The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Spofford, Harriet Elizabeth Prescott, 1835-1921
Harriet E. Prescott Spofford (1835-1921)
0.25 linear feet (1 box)
The Harriet E. Prescott
Spofford papers contain letters by Spofford to her husband, family, friends, and
Scope and Content Note
The Harriet E. Prescott Spofford papers contain letters by Spofford to her husband,
family, friends, and publishers. The letters have been arranged alphabetically by
name of recipient. The collection also includes manuscripts of several poems and a
Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford was born in Calais,
Maine, on April 3, 1835, the eldest child of Joseph Newmarch and Sarah Jane Bridges
Prescott. Her father, a lumber merchant and lawyer, suffered economic reverses and
left his family in 1849 in search of better economic opportunities in Oregon. Her
mother moved their five children to Newburyport, Massachusetts, where numerous
Prescott relatives lived. Harriet attended Putnam Free Academy in Newburyport for
four years and the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire, for two.
While in school Spofford's literary interest was encouraged by Thomas Wentworth
Higginson, then a Unitarian minister in Newburyport. In 1856, when her father
returned from the west as an invalid, Harriet became responsible for the support of
her family. In 1859, her first short story, "In a Cellar," was published in the
Atlantic Monthly. From the 1860s until her death in
1921 she became one of the most popular and widely published American authors. Her
stories, essays, and poems appeared in Harpers, Atlantic Monthly, the Knickerbocker, Scribners, Century, Cosmopolitan, and
in juvenile magazines such as the Youth's Companion.
Her first novel, Sir Rohan's Ghost, was published in
1860 and her first volume of short stories, The Amber
Gods, was published in 1863. Over the next 60 years she consistently
published numerous other novels, collections of short stories, and poems. In Titan's Garden (1897) was her best known collection of
poems. The Elder's People (1920), a series of realistic
stories about New Englanders, was considered her best.
Harriet Prescott married Richard Smith Spofford, a Newburyport lawyer, in 1865.
Their only child died as an infant in 1867. In 1874 the Spoffords bought Deer Island
on the Merrimack River in Amesbury, Massachusetts, where they resided for the rest
of their lives. She died on August 14, 1921.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons,
or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Larcom, Lucy, 1824-1893
Spofford, Richard S. (Richard Smith), 1833-1888
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in
writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex