Leonard Humphrey was the new principal of Amherst Academy when Emily Dickinson was in her final year. He was an educator in his early twenties and Emily grew close to him as a friend and mentor. Humphrey's sparked, as well as Benjamin F. Newton, her love of books and reading. He is one of the several men that Emily refers to as a "Master". This may have inspired her to write poems addressed and about masters.
When Humphrey died unexpectedly at the age of 25, Emily was only twenty years old. This death was amongst many that furthered her depression. She wrote to a friend:
“…the hour of evening is sad – it was once my study hour – my master has gone to rest, and the open leaf of the book, and the scholar at school alone, make the tears come, and I cannot brush them away; I would not if I could, for they are the only tribute I can pay the departed Humphrey.”