Denison, Mary Andrews
DENISON, Mary Andrews
Born 26 May circa 1826, Cambridge, Massachusetts; died 15 October 1911, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Wrote under: N. I. Edson, Clara Vance
Daughter of Thomas and Jerusha Robbins Andrews; married Charles W. Denison, 1846
Mary Andrews Denison's first publications were short sketches printed in the Boston Olive Branch where her husband, a Baptist minister and active abolitionist, was assistant editor. In 1847 Denison published her first novel, Edna Etheril, the Boston Seamstress. This potboiler began her prolific career as author of pulp fiction and dime novels.
Denison published over 80 novels during her lifetime. Many of them do not deserve close scrutiny; they can be divided into a few groupings. Denison exploited the convention of the spotless heroine, extolled on one of her book covers as "purer, sweeter, and nobler than [women] are often found in real life." The epitome of this genre is her most famous novel, That Husband of Mine (1877), quickly followed by That Wife of Mine (1878). Both novels, along with dozens of her others, celebrate the domestic ideal and were dedicated to "All Who Love Happy Homes."
In addition to championing marital bliss, Denison also crusaded against alcohol in her Gertrude Russel (1849), published by the American Baptist Publication Society. Another group of her novels depicted stereotypical situations and stock formulas. Chip, the Cave Child (ca. 1860) presented the story of a little white boy captured by Native Americans, while The Prisoner of La Vintresse (ca. 1860) exploited a tropical setting with conventional political intrigues.
Eventually, Denison wrote novels reinforcing religious conservatism and piety, such as Out of Prison (1864), Victor Norman, Rector (1873), and John Dane (1874). They all depict the temptation of evil, sin, and lust, but always conclude, anticlimactically, with the triumph of the powers of good. The majority of Denison's readers probably read these works not for their high-minded preachings but for their thrilling and graphic portrayals of evil.
Denison was also a continual contributor to a number of periodicals, chiefly Frank Leslie's Monthly, Harper's Weekly, the People's Home Journal, and Youth's Companion. She worked as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War and was a charter member of the League of American Penwomen.
Raphael Inglesse (1848). Home Pictures (1853). The Mad Hunter (circa 1860).
Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography (1888). A Critical Dictionary of English Literature, and British and American Authors (1858). Notable American Women, 1607-1950 (1971).
Boston Transcript (17 Oct. 1911). Home (Dec. 1856). Magazine of Poetry and Literary Review (Feb. 1895).
—DIANE LONG HOEVELER