The Female Prose Writers of America: With Portraits, Biographical Notices, and Specimens of their Writings/Ann S. Stephens

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Engraved in London from a drawing by W. Croome


Mrs. Stephens, according to a writer in Graham’s Magazine,[1] was born about the year 1810, in an interior village of the State of Connecticut. She was married at an early age, and soon after removed with her husband to Portland, Maine. Subsequently, they changed their residence to New York, where they have lived ever since.

Mrs. Stephens’s literary career commenced in Portland. Among the first of her friends there, was John Neal, who early appreciated her genius. She projected, and for some time published, the “Portland Magazine,” to which she gave considerable celebrity, chiefly through her own contributions. On removing to New York, she engaged in writing for a more extensive circle of readers, and her fame rapidly widened. An event occurred soon after which gave to her name a special eclat. This was the winning of a prize of four hundred dollars, for the story of “Mary Derwent.” Whatever she has written since that time has been in great demand among periodical publishers. Her tales, sketches, and poems, published in this way, would fill several volumes. Unfortunately, they have never been collected into any more enduring form than that in which they originally appeared.

Mrs. Stephens has a remarkable talent for description, seizing always the strongest points in a picture and bringing them out into bold relief. In the conception and delineation of character, too, she is clear and comprehensive, yet working out her views more by descriptive than dramatic effect, telling how her characters act, rather than setting them into action. In regard to plot, her stories are simple, and rather bare of incident, as if aiming to hurry forward the reader by a strong, torrent-like impulse, rather than to entangle him in a curious and complicated maze. She has shown great versatility, apparently vibrating at will between a vein of the richest humour, as in the story of the “Patch-Work Quilt,” and that deep and startling tragedy on which she more commonly relies.

  1. Charles J. Peterson.