This essay is concerned with the framed portraits of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, and Thomas Carlyle that hung on Emily Dickinson’s bedroom wall during the last years of her life. It explores Dickinson’s usually ignored reverence for Carlyle and provides a new angle from which to view her well-known admiration for Barrett Browning and Eliot. Dickinson’s portrait gallery summons up Carlyle’s conviction that biographies and visual representations of eminent figures were culturally important sources of emulation but contests his exclusively male-centered approach to heroes and hero-worship. By visually positioning Barrett Browning and Eliot with Carlyle, Dickinson celebrates these women writers not just as her idols but as figures equivalent to Carlyle’s heroes. Her interconnection of these three writers evokes Carlyle’s influence on Barrett Browning and Eliot and their respective challenges to his ideas. Evidence in her writings suggests that Dickinson also responded critically to the masculinist tenor of Carlyle’s writings, even though his views about authorship, fame, and publication helpfully justified her role as a non-publishing poet.
|Title of host publication||The Oxford Handbook of Emily Dickinson|
|Editors||Cristanne Miller, Karen Sánchez-Eppler|
|Publisher||Oxford University Press|
|Number of pages||17|
|Publication status||Published - 14 Apr 2022|