Thursday, September 29, 2011
What did I do today? Read some more of the Sewall E.D. biography, which is like Xeno's paradox. I keep being almost near the end and never quite seem to get there. I'm in the chapter where Sewall discusses Emily's relationship with a pair of female younger cousins of whom she was very fond and corresponded with throughout her life. But Sewall also notes that Mabel Loomis Todd (who had a decades-long affair with E.D.'s brother Austin, and who was instrumental in bringing E.D.'s poems to posthumous publication) dealt with them in the 1890s while gathering E.D.'s letters for publication, and found these women intolerably uncooperative & dull. The cousins were horrified at the idea of seeing their name in print and their beloved Emily's thoughts - classified, Eyes Only - made public. In the end they made copies of E.D.'s correspondence for Mabel - heavily redacted & addressed only to the 'Misses -------. '
"They were such geese," Mabel later wrote - "fairly exploded," as Richard Sewall characterizes her exasperated reaction.
As much as I love Emily of course, I really like Mabel too, her perspicacity, energy, determination, and inability to suffer fools gladly. So who do you trust? It's not so black-and-white. It seems that E.D. had been fond of her cousins from childhood, and over time they seemed to bring out a maternal streak in her (the cousins had been orphaned at a young age). Still, I can imagine scenes of Mabel encountering these "geese," kin to a breed of minor, risible, annoyingly fretful characters from Jane Austen or Dickens.
Sweetheart, my darling, I should sign off, do a bit of vacuuming downstairs. I don't have an image of silly geese offhand, but I'll leave you with a snapshot that D recently captured, in our garden, of neighbor's chickens.
All my love, and very many kisses. Yours, B---e