“All uncleanness seems washed clean in its lonely stretches; the life-giving sun and ardent air must still bring singular joy, the eager morning breeze, the opalescent distance, the plaintive evening sky all will continue to tell an exquisite if inarticulate story. That Tripoli will remain, whatever the Powers may decree.” - Mabel Loomis Todd, Tripoli the Mysterious
Mabel Loomis Todd was born Mabel Loomis on November 10, 1856 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She spent much of her childhood writing, painting, and practicing voice and piano. In 1877, while living in Washington D.C., she met David Peck Todd. They married on March 5, 1879. The Todds moved to Amherst in 1881. In Amherst, Mabel made the acquaintance of Austin Dickinson, Emily Dickinson's brother, and his wife Susan, and became a frequent guest at their home, the Evergreens. Todd often played the piano and sang for Emily Dickinson and her mother, in their home next to the Evergreens. Todd's relationship with the Dickinson family resulted in a friendship (through letter correspondences) with Emily Dickinson and a thirteen-year affair with Austin Dickinson. Two years after Emily Dickinson's death in 1886, Lavinia Dickinson, Emily's sister, brought Todd a portion of Emily Dickinson's poetry and asked her to publish them. Todd spent the next nine years organizing, transcribing, and editing hundreds of Emily Dickinson's poems. Her work was collected in three volumes, published in 1890, 1891 and 1896 respectively. Todd also collected Emily Dickinson's many letters to her varying correspondents in a two-volume set entitled Letters of Emily Dickinson, published in 1894.
In addition to editing and publishing several volumes of Emily Dickinson's poetry, Todd produced some of her own literary work as well. In particular, she wrote several books detailing her travels with her husband. Total Eclipses of the Sun (1894) was based off of Todd's personal astronomical explorations, including trips to Japan with her husband to see the total eclipse of the sun. Corona and Coronet (1898) also dealt with her travels in Japan, while Tripoli the Mysterious (1912) reflected her time in Tripoli. She also published a short novel, Footprints, in 1883 and a book of poems, A Cycle of Sunsets, in 1910.
Mary Loomis Todd is best remembered as being the first collector and editor of the works of Emily Dickinson. She produced three published volumes of Dickinson's poetry in addition to a volume of the poet's letters. Todd was also fundamental in establishing the Amherst Historical Society, the Amherst Woman's Club and the Amherst chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Even following her death in 1932, Todd proceeded to influence the perceptions and availability of Emily Dickinson's poetry. Following her death, Todd's daughter Millicent inherited manuscripts of Emily Dickinson's poetry that she published in 1945. If it were not for Todd's diligent work as a curator and editor of Emily Dickinson's poetry, the world may never have heard of the reclusive poet.
Mary Loomis Todd's home in Amherst is located on 90 Spring Street, although it was originally located at 97 Spring street until it was moved. It was constructed in the late nineteenth century in the Queen Anne style. The home is a romantic adaptation of 98 Spring Street, which is a large three story house with subordinate cross-gables, a gable overhang, asymmetrical sharply inclined pitched roof lines, shed entry porches with arched openings and multi-paned windows in irregular fenestration patterns. Early residents of 90 Spring Street were varied and included a bookkeeper from the Hills Company, the assistant janitor at Amherst College, the Amherst postmaster, and the widow of W.M. Graves. In 1898 there was a court trial contesting the sale of a piece of land by Lavinia Dickinson to the Todd couple. The Todds subsequently sold their home and moved to a different house on Snell Street. Later George B. Churchill moved into the former Todd home, when he accepted a job to teach rhetoric at Amherst College. Senator Churchill built "The Dell" on the site in 1907.
Directions to Next Stop
Walk East on Spring Street for 0.01 miles to 97 Spring Street.