Philenia: The Life and Works of Sarah Wentworth Morton, 1759-1846

Philenia: The Life and Works of Sarah Wentworth Morton, 1759-1846

Philenia: The Life and Works of Sarah Wentworth Morton, 1759-1846

Philenia: The Life and Works of Sarah Wentworth Morton, 1759-1846

Excerpt

Although Sarah Wentworth Morton was the most noteworthy American poetess during possibly the entire span between Mrs. Anne Bradstreet and Mrs. Sigourney, and certainly during her own generation, immediately succeeding the Revolution, it is only as author of a novel which she did not write that she is occasionally awarded a sentence or a paragraph in the histories of American literature. Miss Pendleton's biography of her, in fact, begun as her Master's thesis at the University of Maine in 1926-7, was undertaken on the supposition that Mrs. Morton was author of The Power of Sympathy. When subsequent investigation demonstrated that the claims for her authorship were without foundation, and at the same time threw added light upon herself and her real literary activities, it appeared desirable to attempt a re-estimation of her life work and her literary significance. By this time the process of investigation and revision had reached so complicated a stage of collaboration that it has seemed best to print the resulting conclusions as a work of joint authorship.

In view of the fact that the longest sketch of Mrs. Morton prior to Miss Pendleton's thesis did not extend beyond the equivalent of two ordinary pages of print, the amount of information regarding her which has proved available is rather surprising. Autobiographical hints in her own works, especially My Mind and Its Thoughts, and data gleaned from contemporary newspapers, magazines, and public records, and from the correspondence and diaries of her friends and critics have enabled the writers to reconstruct her life, character, and work, her literary reputation and its decline, with more satisfactory fullness than has been possible with personages of greater note.

Most of the source material outside of her own works has been gathered at the libraries of the American Historical Society, Harvard University, the City of Boston, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and the Massachusetts Antiquarian Society. Use has also been made of the University of Maine Library, the Bangor Public Library, the Boston Athenaeum, the William S. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, and other libraries. To the custodians of all of these institutions . . .

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