The prolific Sedgwick was the first of the "literary domestics," American women novelists of the mid-nineteenth century who also included Fanny Fern, Lydia Maria Child, and Maria Susanna Cummins. Their works were hugely popular and known for their sentimentality and devotion to home and family, featuring heroines who struggle through domestic difficulties, improve their characters, and find true love and the inevitable happy ending. These were the writers who prompted Nathaniel Hawthorne's notorious comment, in an 1855 letter to his publisher, that "America is now wholly given over to a d----d mob of scribbling women." Despite her success, Sedgwick had a fear of public attention and published anonymously throughout her career. This volume, an epistolary work which, like Cooper's, includes observations on travels in the Alps and in Italy, was published as "by the author of 'Hope Leslie,' 'The Poor Rich Man and the Rich Poor Man,' 'Live and Let Live,' etc."
Perhaps Angelica's taste in fiction, or reading tastes generally, grew more moralistic in mid-century. This is one of Angelica's later books, dating after the move to New York. Aguilar was the most well-known Jewish woman writer of the Victorian era. Most of her novels were written in the 1830's but not published till after her death. They included Jewish historical romances and short fiction, a Scottish romance in imitation of Walter Scott, and two popular domestic novels about mothers and daughters, Home Influence and this sequel The Mother's Recompense, intended primarily for a Christian readership. It illustrates, in Aguilar's words, "the cares, anxieties, and ultimate reward of maternal love," aiding "the education of the Heart" and pointing young women towards "the paths of rectitude and virtue." An apologetic preface by the author's mother explains that her "long and fatal illness" prevented the revision and correction of the work.
Dickens, widely considered the greatest Victorian novelist and certainly the most popular, was also active in other publishing fields. Known for his literary attacks on social evils, his reform mentality found an outlet in this extremely popular British weekly, intended in part to "replace with wholesome fare the 'villainous' periodical literature" of the time.Household Words was known for espousing the causes of the poor and working class, and regularly contained works on a variety of subjects for instruction and information, as well as topical social issues and material for entertainment. This volume complies issues nos. 268-301 (May 12-Dec. 29 1855) and includes short stories, poetry, essays, serials, generally unsigned. Also in the collection is an individual weekly issue, marked for delivery to the Van Buren household.
While this item might seem to reflect the religious leanings of books available to women at the time, it probably indicates instead Angelica's wide interest in politics and literature. The Rev. Sydney Smith (1771-1845), one of the founders of theEdinburgh Review, was an essayist and bon viveur with high social connections who was famous for his witty challenges to political, social, and religious orthodoxies. This biography, by Smith's daughter, includes excerpts from lectures, sermons, speeches, and letters.
This volume, purchased during Angelica's later years in New York, indicates her growing interest in social issues and charitable work. The "Christian Socialist" clergyman Charles Kingsley often focused his work on political and religious concerns; this novel uses the form of a workingman's autobiography to address issues of religious and moral development, political reform, the effects of imprisonment, and the proper kind of poetry a moral poet should write. The effect was so realistic for the time that many readers took it for a genuine autobiography rather than fiction.