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Monday, September 10, 2012

New Daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson Exhibited

Researchers at Amherst College in Massachusetts, which has an extensive collection of manuscripts and other materials related to hometown girl and world-class poet Emily Dickinson, have released what seems to be, by all the evidence so far, a hitherto unknown daguerreotype of Emily and her friend Kate Scott Turner, taken in 1859.

Which is really big news in the literary world, since before now the only known photographic image of Dickinson is another daguerreotype made in 1847, when she was 16. In the teenage photo, she seems a bit shy and tense, but in the new image, she is fully grown up, confident and content, with just the barest phantom of a smile upon her lips.

Check out the two daguerrotypes, and the video comparison below, and judge for yourself whether it's really Emily or not.

For more info on the discovery and evaluation of the daguerreotype, see the Dickinson Electronic Archives website.

In high school, your Head Trucker was quite taken by Dickinson's poetry, and she remains a lifelong favorite. When I got to college, I found the exhaustive 1955 complete edition of her poems, all 1,775 of them, and I think I must have read nearly every one of them. Wonderful stuff.

It also cheers me to think that the two greatest American poets of the 19th century - Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman - were gay. In Whitman's case, most definitely. As for Dickinson - well, there's no proof, but it sure seems that way. Though of course not a word about their gayness was ever mentioned in any literature class I ever took, neither in high school or in college.

BTW - if you care about Dickinson at all, you simply must see the one-woman-show biography of her, The Belle of Amherst, played by the magnificent Julie Harris. It's a joyous, moving performance I think you will long remember, as I do.

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