After Emily: Two Remarkable Women and the Legacy of America’s Greatest Poet

Julie Dobrow. Norton, $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-393-24926-2
Tufts University professor Dobrow chronicles the lives of two of Emily Dickinson’s earliest champions and editors, the mother-daughter team of Mabel Loomis Todd and Millicent Todd Bingham, shining a light on how they shaped “the contours of [Dickinson’s] poetry as we know it today.” Mabel, an author, was also the longtime lover of Dickinson’s brother, Austin, bringing her into conflict with Austin’s wife, Sue, and Emily’s sister, Lavinia. These feuds frequently stalled publication of Dickinson’s work and, as Mabel neared the end of her life, she implored Millicent to continue working on the poet’s as-yet unpublished output. Dobrow authoritatively traces the tortuous editorial and publication process that first brought Dickinson’s work to public attention, and sensitively explores her subjects’ interior lives, showing how Mabel suffered from being the other woman in Austin’s life and how Millicent struggled growing up in her charismatic mother’s shadow. Quotes from Mabel’s diary demonstrate her intuitive understanding of Dickinson’s greatness, such as when she declared that the poems “seemed to open the door into a wider universe.” Impeccably researched using more than 700 boxes of the Todds’ personal documents, Dobrow’s narrative gives a fascinating glimpse into the lives of two tireless advocates for Dickinson’s work, demonstrating how poet and editors alike were “all women pushing up against the boundaries of their times.” (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 05/28/2018
Release date: 10/30/2018
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