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THE PEABODY SISTERS OF SALEM by Louise Hall Tharp Kirkus Star



Publisher: Little, Brown

A vibrant, colorful and interesting biography of three fascinating blue-stockings, who- through marriage or by dint of personal vitality- were central figures in the major literary- educational controversies and developments of the mid-19th century. The author sketches in the Peabody genealogy; the kindly, hard-driven Dr. Peabody and his ambitious, domineering wife, their meagre, transient existence of genteel poverty are sharply drawn; then she goes on to present the dramatic careers of the three daughters. There was Mary, self-effacing, imposed upon, who endured the cruel rivalry of one sister and went off to Cuba to nurse her pampered younger sister and bury an unrequited love. Eventually she married the brilliant Horace Mann and shared his crusading liberalism and zeal. Sophia, beautiful, fragile, gifted, and an invalid, found in her marriage to Hawthorne (according to the author's somewhat controversial interpretation) an escape from a doing mother and a cure for her disabling headaches. (Another kind of Elizabeth Barrett-Robert Browning affair?). Here is described her idyllic marriage, the years at the old manse in Lenox, where Hawthorne wrote The House of the Seven Gables, and where he grew to know Melville, to find the security of literary success and European travel, and from where he left for the bitter years of his decline in Concord. The most dynamic and remarkable sister was Elizabeth, the indomitable Lizzie Peabody,- educator, transcendentalist, publisher, bookseller, crusader extraordinaire. She was the friend of Emerson, of Thoreau, of Margaret Fuller; she was the defender of John Brown, the advocate of Bronson Alcott, the devoted admirer of Channing, the first kindergartener in the Froebel tradition in America. Perhaps she could be considered the most significant woman of her time, a time when even in her own region there were other famous women. Authoritative, highly documented biography, which is at the same time first rate reading.