The Female Prose Writers of America: With Portraits, Biographical Notices, and Specimens of their Writings/Caroline M. Kirkland

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
C.M. Kirkland.jpg

Engraved in London from a drawing by Martin


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, among the dreamy fantasies of the great idealist, as she had been among the log cabins of the far west.

In July, 1847, the “Union Magazine” was commenced in New York under her auspices as sole editor. After a period of eighteen months, the proprietorship of the Magazine changed hands, its place of publication was transferred to Philadelphia, and its name changed to “Sartain’s Union Magazine.” Under the new arrangement, Mrs. Kirkland remained as associate editor, her duties being limited, however, almost entirely to a monthly contribution. This arrangement continued until July, 1851. Her whole connexion with the Magazine runs through a course of four years, and much of the marked success of that periodical is due to the character of her articles. Having been myself the resident editor of the Magazine during the last two and a half years of that time, and conducted its entire literary correspondence, I suppose I have the means of speaking with some confidence on this point, and I have no hesitation in saying, that of all its brilliant array of contributors, there was not one whose articles gave such entire and uniform satisfaction as those of Mrs. Kirkland. During her first visit to Europe, she wrote incidents and observations of travel, which were published, first in the Magazine, and afterwards in book form, under the title of “Holidays Abroad; or, Europe from the West,” in two volumes, 1849. Excepting these, and one or two stories, her contributions have been in the shape of essays, and they form, in my opinion, her strongest claim to distinction as a writer.