From The Guardian:
Emily Dickinson was a great poet whose life has remained a mystery. The time has come to dispel the myth of a quaint and helpless creature, disappointed in love, who gave up on life. I think she was unafraid of her own passions and talent; that her brother's sexual betrayal and subsequent family feud had a profound effect on the Dickinson legend that has come down to us; and perhaps most significantly, I believe that Emily had an illness – a secret that explains much. It was Emily herself who helped to devise the blueprint for her legend, starting at the age of 23 when she declined an invitation from a friend: “I'm so old-fashioned, Darling, that all your friends would stare.” In place of the tart young woman she was, she adopted this retiring posture. Born in 1830 into the leading family of Amherst, a college town in Massachusetts, she never left what she always called “my father's house”. Townsfolk spoke of her as “the Myth”.
On the face of it, the life of this New England poet seems uneventful and largely invisible, but there's a forceful, even overwhelming character belied by her still surface. She called it a “still – Volcano – Life”, and that volcano rumbles beneath the domestic surface of her poetry and a thousand letters. Stillness was not a retreat from life (as legend would have it) but her form of control. Far from the helplessness she played up at times, she was uncompromising; until the explosion in her family, she lived on her own terms.