Dickinson’s flowers

The author of The Gardens of Emily Dickinson argues that knowledge of flowers is the key to understanding the poet’s work.

I visited Dickinson’s house in Amherst, Massachusetts, while staying with my sister in Northampton a few years ago.

The woman who gave the tour discussed the furniture, the linens, and the other accoutrements of the house in such detail that you were sure with each item she was going to say, “and this was Emily’s favorite chair” or “the worn spots on the bedspread are the result of Ms. Dickinson’s long illness that inspired ‘Time and Eternity.'”

Instead, after pointing out the intricate embroidery on a doily or the fine quality of the stained glass, she said, “Now this is not an actual bedspread (or chair or stained-glass window) used in the Dickinson household, but it’s very similar to those that were in fashion at the time.”

My sister’s partner and I feigned interest in the descriptions, but my sister lost patience after the first room. She stayed off to the side, rolling her eyes and making quiet strangling noises that I hoped the guide couldn’t hear. We left before the garden tour.

You can take a tour of Dickinson’s hometown online.


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