had epilepsy, a few of her peculiarities can be explained. 

Her reclused and secluded life 

Dickinson always kept herself away from the world. She preferred the company of only a few and in her later life, she stayed at her father’s house in Amherst, the place she was born. But why? This could be explained if we are to believe that she had epilepsy. 

Dickinson always suggested that she had some handicaps. This would also explain her seclusion and living in her father’s house. She did not want to reveal herself to the world. This could also be the reason why Emily Dickinson never publish her poems. Letting her poems into the world would turn more eyes towards her and she did not want that. But after all the possibilities and assumptions, it is all just a theory and nothing else. But why did Dickinson not want her poems to be published?

Why did Emily Dickinson not want to publish her poems?

Here is an interesting fact about Emily Dickinson, she had only a handful of poems out for the world when she was alive. She rose to popularity only after her death, just like Bruce Lee. Here is another fact about Emily Dickinson. On her deathbed, she asked her sister to destroy all the poems she had written in her lifetime. Do you know how many poems were not revealed and she wanted it destroyed? 1,800 brilliant and moving poems!

This clearly shows one attribute of Dickinson’s character, she did not want the world to see her poems. We know that she did not like to mix with the world too. This could be a possible reason. Not that she feared or disliked fame, of that we have no clue. What she feared was criticism. 

Why Emily Dickinson feared criticism.

Emily Dickinson’s poems were unusual for her time. When poets paid a lot of attention to the structure and meter of the poem, Dickinson only wanted to express herself. She knew that her poetry would be viewed as an outcast. She feared people would criticize her poems, poems that mean a lot to her. Since she was an introvert and as an introvert myself, poetry is the only form of expressing ourselves. This fear is why she did not like to publish her poems. And she was right. 

After her death, Dickinson’s sister-in-law Susan tried to publish her poems. She sent a poem to the New York editor of the day and he rejected the poem, probably because it was too different from the conventional pattern. 

Even when her poems were published, her poems were heavily edited. This defeats the purpose of the poems. This was exactly what Dickinson feared. But it was after 1955 when Thomas H. Johnson published the unedited version of her poems. Dickinson was wrong. Her poems were loved by everyone and her style was applauded. 

This was the story of how Emily Dickinson died. But before we go, we have added a few extra things for you to read. 

Emily Dickinson’s famous poems 

Emily Dickinson wrote a total of more than 1,800 poems. While every poem of hers has a mysterious rhythm to it, some poems are loved more than others, as is with every poet. So we had made a small list of some of her most famous poems for you to read. 

Because I could not stop for Death

“Faith” is a fine invention

Tell all truth but tell it slant

Emily Dickinson’s books to read 

  • The complete poems of Emily 
  • Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson
  • Final Harvest by Emily Dickinson 
  • A brighter garden by ED
  • Envelope poems 
  • Witches’ Brew
  • Emily Dickinson Selected letters 
  • Love Poems 
  • Letters of Emily Dickinson
  • My letter to the world and other
  • The world in a frame 
  • Lives loaded like a gun
  • Hello sunshine, goodnight moonlight 

Emily Dickinson’s death was a major loss to the literature world. We lost a visionary poet who truly stood out of her time. There are only a few poets whose poems are being read even centuries after their death and Dickinson is one such poet. She has been one of my favorite poets and her poems will always inspire me to write and learn. Thank you Ms. Dickinson for the treasure you have provided us with.

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