Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook

By Denise D. Knight | Go to book overview

mirers for such lavish praise. George Harvey Genzmer, for instance, claimed that Poe and others had "habitually confused Mrs. Embury's literary achievements with her virtues as a wife and mother and her charms as a hostess" (125). Genzmer and those who agreed with his opinion did sometimes make concessions for Embury's prose. In American Authors 1600-1900, Embury's verse is vilified as "patently conventional and filled with far-fetched imagery," but admiration for her prose is considered "perhaps, more justifiable" (252).

Embury has also been criticized for the suffering endured by her characters. An anonymous reviewer of Pictures of Early Life found fault with Embury "for indulging too much in tales of sorrow, and thus drawing the picture of life in colors darker than the reality" ( North American Review 50, 294). Halsey made similar comments about Embury's contributions to The American Juvenile Keepsake, calling Embury's stories "so generally gloomy . . . that one would suppose them to have been eminently successful in turning children away from the faith she sought to encourage" (200).

Most recent critics, while acknowledging Embury's shortcomings as a conventional writer, have made allowances for her position as a literary woman in nineteenth-century society. In American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century ( 1992), Cheryl Walker credits Embury's poetry with presenting "a lively account of the attitudes a cultured, talented, intelligent woman of her time was apt to have" (79). Commentary such as Walker's suggests that Embury was successful both in the literary career she denied having and in fulfilling the other roles expected of her as a nineteenth-century American woman.


WORKS CITED

Anonymous. "Quarterly List of New Publications." North American Review 50 ( January 1840): 289-299.

G[enzmer]., G[eorge]. H[arvey]. "Embury, Emma Catherine." In Dictionary of American Biography, edited by Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone. Vol. 6. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1931. 124-125.

Halsey, Rosalie V. Forgotten Books of the American Nursery: A History of the Development of the American Story-Book. 1911. Reprint, Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1969.

Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. American Authors 1600-1900: A Biographical Dictionary of American Literature. New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1938.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Edited by James A. Harrison. Vol. 15. New York: George D. Sproul, 1902.

Walker, Cheryl, ed. "Emma Embury." American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1992. 78-92.

Welter, Barbara. Dimity Convictions: The American Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1976.

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