Perhaps the most glowing accolades for Ray's poetry come from Hallie Q. Brown: " Cordelia Ray's poetry . . . may be likened to the quaint touching music of a shell murmuring of the sea--a faint yet clear note sounding all the pathos and beauty of undying life" (171). The delicacy and restraint displayed in Ray's poetry seemed the fitting tone for a woman of the nineteenth century, and Ray received a modicum of local recognition during her lifetime. Jessie Fauset's contemporaneous review of her Poems comments, "The quality of the verse is uneven, perhaps, but much of it is very, very good" (183).
Ray's work most recently has been recognized by inclusion in several anthologies. In common with many nineteenth-century poets, Ray focused on the techniques of her craft rather than the expression of feeling or unacceptably blatant political commentary. Not considered experimental by today's criterion, Joan R. Sherman comments: "[ Ray] suppressed natural feeling and thoughtful scrutiny of human relationships, actions and ideas to serve a Muse for whom poetry was more a skill than an art, more a penmanship exercise than a new, complex creation of heart and mind" (134). Nevertheless, Ray's poetry contains moments of inspiration when her work escapes the boundaries of craft and achieves a delicate artistry.
Brown, Hallie Q. Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction. Xenia, OH: Aldine, 1926. Introduction by Randall K. Burkett. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. 171.
Fauset, Jessie. Review of Poems. "What to Read." Crisis 4 ( August 1912): 183.
Sherman, Joan R. Invisible Poets: Afro-Americans of the Nineteenth Century. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1974. 134.
Sketch of the Life of the Reverend Charles B. Ray. With Florence T. Ray. New York: Little, 1887.
Sonnets. New York: Little, 1893.
Poems. New York: Grafton, 1910.
Brown, Hallie Q. Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction. Xenia, OH: Aldine, 1926. Introduction by Randall K. Burkett. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. 169-175.
Kapai, Leela. "Henrietta Cordelia Ray." In Afro-American Writers before the HarlemRenaissance