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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

Emily Dickinson in Middle Age

By August 23, 2012

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For 150 years, we have had only one photographic image of Emily Dickinson, taken when she was only 16, a pale, demure, delicate-featured face, dark hair parted in the center and pulled straight back over her ears, gazing clear-eyed into the camera with an expression that is neither simpering nor solemn.Emily Dickinson, Daguerreotype, ca. 1847 (original daguerreotype is in the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections) Other photographs supposed to be of Dickinson have emerged, but not been fully verified—we noted Dr. Philip Gura’s 2000 discovery in our 2005 post, “Poets Are Still Musing on Pictures of Miss Emily.” And there is, of course, the painfully doctored photo of ED that appears on thousands of Kindle screensavers—see “The Emily Dickinson Kindle Portrait” at Jason Gignac’s “Moored at Sea” blog for notes on this awful phenomenon.

Now comes word from two respected institutions of Dickensoniana that there is another photograph, a view of ED in middle age, sitting with her friend Kate Scott Turner:

from the Emily Dickinson Museum:
New Dickinson Daguerreotype?
“Why might the reclusive Emily Dickinson, famous for claiming to have no photograph, have succumbed to posing for a portrait with her arm around her friend Kate Turner? How might such a daguerreotype have found its way to a Springfield junk dealer? Why was there no mention of such a photograph in contemporary documentation? Answers to these and other questions are likely to become a new quest for Dickinson scholars.”

from Amherst College:
The World Is Not Acquainted with Us,” Emily Dickinson and Kate Scott Turner
“If the daguerreotype is eventually accepted as Dickinson, it will change our idea of her, providing a view of the poet as a mature woman showing striking presence, strength, and serenity. She (whoever she is) seems to be the one in charge here, the one who decided that on a certain day in a certain year, she and her friend would have their likenesses preserved. In fact, even if this photograph is not of Dickinson and Turner, it has still been of use in forcing us to imagine Dickinson as an adult, past the age of the ethereal-looking 16-year-old we have known for so many years.”

More on Emily Dickinson:
Brief biographical profile of Emily Dickinson
Library: Poems by Dickinson
Wearing Emily Dickinson, Wearing Her Words” (August 2011)
The Scientist in Emily Dickinson” (September 2010)
Emily Dickinson: Her Rhymes, Her Dashes, Her Flowers, Her Fits?” (July 2010)
Emily’s Pearls Still Shine in the 21st Century” (June 2008)
Poets Are Still Musing on Pictures of Miss Emily” (July 2005)
What Would Emily Say? An Indeath Interview,” by Robyn Sue Millerz (February 2003)
Emily Dickinson: Continuing Enigma,” by Jone Johnson Lewis


August 23, 2012 at 11:03 am
(1) John Quinlan says:

The mouth looks very different to me. I am no kind of expert but it just does not look like the earlier photo as an older person

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