Featured Book

Featured Articles

Travel Safety

Featured Advertisers

Hotel Savoy Prague

Sea Kayak Advenures

Search

go

Search By Country:


Search Now:

Experiences

go

Celebrating The Belle of Amherst


On May 15, 1886, Emily Dickinson, America's best-known female poet, slipped into eternity – dying, much as she had lived – shrouded in mystery.

The entrance to the Dickinson Homestead. Courtesy of Amherst College.The enigmatic spinster died in the Dickinson Homestead in Amherst, Mass., where she was born in 1830 and where she lived for all but 15 years of her life.

What tragic events turned this witty, once vivacious young woman into a white-robed eccentric, who shunned society, yet spied on guests from the darkened halls of her father's mansion when her parents entertained?

Who was the married man she loved, and was he the reason she achieved such profound insight into the human soul? Was there really a lover at all? Why did she, after writing some of the most brilliant poems in the English language, pack them all away in a chest, refusing to publish them? While the answers have been long buried with the reclusive poet, the fascination with her lingers.

Like many poets, Dickinson's fame came to her posthumously: Of her nearly 1,800 poems and 1,000 letters, less than a dozen went to press during her lifetime. Yet, her spirit lives on in this scenic college community in the foothills of the Berkshires.

Map of downtown Amherst. Courtesy of Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. Her home, The Homestead, designated a National Historic Landmark and now owned by the trustees of Amherst College, is swamped by visitors throughout the year.

Built circa 1813 for Dickinson's grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, a lawyer and one of the principal founders of Amherst College, the stately, two-story home is said to have been the first brick house in Amherst. With the exception of Emily's brother, Austin, who lived with his wife and family next door in a new house (the Evergreens), the Dickinson's lived at the family Homestead until they died. While The Homestead is sadly bereft of Dickinson furnishings and memorabilia, yet Emily's aura still prevails throughout the spacious, well-kept quarters. When her younger sister, Lavinia, died in 1899, the Homestead was inherited by their niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, and leased until 1916, when it was sold to the Parke family. Unfortunately, many of the Dickinson treasures were lost in that shuffle.

Today, a wide, high-ceilinged central hall runs straight through to the rear of the house, flanked by two, scantily furnished, large parlors – which guides confess, aren't necessarily original Dickinson fixtures – and a library representing her brother Austin's "inner sanctum".

The conservatory where Emily tended her exotic plants, and where she loved to write, no longer exists. On its site, a barren terrace gapes vacantly above Emily's beloved gardens. From this vantage point, with the scenic Pioneer Valley as a backdrop, it's easy to understand what stirred her soul and moved her to the vivid imagery of her prose.

Family photographs, prints, well worn books, "fascicles" (hand sewn manuscript books in which she penned her poems) combined with some china and period pieces, give the impression that Emily might have just stepped out momentarily and is lurking behind one of the swinging doors – her favorite haunt during social events. It was only during the annual Amherst College reception, held in her father’s house, that she could be coaxed out of hiding.

Emily Dickinson's bedroom. Courtesy of Amherst College.Upstairs, Emily's bedroom, located at the front of the house, looks out over what she poetically described as "the first things I see each day: a distant hill, a steeple with a weathervane, and a chimney."

A single, wooden sleigh bed, a tiny desk where she wrote some of her poems, an antique bureau and a Franklin stove dot the otherwise spartan room, leading you to wonder if the austere furnishings were the cause, or the effect of, becoming so reclusive. A small straw basket sits on the windowsill, almost as if the candy, which once filled it, is still waiting for her to lower it when neighborhood kids walk by.

Emily Dickinson's basket. Courtesy of Amherst College.A worn wooden cradle, where Emily slept as an infant, lithographs of people she admired, such as fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and one of her petite white dresses, top off the decor.

After immersing yourself in Dickinson lore, stop in at the Lord Jeffrey Inn for a sumptuous Sunday brunch or a variety of tasty treats in either Boltwood Tavern or the Tavern on the Hearth dining room. Boltwood’s award-winning Black Angus Burger is legendary and the menu highlights such unusual fare as grilled salmon salad, duck Madeira and saddle of lamb, along with a vast array of other culinary delights.

For an overnight stay, the "Lord Jeff" – as it is known to locals – promises a typically quaint New England experience, reflecting a kinder, gentler world: a friendly staff, refurbished rooms dotted with expensive antiques, plump comforters, cozy fireplaces, and freshly baked cookies.

Emily Dickinson's writing table. Courtesy of Amherst College.Listen carefully, some evening, you might just hear Emily whispering longingly in the wind, to her mysterious lover: "Parting is all we know of heaven, and all we need of hell."

When You Go:

The Amherst History Museum is located at 67 Amity Street, in the center of Amherst, Mass., in Pioneer Valley. For tour schedule and more information, call: (413) 256-0678.

The Dickinson Homestead is located at 280 Main Street, Amherst, MA 01002, Tel: (413) 542-8161. Also visit their Web site at: www.amherst.edu/~edhouse/

Lord Jeffrey Inn is located at 30 Boltwood Ave. Tel: (413) 253-2576.

For more information on accommodations and attractions in Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, contact the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.valleyvisitor.com or Tel: 1-800-723-1548.

A single, wooden sleigh bed, a tiny desk where she wrote some of her poems, an antique bureau and a Franklin stove dot the otherwise spartan room, leading you to wonder if the austere furnishings were the cause, or the effect of, becoming so reclusive. A small straw basket sits on the windowsill, almost as if the candy, which once filled it, is still waiting for her to lower it when neighborhood kids walk by.

Emily Dickinson's basket. Courtesy of Amherst College.A worn wooden cradle, where Emily slept as an infant, lithographs of people she admired, such as fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and one of her petite white dresses, top off the decor.

After immersing yourself in Dickinson lore, stop in at the Lord Jeffrey Inn for a sumptuous Sunday brunch or a variety of tasty treats in either Boltwood Tavern or the Tavern on the Hearth dining room. Boltwoods award-winning Black Angus Burger is legendary and the menu highlights such unusual fare as grilled salmon salad, duck Madeira and saddle of lamb, along with a vast array of other culinary delights.

For an overnight stay, the "Lord Jeff" as it is known to locals promises a typically quaint New England experience, reflecting a kinder, gentler world: a friendly staff, refurbished rooms dotted with expensive antiques, plump comforters, cozy fireplaces, and freshly baked cookies.

Emily Dickinson's writing table. Courtesy of Amherst College.Listen carefully, some evening, you might just hear Emily whispering longingly in the wind, to her mysterious lover: "Parting is all we know of heaven, and all we need of hell."

When You Go:

The Amherst History Museum is located at 67 Amity Street, in the center of Amherst, Mass., in Pioneer Valley. For tour schedule and more information, call: (413) 256-0678.

The Dickinson Homestead is located at 280 Main Street, Amherst, MA 01002, Tel: (413) 542-8161. Also visit their Web site at: www.amherst.edu/~edhouse/

Lord Jeffrey Inn is located at 30 Boltwood Ave. Tel: (413) 253-2576.

For more information on accommodations and attractions in Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, contact the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.valleyvisitor.com or Tel: 1-800-723-1548.