The Female Prose Writers of America: With Portraits, Biographical Notices, and Specimens of their Writings/Elizabeth Bogart

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Miss Bogart has written only a few tales in prose, but they have all been of sterling excellence.

Her first tale, “The Effect of a Single Folly,” obtained a prize in the “Memorial,” an Annual published in Boston, 1828. It was her first attempt at story writing, and was completed and sent secretly, without being submitted to any of her friends for correction or improvement. In the course of a few months afterward, she received a copy of the book from the publishers, and found, to her surprise, that she had been successful in obtaining one of the two prizes offered. From that circumstance, she was induced to write occasional tales for her own amusement, and convey them through the medium of different periodicals to the public. In 1830 she obtained a second prize for a tale entitled “The Forged Note;” in 1844 another, for a domestic story, entitled “Arlington House;” and in 1849 the fourth, for “The Heiress, or Romance of Life.”[1]

She has written much more poetry than prose. The history of her mind in this respect is sketched with much beauty and simplicity in the following extract from a letter in reply to one making inquiries on this point. “My rhyming propensity,” says she, “commenced, I believe, with my earliest powers of thought, as I remember nothing previous to my first attempts at scribbling verses; but those youthful productions were invariably destroyed from a feeling of diffidence, and an utter impossibility of satisfying myself. My ideas of excellence in metrical composition, so far exceeded my own efforts, that I was frequently tempted to give up the Muse in despair, and probably I would have done so, had not the poetic passion been too strongly implanted in my nature. The indulgence of this love for embodying my thoughts and feelings in verse, was the happiness of my life. It was often cherished in the place of friends or lovers. It was my resource in solitude, my consolation in trials, my reward for disappointments, my relief in weariness, my recreation in idleness, and my delight in every change of residence, by which new scenes and scenery have been presented to my view.”

Miss Bogart was born in the city of New York, which was also the birth-place of her father and his ancestors for several generations back. They are descended on the paternal side from the Huguenots who fled to Holland after the revocation of the edict of Nantz, and emigrated from Holland to America.

Her father was the Rev. David Schuyler Bogart, a graduate of Columbia College, and a minister of the gospel. In his profession, he was highly respected and esteemed, and exceedingly beloved by the people of his charge. Soon after entering on his profession he accepted a call to a Presbyterian church at Southampton, an isolated town, on the eastern part of Long Island, where he resided for fifteen years. There, in the village school-house, Miss Bogart received all her education, excepting what was given her by her father, whose instructions were continued even to the close of his life. From Southampton they removed, in 1813, to Hempstead Harbour, a wild and lovely spot, some eighty miles further west, and on the north side of the island.

“The scenery of the two places,” says Miss Bogart, in the letter already quoted, “presented a perfect contrast. The country at Southampton was entirely level, and the town situated immediately on the Atlantic, within sight of its foaming surf, and sound of its ceaseless roar—while Hempstead Harbour was located at the head of a beautiful bay running in from the Long Island Sound, and surrounded with high hills, covered with forest trees and evergreens. It was truly a place to charm the eye, and enrich the imagination; and thus it was, that while my first love was for the grand and magnificent ocean, my second was for the more fascinating and picturesque beauty of nature’s scenery; amid which the early romance of my disposition was nurtured into an enduring character. The name of the little village of Hempstead Harbour has since been changed to that of Roslyn, but it seems to me an unmeaning appellation, and no improvement; although it will doubtless receive an eclat from the fact of our poet Bryant having fixed his residence there.

“It was from my home in that place, in 1825, that I sent forth my first poem, simply headed ‘Stanzas’ on a venture to the press. It was published in the ‘Long Island Star,’ under the signature of ‘Adelaide’ and made the subject of a complimentary poetical address in the same paper. I soon afterward commenced writing for ‘The New York Mirror,’ which was at that time in its most flourishing state, under the able management of its proprietor, George P. Morris. My signature was then changed to that of ‘Estelle,’ a nom de plume, which I have ever since retained; and which, before my real name was known, procured me a poetical correspondent in the ‘Mirror,’ the history of which is quite a little romance. The correspondence was carried on at intervals, for nearly four years; the writer being all the while utterly unknown to me, excepting inasmuch as his poems declared him to be a gentleman of taste, talent, and education. He had mistaken me for another person, and notwithstanding my repeated denials of the identity, he persisted in addressing me as the ‘Estelle’ of his love, whose name I had unwittingly stolen. My curiosity became at length considerably excited, but he maintained his incognito; and it was not until several years after he had ceased writing, that I accidentally learned his name, and that by means of his initials, and the signature of ‘Estelle’ to the pieces passing between us in the ‘Mirror,’ he had recovered his true ladye love, and married her.”

Miss Bogart was particularly fond of these little literary mysteries. They amused and interested her, and gave her both subject and occupation. In the country she had always leisure, as well as love for the Muses. “Without this love,” says she, “my life would have been divested of half its pleasures; and without the leisure to indulge it, I think I should have felt as if time, however otherwise employed, were only wasted.” Her fugitive poems have now accumulated to a number sufficient to fill a large volume, although they have never been collected and prepared for publication in that form.

In 1826 her father removed, with his family, into the city of New York, where he continued to reside during the remainder of his life. Miss Bogart lives there still.

The first of the extracts which follow, is from “The Forged Note.” It is a description of Arthur Mowbray, the hero of the “tale,” given from the impression which the author, while a child, had received from seeing him. He had been a country boy, born and educated in humble life, and the history of his school days is first told.

  1. The titles of her other stories are as follows: “The Secrets of the Heart,” 1828; “The Cloaked Gentleman,” 1829; “Decourcy,” 1829; “The Family of Meredith,” 1830; “Traditions of the Visions of Armies in the Heavens,” 1844; “The Bachelor’s Wedding,” 1846; “Gertrude Wurtemburg,” 1848; “Love and Politics,” 1849; “Rose Winters,” 1849; “The Widow’s Daughter,” 1851; “The Auction, or the Wedding Coat,” and “Ada Danforth, or the Will,” not yet published.