Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
After Emily Dickinson’s death in 1886, her sister Lavinia found forty-nine fascicles, or packets, of poems that Dickinson had sewn together during the late 1850’s and early 1860’s. Lavinia enlisted the help of Mabel Loomis Todd, the wife of an Amherst professor, to transcribe them. With the assistance of the literary editor Thomas Wentworth, they altered the rhyme scheme, regularized the meter, and revised unconventional metaphors for the 115 poems they published in 1890. These were well received and led to the publication in 1891 of 161 additional poems and, in 1896, of 168 more.
In 1914, Dickinson’s niece and literary heir, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, compiled other poems. She kept alterations to the verse to a minimum, as was also the case with additional volumes in 1929 and 1935. Millicent Todd Bingham in 1945 published the remaining 688 poems and fragments. When Dickinson’s literary estate was transferred to Harvard University in 1950, Thomas H. Johnson began to arrange the unreconstructed and comprehensive body of Dickinson’s poetry chronologically. The Poems of Emily Dickinson appeared in 1955, and The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson appeared in 1960. Aside from correcting misspellings and misplaced apostrophes, Johnson let Dickinson’s original punctuation and capitalization stand. To the previously editorialized publications, Johnson restored the original dashes and other nonconformist usage, listing for each poem...
(The entire section is 3619 words.)
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