Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.-Polly Longsworth will deliver a talk titled "Abyss Has No Biographer: Researching the Hidden Life of Emily Dickinson" on the 172nd anniversary of Dickinson's birth, Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 4 p.m. in the Archives and Special Collections of the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College. Longsworth is an independent scholar and author of a forthcoming biography of the poet. The Amherst College Library, through its May H. and Albert M. Morris '13 fund, is the sponsor of Longsworth's talk, one of a series by scholars using the college library's resources. A selection of Dickinson manuscripts will be on display at the event, which is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the talk.
Educated at Smith College, Longsworth contributed an essay to last year's volume of photographs by Jerome Liebling, The Dickinsons of Amherst, and is the author of The World of Emily Dickinson (1990). Her 1994 work, Austin and Mabel: The Amherst Love Affair and Love Letters of Austin Dickinson and Mabel Loomis Todd, is "one of the most explosive books ever published about social and sexual mores in nineteenth-century America," according to the New York Review of Books. She also has written and spoken frequently about Emily Dickinson.
Chris Benfey, a Dickinson scholar and professor of English at Mount Holyoke College who also contributed to The Dickinsons of Amherst, says, "Polly brings a rare combination of passion and skepticism to the biographer's task. She's always asking what we really know, beneath the legends and myths and half-truths, about Emily Dickinson. Everyone who works on Dickinson depends on Polly's fresh research, probing questions, and convincing conclusions."
Longsworth is a trustee of the Martha Dickinson Bianchi Trust, which administers The Evergreens in Amherst, and served on the boards of the Friends of the Amherst College Library, the Dickinson Homestead Advisory Board and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and the American Antiquarian Society, among others. The Dickinson Homestead and The Evergreens will celebrate the poet's birthday with an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14.