The Female Prose Writers of America: With Portraits, Biographical Notices, and Specimens of their Writings/Sarah J. Hale

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Mrs. Hale, so widely known by her efforts to promote the intellectual condition of her sex, is a native of Newport, New Hampshire. Her maiden name was Sarah Josepha Buell. Her husband, David Hale, was a lawyer. By his death, she was left the sole protector of five children, the eldest then but seven years old. It was in the hope of gaining for them the means of support and education, that she engaged in authorship as a profession. Her first attempt was a small volume of poems, printed for her benefit by the Freemasons, of which fraternity her husband had been a member. This was followed by “Northwood,” a novel in two volumes, published in 1827.

Early in the following year, Mrs. Hale was invited from her native State to Boston, to take charge of the editorial department of “The Ladies’ Magazine,” the first American periodical devoted exclusively to her sex. She removed to Boston, accordingly, in 1828, and continued to edit the magazine until 1837, when it was united with the “Lady’s Book” of Philadelphia. The literary department of the “Lady’s Book” was then placed in her charge, and has so remained ever since. She continued, however, for several years to reside in Boston, to superintend the education of her sons, then students at Harvard. In 1841, she removed to Philadelphia, where she still lives.

While living in Boston, Mrs. Hale originated the noble idea of the “Seaman’s Aid Society,” over which she was called to preside, and of which she continued to be the president until her removal to Philadelphia. This institution, or rather Mrs. Hale as its animating spirit, first suggested the plan of a “Home for Sailors,” and, showed its practicability by establishing one in Boston, which became completely successful. The many establishments of this kind, now existing in various ports, all took their origin in that of the Boston “Seaman’s Aid Society,” and in the ideas and reasonings of their first seven annual reports, all of which were from the pen of Mrs. Hale. Nothing that she has ever written, probably, has been more productive of good than this series of annual reports; and though they may be, from their official character, such as to add nothing to her literary laurels, they certainly form an important addition to her general claims to honour as one of the wise and good of the land.

Besides “Northwood,” which was republished in London under the title of “A New England Tale,” her published works are: “Sketches of American Character;” “Traits of American Life;” “Flora’s Interpreter,” of which more than forty thousand copies have been sold, besides English reprints; “The Ladies’ Wreath,” a selection from the female poets of England and America;” “The Good Housekeeper, the way to live well, and to be well while we live,” a manual of cookery, of which large and very numerous editions have been printed; “Grosvenor, a Tragedy;” “Alice Ray, a Romance in Rhyme;” “Harry Guy, the Widow’s Son, a Romance of the Sea” (the last two written for charitable purposes, and the proceeds given away accordingly); “Three Hours, or the Vigil of Love, and other Poems,” in 1848; “A Complete Dictionary of Poetical Quotations,” a work of nearly six hundred pages, large octavo, printed in double columns, and containing selections, on subjects alphabetically arranged, from the poets of England and America; “The Judge, a Drama of American Life,” published, in numbers, in the Lady’s Book, and about to be given to the world in book form. Mrs. Hale has also edited several annuals—“The Opal,” “The Crocus,” &c., and prepared quite a number of books for the young. A large number of essays, tales, and poems lie scattered among the periodicals of the day, sufficient to fill several volumes. These she proposes to collect and publish, in book form, after concluding her editorial career.

By far the most important and honourable monument of her labour is the volume now passing through the press, entitled “Woman’s Record.” This is a general biographical dictionary of distinguished women of all nations and ages, filling about nine hundred pages, of the largest octavo size, closely printed in double columns. Mrs. Hale has been engaged for several years upon this undertaking, the labour of which was enough to appal any but a woman of heroic spirit. It needs no prophetic vision to predict that this great work will be an enduring “Record,” not only of woman in general, but of the high aims, the indefatigable industry, the varied reading, and just discrimination of its ever to be honoured author.

The first extract from the writings of Mrs. Hale is taken from the work last named, and is in some measure a continuation of the present biographical notice.