Discovered: The second known photo of Emily Dickinson?

The famously reclusive poet left behind only one known image — a teenage portrait. But if investigators are right, we now know what she looked like 12 years later

This daguerreotype from 1859 shows two young women — and the one on the left may very well be a 28-year-old Emily Dickinson.
(Image credit: Amherst College Archives & Special Collections/Emily Dickinson Museum)

The photo: Emily Dickinson was incredibly reclusive — so much so that there has long been only one known photograph of her. But now, a possible second image of the poet — a daguerreotype from 1859 owned by a private collector — has turned up in Amherst, Mass., Dickinson's hometown. Researchers are convinced it's a picture of Dickinson in her 20s. (See the photo at right.) In the image, a woman with a slight smile sits with her left arm extended tenderly behind the back of Dickinson's friend Kate Scott Turner, who had recently become a widow. A video comparison of the 1859 image with the already authenticated picture of Dickinson in 1847, at age 16, reveals strikingly similar facial characteristics. (See the video below). "The two women have the same eye opening size," with the right eye opening just a bit wider than the left, says professor Susan Pepin of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Amherst College even found a fabric sample at the Emily Dickinson Museum that appeared to match the dress in the photo. The dress is a bit out of date for the times, and Amherst notes that a few years earlier Dickinson had told a friend, "I'm so old-fashioned, darling, all your friends would stare."

The reaction: "If you're a lover of poetry, history, and mystery," the chance to see a second image of Emily Dickinson is a huge treat, says Kate Seamons at Newser. Finally, we can get a glimpse of her not as a teenager, but "as a mature woman showing striking presence, strength, and serenity." Well, not everyone wants to unravel the mysteries surrounding Dickinson, say Mark Shanahan and Meredith Goldstein at The Boston Globe. We know her backstory — she worked in isolation, driven by a broken heart — but the rest remained a riddle. "That there are almost no photos of her only enhanced the myth" — and that was arguably a good thing. Well, like it or not, we now apparently have the most revealing physical glimpse we've ever had of "the world's most famous shut-in," says Wathira Nganga at the New York Daily News. Really, though, a picture will never tell us as much about her as her "brief but thoughtful meditations on life, death, religion, and nature." Judge for yourself:

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