Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/127

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Mrs. Kirkland, formerly Miss Caroline M. Stansbury, was born and bred in the city of New York. After the death of her father, Mr. Samuel Stansbury, the family removed to the western part of the State, where she was married to Mr. William Kirkland, an accomplished scholar, and at one time Professor in Hamilton College. After her marriage she resided several years in Geneva, and in 1835 removed to Michigan; lived two years in Detroit, and six months in the woods—sixty miles west of Detroit. In 1843 she returned to New York, where she has lived ever since, with the exception of a visit abroad in 1849, and another in 1850. Mr. Kirkland died in 1846.

She was first prompted to authorship by the strange things which she saw and heard while living in the backwoods. These things always presented themselves to her under a humorous aspect, and suggested an attempt at description. The descriptions, given at first in private letters to her friends, proved to be so very amusing that she was tempted to enlarge the circle of her readers by publication. "A New Home—Who'll Follow?" appeared in 1839; "Forest Life," in 1842; and "Western Clearings," in 1846. These all appeared under the assumed name of "Mrs. Mary Clavers," and attracted very general attention. For racy wit, keen observation of life and manners, and a certain air of refinement which never forsakes her, even in the roughest scenes, these sketches of western life were entirely without a parallel in American literature. Their success determined in a great measure Mrs. Kirkland's course of life, and she has since become an author by profession.

An "Essay on the Life and Writings of Spenser," prefixed to an edition of the first book of the "Fairy Queen," in 1846, formed her next contribution to the world of letters. The accomplished author appears in this volume quite as shrewd in her observations, and as much at home,