280 Main St.
Amherst, MA 01002

W, Sat 1-5 p.m.

W - Sat 1-5 p.m.

W -  Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sun 1-5 p.m.

W -  Sat 1-5 p.m.

W - Sat 1-5 p.m.

DEC 10
Open House in honor of Emily Dickinson's Birthday (December 10, 1830) Free and open to the public.  
1-4 p.m.


$8 Adult
$7 Senior / College Student
$6 High School Students 
$5 Children ages 6-12


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She's a poet, and now you know it
by Megan Daley

I've always loved going to an old home, like Monticello and Mount Vernon where famous people I've read about have lived. I feel like some part of them may rub off onto me, that I will be struck by the inspiration that made them great when I stand among their belongings and see the things they saw when they were alive.

I had the same experience when I visited the house of Amherst resident and poet, Emily Dickinson. I stood in the same room in which Dickinson wrote her poems. I've never been much of a fan of poetry, but even I was moved when I realized that the tiny room, sparsely furnished, was the place where Dickinson had written about the world from which she had locked herself away. How, I wondered, could someone who rarely left her little home make such astute observations about the world around her? I suddenly gained an appreciation of Dickinsonís poems, such as this one:

     The soul selects her own society, 
     Then shuts the door; 
     On her divine majority 
     Obtrude no more. 

     Unmoved, she notes the chariotís pausing 
     At her low gate; 
     Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling 
     Upon her mat. 

     I íve known her from an ample nation 
     Choose one; 
     Then close the valves of her attention 
     Like stone. 

Emily Dickinson was born in 1830, in a house called the Homestead, to a Calvinist family. Dickinsonís lawyer/congressman father believed in the importance of education. Therefore, Dickinson attended Amherst Academy and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. When she was in her early 20s, Dickinson began writing her poetry, and also started her life of solitude, rarely leaving her house, or even her room. Dickinson began to dress in white and refuse most contact even with friends.  Her life during this time remains a mystery. During Dickinsonís lifetime, only seven of her poems were published. After her death, however, her sister published the rest of her works, which soon became very popular. Now, those interested in Dickinson, come to the Emily Dickinson Museum to tour her house and learn about her life. 


The first house that we entered on the tour was the Homestead house, where Dickinson was born, raised, and died. This house was owned first by Emily Dickinsonís grandparents and was kept in the family until Dickinsonís sisterís death. The house went through several owners from 1899 until 1963, when the house was finally designated as a National Historic Landmark. The owners, the Parke family, then sold the house to the Trustees of Amherst College in 1965. Recently, restorations have been made to the home to make it look more like it did in Dickinsonís time. Furniture that is similar or identical to what was in this house when Emily Dickinson lived there has been procured and the house was repainted from its plain, brick faÁade to the pale tan color that paint analysts believe the house was originally.

The next house on the tour was The Evergreens, where Dickinsonís brother, Austin and his family, lived. After Austin and his wifeís deaths, their daughter lived in and preserved the house until her death in 1943. The next owners of the house recognized its historical significance and continued to preserve it. The furniture, dťcor and household items are all originals, the same ones used when Emily Dickinson was alive. This house also has a locked nursery that has been unopened since  Dickinsonís nephew, died there of typhoid at the age of eight. I peered through the keyhole into a room full of toys. I could imagine the child 


How Does that Garden Grow?

New feet within my garden go
New fingers stir the sod
A Troubadour upon the Elm
Betrays the solitude.

Many of Dickinson's poems are about flowers and nature, yet it still comes as a surprise to some who have long heard about Dickinson shutting herself away from the world that Emily Dickinson was an accomplished gardener.

Keeping up with the renovations that are underway to restore the Emily Dickinson Museum to its former appearance, research has been done by the museum staff to find out what the gardens looked like in Dickinson's lifetime, according to an article in The Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Funding from the Save America's Treasures grant will pay for part of the restoration and the Amherst Historical Commission is hoping that the Town Meeting will give additional funds for the project, which they hope to have ready to begin by next fall.

who had played with these items,  who had lived in this room, who had been so loved by his family that they couldnít bear to change his room after his death. They simply locking it and all the memories it held. Soon, however, the memories will be unlocked; the museum plans to open this room sometime this year.

The tour guides, knowledgeable in everything Emily Dickinson, also had stories about her that you wonít find in your literature books. For example, did you know that Dickinson,  used to lower a basket of cookies and sweets to the children who would wait below her window? Or that Dickinson used to have people over to play music while she wrote, even though she refused to leave her room to greet them? It reminded me of yet another poem that Dickinson wrote:

     Iím nobody! Who are you? 
     Are you nobody, too? 
     Then there ís a pair of usódonít tell! 
     They íd banish us, you know. 

     How dreary to be somebody! 
     How public, like a frog 
     To tell your name the livelong day 
     To an admiring bog! 

Although I visited the Emily Dickinson Museum in the early spring, I could see that the famous gardens, which had been laid out by Emily, her mother and her sister, would be beautiful when the flowers bloomed, since work was being done by groundskeepers to restore the gardens to how they looked when the Dickinson women planted them.  Dickinsonís many poems about nature and gardens sprang to mind as I looked at the layout that she had helped plan.

     "Whose are the little beds," I asked, 
     "Which in the valleys lie?" 
     Some shook their heads, and others smiled, 
     And no one made reply. 

     "Perhaps they did not hear," I said; 
     "I will inquire again. 
     Whose are the beds, the tiny beds 
     So thick upon the plain?" 

     "íT is daisy in the shortest; 
     A little farther on, 
     Nearest the door to wake the first, 
     Little leontodon. 
     "íT is iris, sir, and aster, 
     Anemone and bell, 
     Batschia in the blanket red, 
     And chubby daffodil." 

     Meanwhile at many cradles 
     Her busy foot she plied, 
     Humming the quaintest lullaby 
     That ever rocked a child. 

     "Hush! Epigea wakens! 
     The crocus stirs her lids, 
     Rhodoraís cheek is crimson,ó 
     Sheís dreaming of the woods." 

     Then, turning from them, reverent, 
     "Their bed-time ít is," she said; 
     "The bumble-bees will wake them 
     When April woods are red." 


This website was created by the students of Journalism 375 at the University of Massachusetts 2005