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

Written by Julie Dobrow
Review by Jeanne Greene

This is the story of Mabel Todd and her daughter, Millicent Bingham, a remarkable mother and daughter, unconventional and fearless in their allegiances, who allied to give Emily Dickinson’s poetry the audience it deserved. We meet Mabel and her husband, David, in Amherst, Massachusetts, as frequent visitors to the Dickinson home who never see Emily. The women carry on a correspondence of a sort—brief notes and small gifts—and when Emily dies in 1881, Mabel’s life changes. She meets and falls in love with Emily’s married brother, Austin, and through him, his sister’s poetry. Mabel’s relationships with her mother Millicent can be difficult, but they agree that Emily Dickinson’s poetry must be made public. The legal battles that follow, Mabel’s 13-year affair with Austin, and her alliance with Millicent were described in hundreds of letters, diaries, and journals, which led Dubrow to this story. Well-written, even romantic, After Emily credits two stubborn women for revealing the genius of a talented woman who never fought for herself.