Barbara A. White
Sally Sayward Barrell Keating Wood pioneered in the development of U.S. fiction; she was one of the first Americans to publish more than a single novel and one of the earliest literary nationalists. Wood was born in York, Maine, the eldest daughter of Sarah Sayward and Nathaniel Barrell, a lieutenant in the French and Indian Wars. She spent much of her childhood living with her mother's father, who was known as the second richest man in Maine and to whom she was very close. Judge Jonathan Sayward, although a Tory during the Revolution, managed to retain most of his wealth and eminence. The Barrells had friends on the rebel side, and Nathaniel, son of a Boston merchant, became a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Wood later wrote an antiwar novella, never published in her lifetime, with the title War, the Parent of Domestic Calamity: A Tale of the Revolution.
In 1778, when she was nineteen, Wood married Richard Keating, a clerk in her grandfather's office; they had three children before he died in 1783. During her widowhood, Wood began to write. She did not lack money to support her children, as would be the case later with many widows who took up writing, but she needed some occupation. She states in the preface to her first novel, Julia ( 1800), that her pen "soothed many melancholy, and sweetened many bitter hours" (n.p.).
Wood's first efforts were stories published anonymously in journals. Then, over a period of five years, she published four novels, again anonymously as "a Lady of Massachusetts" ( Maine did not separate from Massachusetts until 1820). The novels were melodramatic adventure stories with Gothic elements borrowed from English writers, and all were consistent with her conservative