Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In many respects a genius

...in 1882, Mabel Loomis Todd first recorded her impressions of her mysterious Amherst neighbor. Emily Dickinson always wore white and had her hair arranged "as was the fashion fifteen years ago." "She writes the strangest poems, and very remarkable ones," Mrs. Todd noted in her journal, adding, "She is in many respects a genius." Few scholars would disagree. Emily Dickinson was a genius and her poems were remarkable, indeed. Although she lived the majority of her adult life in seclusion, she wrote some of the most potent poems in the English language. When she died in 1886, her sister asked Mabel Todd to copy and edit the poems. In 1890 the first volume was published. Only then did the world discover Emily Dickinson.

-taken from http://massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=268

I still can't make up my mind about Mabel Loomis Todd. It's impossible not to appreciate her, on some basic level, as one of the people who published Dickinson's work. Clearly she had an understanding of the incredible talent evident in Dickinson's poetry, and yet it spawned a huge war over the editing of the poetry-- to the point that I have heard rumors that the fight over editing and publication is still in existence through the ancestors of Mabel Loomis Todd and Susan Dickinson.

I also still take issue with the "editing" liberties taken by both Mabel Loomis Todd and Sue Dickinson. At least some of their attempts at editing and publication of Dickinson's work seem to be more a reflection of their own selves, their senses of propriety and need for control, rather than Dickinson's work.

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