This Brief Tragedy: Unraveling the Todd-Dickinson Affair

John Evangelist Walsh, Author Grove/Atlantic $18.95 (230p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1119-7
In 1881 one David Todd arrived with his wife, Mabel, to teach at Amherst College, sponsored by Austin Dickinson, poet Emily's brother. The newcomers received a warm welcome from Susan, Austin's wife of 25 years, but the friendship ended when Susan learned that Mabel had seduced both her son Ned and her husband. Mabel's private journal, according to this convincing, thoughtful, historically significant study, shows that she broke off with the son but fascinated the father until his death. Conniving with her husband, who was dependent on Austin for his job, Mabel enjoyed sex with both, sating her craving for power and financial security. And it is her unfair portrayal of Susan that has been magnified over the years in other books about the affair, charges the author ( The Hidden Life of Emily Dickinson ). Walsh writes in defense of the wronged wife, and also inspires thought on Emily's possible suicide in 1886 and life among the troubled members of the most unusual Dickinson family and their circle. Photos not seen by PW . (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
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