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Whittlesey, Sarah J. C.


Sarah Johnson Cogswell Whittlesey Smith, or, as she generally signed her poems, Sarah J. C. Whittlesey, was born in Williamston, Martin County, North Carolina, in 1825, and died in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1896. She attended La Vallie Seminary in Halifax County, North Carolina, and was graduated in 1841. In 1848 she removed to Alexandria, Virginia, and appears to have been married there, for poems in the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper, from December 19, 1849, until May 7, 1851, are signed Sarah J. C. Whittlesey Smith. In the same paper for May 28, 1851, and afterwards, the name Smith is omitted from her signature, and on July 7, 1851, a poem entitled "The Last Link is Broken" (an old theme),(1) and beginning

The last link that bound me to thee
is now broken,
The heart that once loved thee is free,

suggests that she may have been divorced. In Graham's Magazine for 1852-53, her name is even given as "Miss Sarah J. C. Whittlesey." Oscar Whittlesey, also a poet, was her half brother, and a second marriage of her mother may account for her string of names.

Miss Whittlesey's first published article appeared in the Edenton, North Carolina, Sentinel in 1846. She wrote both prose and verse for various periodicals, and published a half dozen or so books. Among them were "Heart Drops from Memory's Urn" (1852), "The Stranger's Strategem; or, The Double Deceit and Other Stories" (1860), "Herbert Hamilton; or, The Bas Bleu" (1867), "Aunt Rebecca's Charge, and Other Stories" (1870), "Bertha, the Beauty, a Story of the Southern Revolution," first as a serial in Field and Fireside, then in book form, Philadelphia, (1871), and "Spring Buds and Summer Blossoms" (1889).

The only one of Miss Whittlesey's stories published by either of the Beadle firms was "The Bug Oracle" in Irwin's American Novels No. 21. This was a reprint of a story published originally in the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper as a serial beginning December 17, 1856. Of this reprint "Ida Raymond" (Mrs. Mary T. Tardy) said: "In 1866, the publishers in New York of a series of Dime Novels appropriated one of Miss Whittlesey's stories, "The Bug Oracle," and published it without her knowledge or consent." Irwin doubtless obtained permission from the Dollar Newspaper.

REFERENCES: James Wood Davidson, The Living Writers of the South, New York, 1869, 614; Allibone, Dict. Eng. Lit., III, 2706; Ida Raymond, The Living Female Writers of the South, Philadelphia, 1872, 420; Appleton's Cyc. Amer. Biog., VI, 496; Oscar Fay Adams, A Dictionary of American Authors, Boston, 4th ed., 1901, 422.

Irwin's American Novels. No. 21

† Correction made as per Volume 3.


1 "The last links are broken That bound me to thee," occurs in Theodore Hook's New Monthly Magazine, 1840, part 2, 513, but is even there in quotation marks, indicating that it appeared earlier elsewhere. †Possibly, though not probably, this date is correct.

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