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). The Stoddard household was "a little literary world, for every member of it writes" (J. Barry 184). Edmund Clarence Stedman likened the circle that grew up around the Stoddards to "the traditions of Charles and Mary Lamb, the Brontes, the Howitts, the Shelleys, and the Brownings" ("Mr. Stedman's Tribute" 9). Mrs. Thomas Bailey Aldrich observed: "I know no prototype of Mrs. Stoddard -- this singular woman, who possessed so strongly the ability to sway all men who came within her influence. Brilliant and fascinating, she needed neither beauty nor youth, her power was so much beyond such aids. On every variety of subject she talked with originality and ready wit; with impassioned speech expressing an individuality and insight most unusual and rare" (Crowding Memories 14). Elizabeth belonged to Bayard Taylor's poetic group, along with her husband and others from the crowd at Pfaff's including George William Curtis, Edmund Clarence Stedman, George Henry Boker, Fitz-James O'Brien, Christopher P. Cranch, and Fitz Hugh Ludlow (Winter Old Friends 177). Perhaps inspired by these literary associations, and encouraged by her husband, Mrs. Stoddard began writing short stories, poems, and sketches for popular periodicals like the Atlantic Monthly, the Knickerbocker, Harper's New Monthly Magazine, and Appleton's Journal.
In addition to editing books with her husband, Stoddard produced her own novels: The Morgesons (1862), Two Men (1865), and Temple House (1867); she also wrote a book for children Lolly Dinks's Doings (1874), and a poetry collection, Poems (1895). Pfaff's frequenter, Edmund Clarence Stedman, wrote an introduction to the reissued editions of her novels. While they never achieved widespread success, Stoddard's novels, rich in realistic detail, were praised by important literary figures like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Leslie Stephen; William Dean Howells maintains that her work did not achieve the recognition that it merited, "which will be hers when Time begins to look about him for work worth remembering" ("First Impressions" 72-73). Howells also admires her integrity and commitment to cultivating an authentic voice: "In a time when most of us had to write like Tennyson, or Longfellow, or Browning, she never would write like anyone but herself" (73).
Despite her critical success, Mrs. Stoddard's later life was made difficult by the poor health of her husband and the deaths of her three sons, one of whom, Lorimer Stoddard, had inherited the family proclivity for creative expression, writing plays and poems (J. Barry 104). According to the obituary penned by her husband, Elizabeth died after a lingering illness at seventy-nine years of age, four months short of the couple's golden anniversary and one year after the death of her son. E. C. Stedman records that her last words were to a family servant: "Alice, after I am gone take good care of Dick, and, for Heaven's sake, go out and buy him a couple of new shirts" ("Death of Mrs. Stoddard" 9). Stedman also records her last poem:
"Life is not hurried, nor delayed,
The wheels of time run on and will,
Never since the world was made
Have they yet turned back or one stood still" ("Death of Mrs. Stoddard" 9).
Mrs. Aldrich mentions that the first visit of the Stoddards to the Booths brought the "connecting link" to her fate. The Stoddards and the Booths had a mutual friend in Lorimer Graham. The momentary awkwardness of Stoddards arrival was resolved when Edwin Booth and Elizabeth Stoddard introduced themselves. Mrs. Aldrich writes: "Every detail of that hour is distinct. The opening door; on its threshold a woman of angular slimness, perhaps forty-three or forty-four years old. She wore a dull brown dress, with an arabesque of white in a minute pattern woven through the warp. The expression of face and figure was withered like a brown leaf on the tree before the snow comes. No aura of charm whatever. There was a moment of silence; then Mr. Booth with outstretched arms moved quickly toward her, and in his hands her hands were laid. There were but two words spoken, 'Edwin,' 'Elizabeth.' Then Mr. Booth, releasing her hand, slowly untied the strings of the bonnet that shaded her face, took it off, and still holding it in his hand drew her to a chair" (13).
Mrs. Aldrich continues with her description: "I know no prototype of Mrs. Stoddard -- this singular woman, who possessed so strongly the ability to sway all men who came within her influence. Brilliant and fascinating, she needed neither beauty nor youth, her power was so much beyond such aids. On every variety of subject she talked with originality and ready wit; with impassioned speech expressing an individuality and insight most unusual and rare" (14). The first meeting led the Booths to be invited to join the gathering of the artistic and literary circle that congregated at the Stoddards' home on Tenth Street (14). According to Mrs. Aldrich, the Stoddards', Pfaff's, and the Century Club were popular houses for the literary and artistic to meet, but the Stoddards' had an interesting, refined character. "It was rather a solemn thing to belong to it. The new member entered its (to him) inhospitable door with somewhat the same feelings that would have represented his complex mind had it been the portal of a church. The chantelaine of the Tenth Street house was an exceptional and interesting character. Her criticisms and discussion of current matters were admirable. She would rather run the risk of losing a boarder than forego the privilege of speaking her mind freely in regard to every issue of the day. She had also a keen sense of humor, and dearly loved a joke, bringing to it a laugh that was most contagious. Of the heterogeneous company of men and women that assembled daily at her table she numbered authors, actors, artists, musicians, mathematicians, professors, journalists, critics, and essayists. To Mrs. Stoddard alone, however, was the honor given of a salon. An invitation to her rooms on the evening she entertained was to this company what a ribbon is to a soldier, and prized accordingly" (15).
Among the company gathered at the Stoddards' the night of the Booth's first visit, they leave her among their caricatures for Mrs. Aldrich and her sister "too scintillating to be drawn" (17-18).
During Mrs. Booth's illness and Edwin Booth's separation from her while in New York for an acting engagement, Mrs. Stoddard wrote the following letter to Mrs. Booth:
"Sick or well, you must come. Mr. Booth has lost all restraint and hold on himself. Last night there was the grave question of ringing down the curtain before the performance was half over. Lose no time. Come."
Mrs. Booth replied that she was too ill to come and that she felt at times that nothing but a "great calamity" would save her husband. After Mrs. Booth's death, Edwin Booth found Mrs. Stoddard's "cruel letter" and ended their friendship (35).[pages:13-15,17-18,35]
Barry mentions that the Stoddard "household is a little literary world, for every member of it writes." Barry claims "Mrs. Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard's three admirable novels are well known to two generations -- to the younger through their republication, with an introduction by Mr. Stedman, a few years ago -- and her verse is frequently seen in magazines" (184).
Barry mentions that her son, Lorimer Stoddard, is also a writer. He contributed poems to Cosmopolitan, the Independent, and other periodicals, and also wrote several plays (184).[pages:184]
The obituary for Elizabeth includes her biography, her professional accomplishments, and the literary society she and her husband cultivated in New York.[pages:9]
Derby notes that Stoddard's wife is the "author of three clever novels": "The Morgensons" (published by Carleton, 1862), "Two Men" (1865), and "Temple House" (1867). "She has also contributed sketches in prose and poetry to the principal magazines in the country. A lady of cultivated tastes, she is a very efficient aid to her husband in his literary pursuits" (603).
Derby concludes his discussion of Stoddard noting "The pleasant home of Mr. and Mrs. Stoddard is filled with many mementoes of their literary and artistic tastes, gathered together with much care, during their eventful literary career" (603).
Mr. and Mrs. Stoddard are also listed by Derby among the "distinguished people of
literary tastes" whom he met at the home of the Cary sisters in the 1850s (250).
The brief biography mentions Stoddard's childhood, literary influences and acquaintances, and her married life.
A member of Aldrich's "nearer circle of contemporaries" during his experience in the "Literary Bohemia" in New York (38).
Aldrich states to Taylor in a letter, "I have turned from a 'literary Bohemian' (as Mrs. Stoddard calls me) to that mythical and underrated individual called a 'sub'" (33).
Greenslet also prints a letter to both "Dick and Lizzy" from August 1861, in which he talks about Lizzy's novel and promises to visit them soon. Aldrich also discusses his appointment in the navy in this letter (55).[pages:33,38,55]
The future Mr. and Mrs. Stoddard's first meeting is described as taking place at one of Lynch's receptions (204).
While living at "The Deanery," she wrote The Morgensons (240). She died at her home in Fifteenth Street, just past Stuyvesant Park (242).[pages:204, 240, 242]
Introduced to Howells by Stedman, Howells states that the Stoddards were in "the glow of their early fame as poets" (72). He also mentions that "they knew about my poor beginnings and were very, very good to me" (72).
Of his friendship with the Stoddards, Howells says "But what I relished most was the long talk I had with them both about authorship in all its phases, and the exchange of delight in this poem and that, this novel and that, with gay, wilful runs away to make some wholly irreverent joke, or fire puns into the air at no mark whatsoever. Stoddard had then a fame, with the sweetness of personal affection in it, from the lyrics and the odes that will perhaps best keep him known, and Mrs. Stoddard was beginning to make her distinct and special quality felt in the magazines, in verse and fiction. In both it seems to me she has failed of the recognition her work merits, and which will be hers when Time begins to look about him for work worth remembering" (72-73).
Of Mrs. Stoddard's work, Howells continues, "Her tales and novels have in them a foretaste of realism, which was too strange for the palate of their day, and is now too familiar, perhaps. It is a peculiar fate, and would form the scheme of a pretty study in the history of literature. But in whatever she did she left the stamp of a talent like no other, and a personality disdainful of literary environment" (73).
Howells also states "In a time when most of us had to write like Tennyson, or Longfellow, or Browning, she never would write like anyone but herself" (73).
Howells fondly recalls visiting the couple and mentions that they had an appreciation for all literature, including his own (73).
Howells says "I liked the Stoddards because they were frankly not of that Bohemia which I disliked so much, and thought it of no promise or validity; and because I was fond of their poetry and found them in it" (73).[pages:72-73, 72 (ill.)]
The obituary states that "The death of Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard, wife of Richard Henry Stoddard, removes a woman who had in her mental make-up much of the old New England thought and sentiment. The ultimate problems of existence had a fascination for her, and the sterner aspects of life were the theme of her thought and were reflected in her novels and poems." The obituary mentions that she and her husband lived on Stuyvesant Square in New York City, "a shrine and a salon" (194).[pages:194]
Formerly Elizabeth Drew Barstow, she became Elizabeth Stoddard in 1852 when she married Richard Henry Stoddard (51).
Elizabeth and her husband were both great admirers of Edgar Allen Poe (52).
Elizabeth studied at Wheaton Seminary and "not only assisted his literary work but regularly wrote poems, stories, and essays for the periodical press and, eventually, three novels," (58).[pages:51, 52 58, 60]
The section "The Magazines and Their Contents" lists Mrs. Stoddard's "Hallo! My Fancy, Wither Wilt Thou Go?" as appearing in the November issue of the Knickerbocker Magazine (3).[pages:3]
The column includes a note on the rumor of a forthcoming volume of poetry by Mrs. R.H. Stoddard. Her poem, "November," published in the most recent issue of the Atlantic is reproduced here (3).[pages:3]
"The death of Mrs. Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard, novelist and poet, wife of the poet Richard Henry Stoddard, took from New York one of the leading spirits in the older and more distinguished literary circle of the city."[pages:1968]
Her husband's obituary describes her as "the woman of genius who remained his helpmeet until about a year ago" (378).[pages:378]
The obituary mentions that her death and the passing of the Stoddards' son appeared to have taken a physical and emotional toll on Richard Henry Stoddard (216).
She married Stoddard in 1851. The obituary describes her as "a woman of great force of intellect and marked individuality of character, a writer of poems and novels of distinctive quality." The writer recalls that some of her stories were reprinted in The Outlook, an event "which recalled their striking excellencies and equally striking defects to a generation which had slight familiarity with them" (217).[pages:216,217]
Elizabeth Drew Barstow married Richard Henry Stoddard in 1852. The obituary describes her as "one of the most gifted women of her generation." Their home on Fifteenth Street "for many years was the centre of the most brilliant literary society of the metropolis" (5).[pages:5]
"[S]he was a poetical writer of no mean gifts, and her insight, her encouragement, and her felicitous comradeship in his work as a writer became constituent elements in his [R. H. Stoddard's] career."[pages:613]
One of only two women to be fully accepted into the bohemian circle.[pages:143]
In his tribute to Elizabeth Stoddard, Stedman praises her writing as being ahead of her time, and discusses the literary circle she formed with her husband.[pages:9]
The note on the Stoddards states, "The serious illness of Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard, with wife of Richard Henry Stoddard, brings menace of even greater sorrow to the home that has been overshadowed by grief since the death of the young son, Mr. Lorimer Stoddard." The note also mentions that the Stoddards' home on Fifteenth Street had been a popular meeting-place for "a little circle of young people which included the son of Julian Hawthorne and also his daughter, Miss Hildegarde Hawthorne" (22).[pages:22]
In a letter to Winter, Taylor writes that he and his wife have had "a strange fancy that something has happened to Stoddard, Elizabeth, or Lorry" and he hopes he is wrong (163).
Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard was a member of Taylor's poetic group, along with Richard Henry Stoddard, George William Curtis, Edmund Clarence Stedman, George Henry Boker, Fitz-James O'Brien, Christopher P. Cranch, and Fitz Hugh Ludlow. Winter notes that at the time of his writing "not one remains" of this group (177).
The "brilliant Elizabeth Barstow," Mrs. Stoddard, is mentioned as a member of "the literary circle to which Stedman gained access, and which he pleased and adorned,...a circle distinct from that of the contemporary Bohemia, and not propitious to it" (293).[pages:163,177,293]
Howells states in Literary Friends and Aquaintances, a Personal Retrospect of American Authorship p.87 that he liked the Stoddards because they were not part of the Bohemia and thought that it had no promise or validity.[pages:100]
The Vault at Pfaff's
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