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Honoring Emily Dickinson (1830–1886): A Centennial Review of the Literature

Evelyn S. Meyer (Head of the reference department at the library of Drew University in Madison, NJ.)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 1 January 1987



When the first edition of Poems by Emily Dickinson was published in 1890, Samuel G. Ward, a writer for the Dial, commented, “I am with all the world intensely interested in Emily Dickinson. She may become world famous or she may never get out of New England” (Sewall 1974, 26). A century after Emily Dickinson's death, all the world is intensely interested in the full nature of her poetic genius and her commanding presence in American literature. Indeed, if fame belonged to her she could not escape it (JL 265). She was concerned about becoming “great.” Fame intrigued her, but it did not consume her. She preferred “To earn it by disdaining it—”(JP 1427). Critics say that she sensed her genius but could never have envisioned the extent to which others would recognize it. She wrote, “Fame is a bee./It has a song—/It has a sting—/Ah, too, it has a wing” (JP 1763). On 7 May 1984 the names of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were inscribed on stone tablets and set into the floor of the newly founded United States Poets' Corner of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, “the first poets elected to this pantheon of American writers” (New York Times 1985). Celebrations in her honor draw a distinguished assemblage of international scholars, renowned authors and poets, biographers, critics, literary historians, and admirers‐at‐large. In May 1986 devoted followers came from places as distant as Germany, Poland, Scandinavia, and Japan to Washington, DC, to participate in the Folger Shakespeare Library's conference, “Emily Dickinson, Letter to the World.”


Meyer, E.S. (1987), "Honoring Emily Dickinson (1830–1886): A Centennial Review of the Literature", Reference Services Review, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 7-22.




Copyright © 1987, MCB UP Limited

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