“America is now wholly given over to a damn mob of scribbling Women and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash.”
“–and should be ashamed of myself if I did succeed. What is the mystery of these innumerable editions of the ‘Lamplighter,’ and other books neither better nor worse?–worse they could not be, and better they need not be, when they sell by the 100,000.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne writing from Britain to his publisher (1855)
For My Mother
Whose collection of Victorian novels first introduced me to the work of the “Scribbling Women” and without whose aid this book could never have been written.
The first third of the nineteenth century saw the rise in America of the woman writer, daring to enter a field considered before to be wholly masculine. The century itself showed the trend in that culture and the arts (Or the appreciation and judgment on them) fell to the women and were considered almost entirely their interest -- men were so occupied with growing business affairs that it was largely considered a waste of time to show any interest in such fields.
Five women in America knew so well -- seemingly by instinct -- what was desired in that field by the buying public (Largely of their own sex) that they became our first best-sellers and so monopolized the field that they were in some instances bitterly resented by the male authors -- as witness Hawthorne’s bitter and spiteful comment to his publisher concerning them.
Some of these books, now well over a hundred years old, are still to be found today. For the majority of the writers had one thing in common -- they knew how to tell a story. Mary J. Holmes, Elizabeth Whetheral (Susan Warner), Maria Cummings, August Evans Wilson, Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth, were the first professional feminine writers who dominated the fiction field for more than half a century. They came from varied backgrounds and were very different as to character but they had the magic-touch in their chosen field.
Since the Victorian period is becoming more and more of interest in our own time and collectors are beginning to look about them with newly awakened attention for the minutiae of detail -- these books are the source for much which has been overlooked in the past. Here one discovers the small details of daily life, clothing, manners and customs. These five have captured for the readers of any time the essence of their own times.
Recent letters in a book collector’s magazine have shown there is an interest in these women -- about whom the modern generation knows little or nothing. Portions of this manuscript were published in serial form in the magazine “The Book Mart”. (1981 thru 83)
The form of SCRIBBLING WOMEN is dual -- giving a short biography of each writer and then excerpts from her works which display to the best the particular talent she displayed. There is included also a listing of her titles for any who would like to go hunting for them as collector items.
The work was written some years ago intended for university publication. Unfortunately, through a series of events, it was lost and only recently has it been returned to the author. It should be of interest in a wide field -- in feminist circles because it deals with women who invaded a masculine field in a repressive age and triumphed -- to the social historian or general reader interested in what was the daily life of the Victorian era with morals and manners greatly stressed -- to the person looking for a new field of collecting (The latter is the approach of some who are looking for a beginner’s luck in a virgin field).
The author at the time of writing had access to material now gone past reclaiming -- such as interviews with elderly people in one case who had known Mary J. Holmes in her old age.
In compiling material for a work of this nature the writer has to depend on the assistance of others in gathering sources. And I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the kind aid of the following:
Libraries and Librarians:
The Cleveland Public Library
Mr. Richard G. Hensley, Chief Librarian, Division of Reference and Research
Mr. Eamon E. McDonough, General Reference
Miss Gladys R. White, Codman Square Branch
All of the Boston Public Library
Miss Lilly S. Abbott, Reference Librarian, Salem Public Library, Salem Mass.
Mrs. Florence F. Coller, Librarian, Seymour Library, Brockport, New York.
Miss Elsie Hooker, Librarian, Merrick Public Library, Brookfield, Mass.
For their personal memories and biographical details concerning Mrs. Mary Jane Holmes:
Mrs. F. Arnold Manning
Mrs. Gifford Morgan
Mrs. Helen W. Dobson
D.M. Tower, President of State Teachers’ Collage
--All of Brockport , N.Y.
Mrs. G.F. Latimer of Wikinsburg, Pa.
Mrs. Earl R. Smith of Albany, N.Y.
Mrs. Frederick Barnes of Morristown, N.Y.
With Special thanks to:
Mrs. M.H. Cannon of Waldwick, N.J., for the use of her file of contemporary Nineteenth Century Clippings.
Mr. Hermon Pitcher of Jacksonville, Fla., who so generously shared research notes garnered for his biography of Mrs. Holmes.
For aid in securing the novels for study:
Miss. Helen Seyfried and Miss Alice Hatch of the Cleveland Public Library
Mr. Hermon Pitcher
Miss Sylvia Cochran and Dr. Lucy Clark of Cleveland, Ohio
Mrs. Phyllis Miller of Pearl River, N.Y.
Editors Note: Bibliographical listing is at the end of this manuscript. Pictures on each biography added by editor.
Table of Contents
1. “The Scribbling Age” by Andre Norton
2. Tears, Busy Tears (Susan Warner) – Bio by Andre Norton
New Home in the Country – Excerpt from “The Wide, Wide World” 1850
The “Apple Bee” – Excerpt from “The Wide, Wide World”
A Matter of Conscience – Excerpt from “The Wide, Wide World”
Mr. Carleton’s Conversion – Excerpt from “Queechy” 1852
The Quilting Party – Excerpt from “Queechy”
Mr.Car1eton Proposes – Excerpt from “Queechy”
Editors Note: the Bio on Susan Warner was originally published in 4 parts in a periodical called The Book Mart ~ Volume 5 #s 7,8,9 & 10 in 1982 & 83
3. Magnolias and Melodrama (Mrs. Southworth) – Bio by Andre Norton
The Villainess Foiled! – Excerpt from “The Mother-In-Law” 1851
Capitola Defends Her Honor – Excerpt from “The Hidden Hand” 1859
A Debut at the President’s "Drawing Room" – Excerpt from “Ishmael” 1864
A New Star Rises – Excerpt from “Ishmael”
The Shipwreck – Excerpt from “Self-Raised” 1864
Murder Miscarries – Excerpt from “The Bridal Eve” serialized as “Rose Elmer” 1881
Editors Note: the Bio on Mrs. Southworth was originally published in a periodical called The Book Mart ~ Volume 5 #1 in 1981
4. A Lamp Is Lighted (Maria Cummins) – Bio by Andre Norton
Child of the Slums – Excerpt from “The Lamplighter” 1854
River Steamer Fire – Excerpt from “The Lamplighter”
Westward Journey – Excerpt from “Mable Vaughan” 1857
Editors Note: the Bio on Maria Cummins was originally published in a periodical called The Book Mart ~ Volume 5 #3 in 1981
5. Cinderella Always Wins (Mary J. Holmes) – Bio by Andre Norton
The Interrupted Wedding – Excerpt from “Tempest and Sunshine” 1854
Education of a Young Lady – Excerpt from “The English Orphans” 1855
Festivities in Boston – Excerpt from “The English Orphans”
Schoolmistress – Excerpt from “Meadow Brook” 1857
6. The Learned Maiden (Augusta Evans Wilson) – Bio by Andre Norton
Yellow Fever Nurse – Excerpt from “Beulah” 1859
"The Scribbling Women"
Copyright ~ Estate of Andre Norton
Online Rights - Andre-Norton-Books.com
Donated by - Estate of Andre Norton
Digitized and Edited by Jay Watts aka: “Lotsawatts” ~ May 2015
Duplication (in whole or parts) of this story for profit of any kind NOT permitted.