Houghton Library, Harvard University

Emily’s Bible. Dickinson’s father, hoping to entice his daughter to practice her family’s faith, purchased this Bible for her, gilding it with her name and inscribing it (compare with photo of inscription from Emily Dickinson’s Bible), “A Present from her father, 1844.” Although Emily ceased going to church after childhood, she did read the Bible faithfully and knew it so well that she could allude to many biblical passages, as is clear from her poems and letters.

Despite her father’s efforts, the reclusive poet was not drawn to conventional Christianity. In an early letter to her friend and mentor Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a 31-year-old Dickinson wrote, “I have a brother and sister; my mother does not care for thought, and father, too busy with his briefs to notice what we do. He buys me many books, but begs me not to read them, because he fears they joggle the mind. They are religious, except me, and address an eclipse, every morning, whom they call their ‘Father.’”