Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth

The Clifton Waller Barrett Collection
During the last half of the 19th century Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth (1819-1899) was probably the single most widely-read American novelist. She invariably signed herself "Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth," though she began writing in 1844 to support herself and her children after Mr. Southworth deserted her four years into their marriage. Her earliest tales, like the two archived here, appeared in The National Era, where Uncle Tom's Cabin first appeared as well. Most of her more than 60 novels first appeared serially in Robert Bonner's popular story newspaper, The New York Ledger, which reached about a million readers during the late 1850s and 1860s. The exclusive contract Southworth signed with Bonner in 1856 and royalties from her published novels earned her about $10,000 a year, making her one of the country's best-paid writers. In our time she is best known by the novel The Hidden Hand, originally published in The Ledger in 1859, and reprinted there twice before it was finally issued as a book in 1888. Capitola, the feisty and subversive heroine of that narrative, puts a lot of playful pressure on the conventional Christian and genteel values that, in the end, Southworth's sensational fictions ultimately re-affirm. The diptych formed by these two early tales, like most of her work, is more orthodox, though part of Southworth's extraordinary appeal to her contemporaries was her ability to imagine sensational or melodramatic events and adventurous, active roles for her heroines within the constraints of the doctrine of feminine gentility.
From Old Neighbourhoods and New Settlements, or, Christmas Evening Legends by Emma D. E. N. Southworth (Philadelphia: A. Hart, 1853).

The Clifton Waller Barrett Collection

  • The Better Way; or, The Wife's Victory
  • The Married Shrew; Sequel to The Better Way

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