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Botta, Anne C(harlotte) Lynch

BOTTA, Anne C(harlotte) Lynch

Born 11 November 1815, Bennington, Vermont; died 23 March 1891, New York, New York

Wrote under: Anne Lynch Botta, Anne Lynch

Daughter of Patrick and Charlotte Gray Lynch; married VincenzoBotta, 1855

Anne C. Lynch Botta's father, an Irish patriot who emigrated to America rather than swear allegiance to the British crown, died in 1819. Botta attended the Albany Female Seminary, one of the most progressive schools for women in the early-19th century. While at school, she received class honors and awards for her poetry. After teaching for a short time at the Seminary, Botta worked as a tutor and in 1845, she moved to New York City with her mother. There she wrote for the popular press, made her reputation as hostess to the literati, and taught young women in her home and at the Brooklyn Academy for Young Ladies. In 1850 Botta left New York and stayed in Washington, D.C., for four seasons, where she successfully petitioned Congress for the unpaid portion of her grandfather's military pay and worked as Henry Clay's private secretary. In 1855 she married an Italian Dante scholar then visiting in the U.S. and they made their home in New York City, where Botta continued her salon and her writing.

Botta published three books and miscellaneous prose and verse in magazines and journals. The Rhode Island Book (1841), compiled during her residence in Providence, is an anthology of the writings of prominent citizens of the state from the time of Roger Williams to her own. Poems appeared in 1849 and went through three editions. Though Poe complimented poems like "The Ideal" and "The Ideal Found" for "vigor of rhythm…dignity and elevation of sentiment…and in energy of expression" in his Literati, most of Botta's work is typical of the sentimental verse of the day. Many of the poems are dedicated to her mother and to friends, treating the themes of life's battle and death in a sentimental, romanticized fashion.

Botta's most substantial work, the Handbook of Universal Literature (1860), was prepared for popular reading and attempted to give a unity to the history of literature that illustrated Botta's holistic notion of the universe. Botta's insights into the writing of contemporary American authors, many of them personal friends, are still interesting to students of American literature. The Handbook went through several editions and was a favorite college text through the end of the century.

Miscellaneous poems and articles, often published anonymously, appeared in the Democratic Review, the Home Journal, Godey's Lady's Book, and Graham's Magazine, as well as in gift annuals and albums. The most interesting of these is "The Diary of a Recluse," an autobiographical narrative of Botta's years as a tutor to the Gardiner family of Shelter Island, New York. One of the least sentimental of Botta's published pieces, it chronicles her mental and emotional development and her attempts to understand it.

As a hostess of one of the most exciting literary salons of the 19th century, Botta made her mark on her era and in America's social history. Her passionate interest in people, her tact, her eagerness to serve all contributed to her success in drawing together artists, reformers, and statesmen for lively discussion and witty repartee. In the 1840s and 1850s, her salons were largely literary, a meeting place for notables like Edgar Allan Poe, Margaret Fuller, and William Cullen Bryant. After the war, when salons were becoming more social than intellectual, she maintained her standards and became especially popular with foreign visitors like Thackeray and Trollope. Botta's salons provided the environment where art, intellect, and society could meet, and where individuals could enjoy stimulating conversation at its best.

Botta's work, however, indistinguishable from that of other sentimental women authors, can be classified as popular literature, and is now of interest primarily to literary and cultural historians.

Other Works:

"Diary of a Recluse" in The Gift (1843). Memoirs of Anne Charlotte Lynch Botta Written by Her Friends with Selections from Her Correspondence and from Her Writings in Prose and Poetry (ed. V. Botta, 1893).

Bibliography:

Botta, V., ed., Memoirs of Anne C. Lynch Botta (1893). Dolan, A. M., "The Literary Salon in New York, 1830-1860" (dissertation, 1957). Fenton, M. B., "The Life and Letters of Anne Lynch Botta" (thesis, 1940). Hemstreet, C., Literary New York (1903). Sherwood, M. E., An Epistle to Posterity (1898). Walker, C., American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology (1992).

Reference Works:

American Women, F. E. Willard and M. A. Livermore (1897). Cyclopedia of American Literature, E. A. and G. L. Duyckinck, eds. (1855). Dictionary of American Biography, National Cyclopedia of American Biography (1892 et seq.). NAW, 1607-1950 (1971). A Supplement to Allibone's Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors (1891).

Other references:

New York History (1942).

—AREN SZYMANSKI

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