Sigourney, Lydia H.


The popular Connecticut poet provides a quote from one of her most successful works, “Niagara”

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Autograph ID: 4767
Condition: Very good, folds, light wrinkling
Description: “(1791-1865) Popular, influential Connecticut-born early-mid 19th century author and poet, published 67 volumes in over 50 years, often preoccupied with theme of death. She enjoyed substantial popularity in her lifetime in America and England and earned several nicknames, including “the American Hemans”, “Sweet Singer of Hartford”, and the “female Milton”. Born in Norwich and educated in Norwich & Hartford, she opened a school for young ladies in Norwich in 1811, and when it closed, conducted a similar school in Hartford 1814 -19. She married Charles Sigourney in 1819, and after her marriage chose to write anonymously in “leisure” time. When she was referred to as the probable author of the anonymous ”Letters to Young Ladies, By a Lady” in 1833, she admitted authorship and began to write openly as Mrs. Sigourney. She wrote 2 “conduct books”, her first, “Letters to Young Ladies”, was printed over 25 times. Her 2nd, “Letters to My Pupils”, was published in 1837. In both, Sigourney advocated traditional 19th century gendered spheres of society, but also suggested that women can influence society through teaching, conversation, and letter writing, and stressed the importance of being agreeable in conversation. Among her most successful poems are “Niagara” and “Indian Names,” the latter set to music by Natalie Merchant for her 2010 album, “Leave Your Sleep”. Throughout her life she took an active interest in philanthropic and educational work. Some of her most popular work deals with Native American issues and injustices. An early advocate for social reform, and emigration of slaves, Sigourney felt obligated to use her position to help oppressed members of society. Her influence was tremendous, and she inspired many young women to attempt to become poets. She contributed more than 2,000 articles to nearly 300 periodicals and some 67 books. When Sigourney gave up her anonymity for good, she became the most widely known “authoress” and “poetess” in America. As a result, during the lyceum movement that flourished in the US in the 19th century, women in New York, South & North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, and elsewhere, named literary societies and study clubs in her honor. In 1844, Sigourney, Iowa, county seat of Keokuk County, was named for her.

10 x 8 ALS “L. H. Sigourney”, Hartford, December 3 1838, copying a few lines of poetry, as requested by an admirer, and, below, penning an initialled AQS, the opening of her “Niagara”: “Flow on forever, in thy glorious robe/Of terror and of beauty. Yea, flow on/Unfathom’d and resistless. God hath set/His rainbow on thy forehead: and the cloud/Mantled around thy feet. And he doth give/Thy voice of thunder, power to speak of Him/Eternally, bidding the lip of man/Keep silence, and upon thy rocky altar pour/Incense of awe-struck praise. L.H.S.””
Type: ALS & AQS

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