Emily Dickinson is best known as an intensely private, even reclusive writer. Yet the way she has been mythologised has meant her work is often misunderstood. This introduction delves behind the myth to present a poet who was deeply engaged with the issues of her day. In a lucid and elegant style, the book places her life and work in the historical context of the Civil War, the suffrage movement, and the rapid industrialisation of the United States. Wendy Martin explores the ways in which Dickinson's personal struggles with romantic love, religious faith, friendship and community shape her poetry. The complex publication history of her works, as well as their reception, is teased out, and a guide to further reading is included. Dickinson emerges not only as one of America's finest poets, but also as a fiercely independent intellect and an original talent writing poetry far ahead of her time.