Mrs. Southworth in the Pantheon of U.S. Authors

September 19, 2010

I’ve long been intrigued by Southworth’s inclusion in “The Authors of the United States,” a popular 1866 print by Thomas Hicks (engraved by A. H. Ritchie).

"Authors of the United States"

This image portrays 44 prominent mid-century U.S. authors gathered in a classical setting. While the depicted gathering never occurred (many of these authors, like Poe and Cooper, were long dead), it is nice to see that Hicks imagined Southworth invited to the party. Click here for a larger image and a key to the authors depicted.

Southworth is the third female figure sitting on the left hand side, next to Catharine Sedgwick and Lydia Sigourney. Only 9 female authors made the guest list for this gathering; the others were Anna Cora Mowatt, Alice Cary, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Margaret Fuller, Caroline Kirkland, and Amelia Welby (who strikes me as the oddest choice for inclusion).

In a March 3, 1906 article about the print in the New York Times, an author comments upon the authors chosen for inclusion and considers whether their 19th century reputation has lasted into the 20th century. The author suggests that many of the male figures pictured–John Pendleton Kennedy, Frederick Cozzens, George Prentice, Charles Fenno Hoffman, Philip Pendleton Cooke, and William Gallagher, for example–are by 1906 essentially unknown. However, he suggests that Hicks might have done somewhat better with the “beskirted and beringleted” “authoresses” included, suggesting that only Sedgwick, Kirkland, and Welby had fallen into obscurity. At this time, he asserts that Southworth is actually the best known of these women: “The manifold works of the ninth lady, though she rests from her labors, still flourish mightily, for she is the popular Mrs. E. D. E. N.  Southworth, whom to name is to carry the mind to first things, as the alphabet, the primeval garden of Genesis, and budding intellects.”

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