Has something in Emily D's. life remained sealed? According to Lyndall Gordon, a senior research fellow at St. Hilda's College in Oxford, England, Emily Dickinson may have suffered from epilepsy. If Gordon's hypothesis is correct, her seclusion and refusal to marry would be explained in a new light.
References to sickness are numerous in Dickinson's poems. "I felt a Funeral, in my Brain," she wrote, and "I dropped down, and down." In another poem, " I felt a Cleaving in my Mind—/As if my Brain had split—." She refers to "convulsion" and "throe." Did Emily tell us, through metaphor, something about a medical condition that she had? Supporting factors include prescriptions consistent with epilepsy treatments of the time, photosensitivity (common among epileptics), and a family history of epilepsy.
Gordon's book, Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds, looks at Dickinson's health and family issues – new info supported by documentary evidence, impressive research, brilliant writing – a fascinating read.