“How happy is the little Stone- Emily Dickinson, Fr1570, c. 1881
That rambles in the Road alone
And doesn’t care about Careers
And Exigencies never fears -
Whose Coat of elemental Brown
A passing Universe put on,
And independent as the sun,
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute Decree
In casual simplicity -”
Emily Dickinson was born at the Homestead on December 10, 1830. Although her reclusiveness kept her close to home, her intellectual curiosity and emotional intensity tied her deeply to the world around her. Among her most significant lifelong relationships were those with her brother Austin and sister-in-law Susan, who lived just next door in a fashionable Italianate house that they named The Evergreens. Through their varied intellectual and aesthetic interests and their involvement in community affairs, the couple made their home into a center of social and cultural life, hosting both local residents and prestigious visitors. The couple’s three children, Ned, Martha, and Gilbert, were an added source of energy and joy to both the Homestead and The Evergreens.
Emily Dickinson’s quiet life here was infused with a creative energy that produced almost 1,800 poems and a profusion of vibrant letters. Her increasing withdrawal from public life limited her audience during her lifetime to family and friends, and her work remained virtually unpublished until after her death on May 15, 1886.
In her adult years at the Homestead Emily Dickinson began to write poetry in earnest. During her most productive period, 1858 to 1865, she compiled her poems into small packets now termed “fascicles.” Only ten of her poems are known to have been published in her lifetime, all anonymously and presumably without her permission.
After Emily Dickinson’s death her poems and life story were brought to the attention of the wider world through the competing efforts of family members and intimates. Her sister, Lavinia, and neighbor Mabel Loomis Todd saw to the initial publication of her poems. In the early twentieth century, the poet’s niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, edited additional collections and memoirs and preserved The Evergreens as a memorial to her aunt and family. Largely because of these efforts, Dickinson’s unique voice on the literary landscape has captured diverse audiences throughout the world.
The Homestead, probably the first brick house in Amherst, was built around 1813 for Samuel Fowler Dickinson and Lucretia Gunn Dickinson, Emily's grandparents. Fowler Dickinson, a lawyer, was one of the principal founders of Amherst College. In 1830, his eldest son Edward, also a lawyer, and Edward's wife, Emily Norcross Dickinson, together with their young son Austin, moved into the western half of the Homestead. Later that year, on December 10, Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born. In 1833, a second daughter, Lavinia, was born.
In 1833 the Homestead was sold to David Mack, owner of a general store in Amherst, and Fowler Dickinson resettled in Ohio, where he died in 1838. The Edward Dickinson family continued to live at the Homestead with the Mack family for seven more years, until 1840, when Edward purchased a clapboard house (no longer standing) on Pleasant Street. In 1855, following the death of David Mack, Edward Dickinson re-purchased his father's Homestead and moved his family there.
The Dickinsons built a brick addition on the back of the house for the kitchen and laundry, embellished the roof with a stylish cupola, erected a veranda on the western side of the house, and built a conservatory for the poet's exotic plants.
Directions to Next Stop
Continue east on Main Street to the corner of Dickinson Street. Turn right and head south to Spring Street. Turn right again until 90 Spring Street is on your right.