Because of its readability, Cary's poetry was extremely popular. The Poetical Works went through thirteen editions; Josephine Gallery (a collection of biographical essays) went through five editions, as did the Last Poems; another collection published the same year, Poems, had three editions. Phoebe Ballads went through four editions. A collection published after the sisters' deaths with the only extensive biography of both, The Poetical Works of Alice and Phoebe Cary with a Memorial of Their Lives by Mary Clemmer Ames, went through six editions.
Contemporary editors were often sentimental, emphasizing the Carys' humble beginnings. A good example is Caroline May's gushing commentary on the "Sisters of the West" as possessing "a nobility and independence of thought, . . . a fervour of imagination" (552). Alice's poetry was usually deemed to be superior, although Phoebe's power of language and her concern with social issues are duly noted. Modern scholars often ignore Phoebe or mention her only in passing as Alice's sister. Emily Watts is one of the few critics who consider Phoebe to be a better poet than Alice. Only one or two of her poems have appeared in twentieth-century anthologies until recently, and there are no recent reprints of the nineteenth-century editions.
The most common reference to Phoebe is in conjunction with Alice, as if these two women wrote together, with Alice taking the leading role. For example, Susan Kissel discusses the sisters together: They "took courageous stands as women in the nineteenth century"; they published poems; they were abolitionists and feminists (25). Little effort is made to distinguish Phoebe's individual poetic style or political and social ideas. Furthermore, several critics contend that it was Alice who led the famous Sunday evening receptions, although the comments by attendees of these receptions imply that both sisters organized and participated equally. Any serious student of Phoebe Cary would do well to check all references to Alice Cary.
Poems. New York: Hurst, n.d.
Poems by Alice and Phoebe Cary. Philadelphia: Moss and Brother, 1850.
Poems and Parodies. Boston: Tickner, Reed, and Fields, 1854.
The Josephine Gallery. Edited with Alice Cary. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1858.
The Poetical Works of Alice and Phoebe Cary. Household edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1865.
Poems of Faith, Hope, and Love. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1867.
Ballads for Little Folk. Edited by Mary Clemmer. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1873.