7. Emily Dickinson
One of history’s most famous reclusive writers.
Dickinson, from the outside, may have been the image of a madwoman in the attic, but extreme social phobia didn’t prevent her from being an incredibly prolific (albeit, posthumous) poet. Dickinson wrote about 1800 poems, but published less than a dozen during her life. This could be due to what many scholars now see as an anxiety disorder. Dickinson effectively retreated from society in her twenties, and rarely left the house in her older years. She was reported to have fled from the sound of neighbors approaching the home, preferring the company of her family, a select few close friends, and some of the neighborhood children.
Whether her aversion to social interactions outside her family was truly the result of a medical condition or simply a desire to live a cloistered life, Dickinson used her time alone to create volumes of poetry that are beloved throughout the world today. Her lyrical style, descriptive imagery, and universal (sometimes dark) themes have given her a level of fame she never wanted in life.
Though there is speculation of a possible secret or one-sided love from the poet to one of her close male friends (derived from some passionate letters written only to “Master”), Dickinson never had any open romantic relationships. Though she got along well with children, her poems don’t include mention of any longing for a child of her own. She was a spinster til the very end.