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Bloomfield-Moore, Clara (Sophia) Jessup

BLOOMFIELD-MOORE, Clara (Sophia) Jessup

Born 16 February 1824, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; died 5 January 1899, London, England

Wrote under: Clara Moore, Clara Jessup Moore, Clara Moreton, Mrs. H. O. Ward

Daughter of Augustus Edward and Lydia Eager Mosley Jessup; married Bloomfield Haines Moore, 1842

Clara Jessup Bloomfield-Moore was raised in an atmosphere of good breeding, charity, and devotion to learning. She was educated at Westfield Academy and at Mrs. Merrick's School in New Haven, Connecticut. After her marriage to a Philadelphia Quaker, she and her husband joined their efforts in civic and philanthropic causes. Her dedication to a life of social duty continued throughout her career, both in her writing and in her private pursuits; income from her publishing was always consigned to charities and related concerns. After her husband's death, Bloomfield-Moore emigrated to London, where she maintained her ties to the literary world.

In a climate of security, based on wealth, gracious living, and good works, writing was the natural pursuit of a society woman of leisure and position, a genteel way of living a useful life. With the publication of several prize-winning stories and novellas written under pen names, Bloomfield-Moore found herself a public figure and a member of the Philadelphia literary circle. Following these successes, her Philadelphia home became a retreat and salon for the literary figures of the day. Her output of fiction and poetry spans a period of 40 years, featuring such titles as On Dangerous Ground: A Romance of American Society (1876), "The Estranged Hearts," and "The Hasty Marriage." These are now considered to be light, sentimental works of a topical and period-piece nature.

Bloomfield-Moore's observations, advice, rulings, and ideology in the field of etiquette had the greatest interest and the most enduring appeal. In 1873 she anonymously published an article entitled "Some Unsettled Points of Etiquette" in Lippincott's Magazine. In this piece she posed the basic problem of American manners: the lack of a uniformly established or accepted code applicable to every region and reach of society, one which can be relied on as a standard of common courtesy. In this context, Bloomfield-Moore cited classic cases of the wide variations of custom between American cities, regions, and generations. The articulation of this perplexing difficulty is a key statement in the history of American sociability.

Bloomfield-Moore's own compilation, Sensible Etiquette of the Best Society (1878), was published under the pen name of Mrs. H. O. Ward. It soon became the most popular and authoritative text of manners after the reigning standard, Mary Elizabeth Sherwood's Manners and Social Usages. Bloomfield-Moore's handbook, written for the generation of the new rich in the post-Civil War era, provides a fully detailed account—both real and ideal—of the rise to elegance and the aspiration (or pretension) to European manners. This book was one of many produced in a period of American social history influenced by European "civilized elegance." The upwardly mobile classes looked to writers like Bloomfield-Moore to create the image, if not the reality, of good breeding appropriate to those entering society life for the first time.

In Sensible Etiquette of the Best Society, Bloomfield-Moore was obviously of the "ethics-and-character" school of manners, believing, in contrast to more secular pragmatists like Mrs. Sherwood, that the fundamental purpose of manners is to create and sustain good moral character. Bloomfield-Moore extended this thesis on a decidedly religious set of values, attributing to etiquette the role of making possible a truly Christian civilization by encouraging a "spiritual existence" for the "happiness of our earthly home."

In a later work, Social Ethics and Society Duties: Through Education of Girls for Wives and Mothers and for Professions (1892), Bloomfield-Moore's view of learning as necessary for the progress of women reinforces the image of a good society founded on an education in good behavior.

Other Works:

Tight Times; or, The Diamond Cross and Other Tales (1855). Miscellaneous Poems, Stories for Children, The Warden's Tale, and Three Eras in a Life (1875). The Young Lady's Friend (reissue of E. Farrar's 1836 title, 1880). Gondaline's Lesson… and Other Poems (1881).

Bibliography:

Reference Works:

Female Prose Writers of America (1852). NAW, 1607-1950 (1971). A Woman of the Century (1893) .

Other reference:

Lippincott's Magazine (March 1873). NYT (6 Jan. 1899).

—MARGARET J. KING

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