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Denison, Mrs. Mary A.

†MARY A. DENISON (1826-1911)

Mary Andrews, daughter of Thomas Jefferson Andrews and his wife Juliette Robbins, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 26, 1826. She was educated in the Boston public schools, and in 1846 was married to the Rev. Charles Wheeler Denison, at that time editor of the Emancipator, the first antislavery journal in New York. He was also an assistant editor of the Olive Branch, to which Mrs. Denison contributed stories and sketches. In 1853 she went to British Guiana with her husband, who had been appointed consul general, and while there she continued to write for various magazines. On her return to the United States she became editor of the Lady's Enterprise, and in 1856 she and her husband removed to Buffalo, where the latter had become pastor of the Niagara Street Baptist Church. She wrote novels for Ballou and Burdick in the 1850's, and had many dialogues and short stories in Gleason's Literary Companion in 1860. During the last two years of the Civil War, her husband was post chaplain in Winchester, Virginia, and hospital chaplain in Washington, D. C., and Mrs. Denison helped nurse the sick. She afterwards accompanied him to England where he was an American propagandist. In 1867 her husband edited an American newspaper in London, but shortly thereafter they returned to Washington, D. C., where they remained many years. Mr. Denison died November 14, 1881. The last few years of Mrs. Denison's life were spent principally at her home in Normandie Heights, Baltimore. She died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the home of her brother, Dr. R. R. Andrews, where she had been for fourteen months, on October 15, 1911.

Mrs. Denison wrote some sixty novels, many of them under the pen name "Clara Vance,"(1) and wrote short stories under her own name for Godey's Lady's Book, Golden Days, Frank Leslie's Monthly, and other publications. Besides "Clara Vance," Davidson(2) assigns to her the anagram "N. I. Edson," as well as the letters "M.A.D." and "A.M.D." Her most popular book probably was "That Husband of Mine." For Beadle she wrote eight or nine novels, the first one in 1860. She also wrote some plays. The comedy-drama "Florel," in which Viola Allen acted and which afterwards was played as "Talked About," is said to have been an adaptation of Mrs. Denison's "Mrs. Peter Crewitt."

REFERENCES: Mary E. Ireland, "Mary A. Denison," Magazine of Poetry, VII, 1895, 108; Allibone, Dict. Eng. Lit., and Supplement; Bowker and Appleton, The American Catalogue of Books, 1876-1884, New York, 1885, 101; Lamb's Biog. Dict.; Nat. Cyc. Amer. Biog., XIX, 1926, 214-15; Who's Who, II, 1901-1902; The Home, December, 1856; People's Home Journal, 1906; Boston Evening Transcript, October 17, 1911.

Dime Novels. Nos. 6, 11, 20, 34, 47, 58, 88, 490, 505, 511, 528
Fifteen Cent Novels. Nos. 6, 11, 20
American Library
(London). Nos. 24, 45, 49, 67
American Sixpenny Tales
(London). No. 8
Pocket Novels.
Nos. 210, 215, 234
Waverley Library (quarto). Nos. 31, 46, 50
Waverley Library
(octavo). Nos. 8, 31, 35
Boy's Library
(octavo). Nos. 261, 289


"Chip, the Cave-Child." Dime Novels No. 6, pp. 37-42.

"Gee—gete up, Jeff—jog along, Pete—don't you be frightened, sissy; guess the old woman'll give you a good bed and something nice for supper. Ain't got no tongue, have you, sissy; got no tongue at all, same's Mrs. Snackskin hain't got any work to do; dropt down from the sky, just like a micey; nice little girl—haw—gete up, Jeff—here we are—here's the land—there's Bob onhitching the gate—there's the young ones. Benn good boy, Bob? Yaas—got a penny for you—now you let me git this ere little bundle out, and then you take the team and see to Jeff, now, and don't let Pete git too many oats, the greedy rascal. Come, little one."

Chip had been in the same bewildering state of mind from the time she was lifted in the wagon until the present moment. When she felt again the grasp of the rough but kindly hand, her little frame shook from head to foot. It was dusk, but not sufficiently deep to hide from her sight a swarm of yellow heads, each clamoring to know what dad had got.

"Git out, all of you; go in to your ma and tell her I've brought another young one home, a poor little creetur I picked up by the side of the wild woods, with nary a livin' critter near her. Somebody or nuther got tired of her, I s'pose; like's not, folks is so heartless, now-a-days;" and so talking, holding the trembling child against his heavy driver's coat, he entered the ample kitchen, followed by nine youngsters, clamoring, laughing, shouting, and demanding to see the queer thing dad had got.

Supper smoked on the table, and Chip, who by degrees began to be reconciled to the strange sights around her, allowed herself to be led to the well-filled board, and seated beside Bob, from whom, however, she instinctively shrank.

"I wonder if the child knows how to eat?" said Mrs. Snackskin, helping everybody; "what did you eat at home, little gal?"

"Johnny-cake," said Chip, at which they all laughed till she cowered down in her seat with fright.

"Don't you mind 'em, sissy," said the farmer, spreading a generous slice of bread with apple-sauce, and laying it on her plate; "they ain't got no manners here; was brought up with the pigs."

Chip ate with silence, casting timid glances around; the other children disposed of their food voraciously, and for hunger's sake, knowing little of and caring less for the rules of the table; and after supper, with a vigorous application of tongue and knuckles, they were driven off to bed. By the flaring light of a dim candle, Chip saw a long, gloomy chamber, with heavy rafters overhead, and here and there a bed clumsily made, peeping out of the darkness. Around the walls garments hung; baskets and half-barrels stood on the uneven floor, heaps of corn lay in confusion, and a curtain, torn in strips by the mischievous hands of children, hung from the large window through whose broken panes the wind blew. Six of the children slept in this chamber, all girls, and Chip was to be crowded in with Kitty and Drony, the two youngest.

In the morning the poor little homeless and friendless waif was delirious with fever.

"It's plain to see here's a hard case on my hands, Hiram Snackskin," ejaculated his worthy dame, turning to her abstracted spouse, as, thoughtfully gazing in the fire, he replenished his pipe. "I haven't got nothing to do to-day, nothing at all; I'm a lady to dress in silks and satins and suck my ringers; yes, I haven't got two floors to scour and the week's ironing to do, besides churning and cooking, and it's because I haven't got one single thing to do that this child is on my hands. Oh, dear, dear! Hiram Snackskin, you were born, I do believe, to be the particular plague of my life."

"She'll do something to earn her salt, I warrant, wife," returned the prosy Snackskin.'

"Earn her salt! do you know she's up-stairs raving with a fever? How do you know but it's an affectionate one, and all the children'll git it? Kitty says she hugged her close last night. I'm sure I don't know what I'm going to do."

"Going to take care of that child," said the man, stoutly; "if you won't, why, I will."

"You'll kill her, with that stuff," responded the wife.

"Let me alone for that," and Hiram Snackskin wended his way up-stairs.

"Poor young 'un," exclaimed the benevolent Snackskin, standing at the foot of the bed and gazing compassionately on the child, "looks as if she'd got her death-warrant; poor little young 'un, what is she talking about, you Kit?"

"She wants some drink," responded Kitty, looking very much as if she would like to get away from her charge.

"Well, she shall have it, so she shall. Lift her up, Kit, here's a nice bowlful of good strong coffee, nice and hot—drink, little gal."

Chip, in her feverish thirst, grasped the sides of the bowl with both hands, and sucked down the beverage, strong and hot as it was; then with a look of gratitude she fell back on the bed.

"Now just set and take good care of her, you Kit; tell her stories, and kinder lift her mind off her feelings, and she'll be up by and by, fresh and hearty as ever. Don't you leave her now, you hear! I'm going pretty soon with the hands, and your mother, she ain't got nothing to do, on'y to do every thing generally, so you must take care of the poor little gal; now, mind."

He went down-stairs and out to the barn without saying any thing to his wife. Kitty, already tired of her irksome employment, crept to the window, and watched till she saw the farm-hands go off with him to the fields, then she muttered to herself that she wasn't going to wait upon a beggar, and slyly left the room.

Chip lifted her head with an effort; it burned and throbbed, and seemed to bound back and forth on the pillow with the fierce rush of blood through its arteries. She was all alone. . . . Hour after hour passed and she was still alone; noon came, and the kind-hearted teamster ascended again to the little attic, and found her raving and laughing and shouting. He went downstairs instantly, and taking Kitty, who had totally forgotten her charge, by the arm, he shook her till she was red in the face; then turning to his wife, he exclaimed, "I tell you what, old woman! you'll have the death of that poor child on your soul yet; are you a heathen to let her lay sick as a dog all alone?"

"Mercy on us, Hiram Snackskin, what is the child to me? I haven't got any children of my own—nothing to do all day but watch a strange gal because she's took a little cold. I thought one of the children was there. Ain't you going to eat your dinner?"

"Dinner be hanged! children be hanged! Bob, go and tackle up the colt; I'll have a doctor, if I have to go five miles for him, and give him five dollars beside. I tell you, Nancy, that's a sick child, and you ain't got any feeling for the poor little thing—Drony, hand me them boots."

"I'd like to know what makes you take to the child so, Hiram Snackskin!" exclaimed the matron, with flashing eyes; "you ain't over much tender of your own, any how."

"Why bless your sperrit, soul and body, woman!" ejaculated the farmer, fiercely, pausing with his left leg half way in his boot, "do I want a human critter to die under my roof like a dog, nobody a seeing to her, and she a raving with a fever? No. I'll be blistered if I do; ready, Bob; now," he added, with a quiet irony, "you all sit down and eat your dinners, comfortable, while she's up there dying, I'll see to her," and he was gone.

Mrs. Snackskin passed her hands across her eyes, but whether the tears were of grief or jealousy, it is impossible for me to tell. She could not eat, however, nor even sit down; but giving the table in charge of her eldest daughter, she crept upstairs, conscience-smitten. As she entered the attice chamber, Chip was standing upright in her bed, her slight robe fallen from her shoulders, her hands upraised, her eyes fastened upon the wall, dilated, and shining brighter than all human brilliancy, while from her parched lips came the words, "mother, mother, take me too—me too," and then, the spell broken, she sank down, cowering, shivering, and sobbing.

"She saw something," said the farmer's wife, under her breath, and subdued, awe-stricken, she hurried to the bedside, and spoke motherly, soothing words. But Chip heard her not; her eyes were wild and glassy, her strength gone, her breath came short and hot.

"Dear knows what I'm to do with her," murmured Mrs. Snackskin; "I wish I'd thought more about her. She's been alone, poor thing!" and she shuddered as she thought of it. "Sissy, sissy," and she endeavored by endearing words to catch her attention, but in vain, the child had not strength to turn or even to look.

† Correction made as per Volume 3.


1 William Cushing, Initials and Pseudonyms, New York, 1886, 292.
2 Gustav Davidson, "Little Known Pseudonyms of 19th Century American Juveniles," Publishers' Weekly, CXXXVII, June 15, 1940, 2294.

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