Sixteen years after her death, the New York Tribune characterized Lazarus as the "most talented woman the Jewish race has produced in this country" (quoted in Young15). Praised as a "Miriam" and a "Deborah," discussion of her work often focuses on her gender and religion, which Lichtenstein suggests is the reason that her work is often ignored.
Her work was apparently taken seriously by Emerson and praised by Ivan Turgenev and Robert Browning. Her first book, written in her teens, was well received, although Vogel suggests with a "good deal more kindness than the pervading unoriginality of most of the pieces called for" (43).
Although William Dean Howells rejected "Admetus" for publication in the Atlantic Monthly, it was praised by London reviewers, who compared her work favorably to Browning's. Whittier said of her that "she often has the rugged strength and verbal audacity of Browning" (quoted in Lichtenstein, Writing58).
Lazarus's "magnum opus" ( Cowen229), "The Dance to Death," is written in blank verse, which is often stronger than her rhymed verse. Like her other work, it has had varied response. This five-act tragedy is described as a "strangely powerful drama" ( Stedman264), "full of sonorous, graceful passages" ( The Critic293). However, Jacobs dismisses it as "an ill-conceived intrigue . . . the whole love story is . . . unconvincing and dull" (150). Her last work, "By the Waters of Babylon," in a form she called "Little Poems in Prose," is seen by Schappes as a "beautiful summation of her character and ideals of her most mature style" ( Selections24) but by Jacobs as the "failing effort of a failing spirit" (197).
Today, "The New Colossus" is probably Lazarus's only work that is remembered. Widely known and widely read in her lifetime, she may have been "more beloved than studied" ( Vogel162). Young suggests that her work has not survived because "her talent was not a major one," and her work "no longer rings true" (xv). However, Vogel believes that she "presaged the spiritual odyssey" of twentieth-century Jewish writers (preface). Schappes, who has done much to preserve Lazarus's work, says that the reason to read Lazarus today is that "she can still delight, stir, inspire and instruct" ( Selections15).
Poems and Translations Written Between the Ages of Fourteen and Sixteen. New York: Printed for private circulation, 1866.
Admetus and Other Poems. 1871. Reprint, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Literature House, 1970.
Alide, an Episode in Goethe's Life. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1874.
Poems and Ballads of Heinrich Heine. New York: R. Worthington, 1881.