Remembered as a novelist and poet, Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard was the second of nine children raised in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, a setting she drew on for her novels. She met the man who would become her husband, Richard Henry Stoddard, and after a brief courtship, the couple married in 1852 and settled in New York City. At their home in Manhattan, they hosted gatherings for people interested in literature and culture including Thomas Bailey Aldrich and William Dean Howells (Greenslet 33; Howells "First Impressions" 72).
Richard Henry Stoddard's early years were rather Dickensian. After his sea-captain father was lost at sea, Stoddard endured a life of poverty that led him to move with his mother to New York City in 1835. There he worked at a number of odd jobs before being employed, at age eleven, in an iron foundry. An autodidact who read voraciously in his youth, Stoddard published his first book of poems, Footprints (1849), after befriending Bayard Taylor--who introduced Stoddard to his future wife, Elizabeth Drew Barstow, herself an author of both fiction and poetry.