Today, I was in a doctor's office, and I happened to come across a recent issue of Smithsonian magazine where I found an article about the love of Mark Twain's life.
Considering the image of Twain as an old man with his dry wit (and, in the version I've constructed for myself, even drier gin), it's hard to imagine him ever in love, but then again, just the image of Twain as young man who had not yet written those beloved masterpieces is hard to fathom.
It's hard as a feminist to ever read these stories about those silent muses behind those great male writers. I always find myself wanting to know those stories, not about the cathartic love these men apparently had. I want to know is Lesbia was real, if she was Greek, what she thought about Catullus, if her favorite poem of his was my favorite poem of his. I want to hear Laura speak about being married so young, about being chased around by a poet. I want to see if Beatrice is as interesting as the vision based on her.
It's frustrating that women who were writers in their own right became muses to others (i.e. men.) Even when they were achieving so much, both creatively and politically, society tried to co-op them into a position they were more comfortable with: a silent figure of worship, an impossible standard of feminine perfection, a scale against which the creator measured himself. I always find that creator wanting.
Occasionally I come across relationships between creative men and women that does disappoint me so much. I really like that Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning encouraged each other's work. I like that they were both published, respected poets in their own right before finding each other. I like that Robert Browning became enamored of her voice, not her silence.