I thought that there would be more insight into Emily's personality, but I did learn some new things about her personal life that I did not know before. I found the story about Mabel and the Dickinsons interesting.
I just finished reading After Emily, and I loved it. I didn’t want it to end as I was entranced by seeing another part of Emily Dickinson’s story told from a new perspective. This is the story of the two women who were determined to publish Dickinson’s poems. I’ve always been fascinated and drawn to Emily Dickinson and her story, including all of the other people involved. I have to say that I never was very interested in Mabel Loomis Todd and her daughter Millicent Todd Bingham, but Julie Dobrow shares such keen insight into each woman as a person, that I find myself intrigued by them, especially as the author demonstrates how each women remarkably lived her life well beyond the confines of a woman’s life at that time.
Author Julie Dobrow did a remarkable job of sorting through Mabel’s and Millicent’s vast collection of personal papers and presenting each women in such a compelling and thoughtful manner. I’m sure that both Mabel and Millicent would be very pleased not only to have their story told with such respect and admiration for their accomplishments, but also for the recognition given them for who they each were beyond being just Emily Dickinson’s editors.
This book is about how Emily's rather haphazard handwritten collection of poems came to be edited and published. Mabel Loomis Todd, who was having an affair with Emily's brother Austin, was the one who initially agreed to work on the poems, and her daughter, Millicent Todd Bingham, got involved later. They were both busy and talented women, but they seemed to have made Emily's poems a priority in their lives. Mabel's love for Austin was certainly a factor in her decision to get involved in this huge task.
Only thing is, Emily's sister Lavinia, who asked Mabel to take on the job of editing, had actually been instructed by Emily to burn all her papers when she died. This makes this seem kind of a shabby business. And rather intensive - the problem was that Emily's writing wasn't that easy to read, and she would give alternative drafts of the same poem. Then there were later disputes between the Dickinsons and Todds about who owned the poems after Lavinia had given them all to Mabel for editing. (Mabel hid around 700 of them and passed them on to Millicent.)
It was interesting, but it left me with the feeling that it would have been more honorable for Lavinia to have followed Emily's instructions and left Mabel and Millicent to pursue their own interests. Mabel was an accomplished writer, speaker, and musician who accompanied her astronomer professor husband on many solar eclipse expeditions. Millicent earned earned doctorate degrees in both French and geology, although her husband encouraged her to focus on editing Emily. Sure, Emily was an interesting poet, but she seems to have come to us at the cost of her sister's integrity and two women's lives. In my opinion, Mabel would have done better to turn Lavinia down; but she probably felt that she couldn't because Lavinia had allowed some assignations with Austin at her home, and could have confirmed to their spouses Susan Dickinson and David Todd what everyone was suspecting anyway.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I was familiar with Emily Dickinson's Poems but not familiar with the story behind getting them published. This book is a biography about Mabel and her Daughter Millicent and how they came to publish the poems after Emily's death. Fortunately the women left behind massive archives. The author does a very good job of going through the letters and diaries to tell this fascinating little known story. All these women were remarkable and refused to conform to social norms. The story held my interest and was easy to read. Anyone with an interest in poetry, publishing and women's studies will enjoy this book.
I received this book as a gift from my best friend in college. It was one of the best books i’ve read. The research was meticulous. The mother and daughter who did the work on Emily’s poems was presented in a way that gave me great appreciation and understanding for editing in general and specifically in poetry. Two brilliant driven women who had the foresight to see and dedicate their lives to Emily’s brilliant work. The characters were presented realistically in the complexities of a society that had strict rules for inclusion and exclusion.
With the aid of a voluminous amount of journals, letters and documents, Julie Dobrow has pieced together a startling and tantalizing book about the bold and passionate lives of the mother and daughter who brought Emily Dickinson's poetry to the world. The world we are privileged to enter is far different and wonderfully so, from the standard myths about the poet. "After Emily" is a brilliant book.