The Morgesons and Other Writings, Published and Unpublished

The Morgesons and Other Writings, Published and Unpublished

The Morgesons and Other Writings, Published and Unpublished

The Morgesons and Other Writings, Published and Unpublished

Synopsis

"Stoddard was, next to Melville and Hawthorne, the most strikingly original voice in the mid-nineteenth-century American novel, a voice... that ought to gain a more sympathetic and perceptive hearing in our time than in her own."-from the Introduction

The centerpiece of this volume is The Morgesons (1862), one of the few outstanding feminist bildungsromanae of that century. Additional selections include arresting short stories and provocative journalistic essays/reviews, plus a number of letters and manuscript journals that have never before been published. The texts are fully edited and documented.

Excerpt

In her lifetime, Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard was compared to Balzac, Tolstoi, George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Brontë sisters, but her works were not widely read. Most modern scholars have overlooked her. Notable American Women omits her; so does Alexander Cowie's Rise of the American Novel. The Literary History of the United States gives her one paragraph. The closest thing to a definitive bio-critical study is an unpublished dissertation. This situation will surely change, however, because in fact Stoddard was, next to Melville and Hawthorne, the most strikingly original voice in the mid-nineteenth-century American novel, a voice that unquestionably deserves critical recognition and that ought to gain a more sympathetic and perceptive hearing in our time than in her own. The astringent, elliptical style that baffled Stoddard's contemporaries even as it fascinated them is much more understandable to a modern reader familiar with the ironies and indirections of Emily Dickinson and Henry James. Nor is Stoddard's appeal limited to the professional scholar. Our undergraduate students have read her with almost unanimous enthusiasm.

The present volume features Stoddard's most important work, The Morgesons (1862), but it also includes a sampling of her short fiction and prose as well as previously unpublished correspondence and journal material. In this introduction we shall supply a context for that work by surveying Stoddard's life, career, and position in American literature.

Elizabeth Drew Barstow (1823-1902) was born in the Massachusetts seacoast town of Mattapoisett, on Buzzard's Bay, the oldest surviving child of a tailor's daughter and a shipbuilder father whose prosperous family had disapproved of the match. Wilson Barstow, whose firm built the whaler on which Herman Melville sailed to the South Seas, was one of the town's leading citizens, although the financial risks of his business (which led to several bankruptcies) left the family in a position of precarious gentility that sharpened his daughter's natural quickness for perceiving fine social distinctions and slights. As a child, Elizabeth was never . . .

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