Kevin J. Hayes
Sara Jane Clarke was born in Pompey, New York, on September 23, 1823, the youngest daughter of Thaddeus Clarke, physician, and Deborah (Baker) Clarke. Not long after her birth, the family moved to nearby Fabius and later to Rochester, where Sara was educated. While in her teens, she began contributing verse to the local papers. In the Fredonia Censor ( 1840), for example, she published "The Doomed Soldier of Fort Meigs," a treatment of a young deserter sentenced to be hanged who was reprieved at the last moment. Her sentimental and sympathetic portrayal of the soldier anticipates much of her subsequent work. In 1842, the family moved to New Brighton, Pennsylvania, and Sara joined them there the following year.
In 1844, she began contributing letters to the New York Mirror and Home Journal, signing them "Grace Greenwood," a name that she began to use socially as well. These contributions secured her literary reputation, and she began to write for some of the most important periodicals of the day: Godey's Lady's Book, Graham's American Monthly Magazine, Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art, and the Saturday Evening Post. Her contributions ranged from sentimental fiction and verse to comments on the current state of literature and politics. Perhaps most noteworthy are her remarks concerning the international copyright issue, written as burlesques of contemporary authors. Her spoof of Edgar Allan Poe pokes fun at the overly rational, Dupinesque narrator as well as many of Poe's characteristic motifs. Her spoof of Herman Melville Typee idealized the poet's life. Describing a South Pacific poet laureate, she wrote: