Hazlett, Helen

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Born circa 1820s; death date unknown

Wrote under H. M. Tatem, M. H. Tatem

An intensive search failed to reveal any biographical information about Helen Hazlett. Works listed in secondary sources are contradictory regarding titles and dates of publication. Since all Hazlett's works were published in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, records of this city were investigated, but without results.

Hazlett's works are sentimental novels, replete with frail female characters who faint at any slight emotional agitation. Each follows the same formula, opening with a dialogue between two characters who are revealed indirectly through the conversation. Descriptive and narrative passages are minimal throughout the novels. Each of Hazlett's novels has a unifying theme—the Christian religion.

In her first novel, The Cloud with a Golden Border (1859), the Nesbit family laments the fact that their friend Solomon Mordecai, a rich banker, is Jewish. As Hazlett states in the introduction, she feels that "in regard to the Hebrew race…the chosen people of the Almighty will surely take their station among the Christian nations of the earth…and if the footsteps of one wanderer from the fold be led to recognize his own Shepherd in Him who hung on Calvary by means of this little work, she will feel her time has not been misspent." The faith of Nellie Nesbit, a doubter who was to marry Mr. Mordecai's son, is strengthened at the moment of death. Needless to say, one by one, all the members of the Mordecai family find "the golden border" and convert to Christianity.

The setting of The Heights of (H) Eidelberg (1870) is a Swiss Protestant and Catholic community. Since Hazlett's purpose is to "lead a misguided Romanist to seek truth as it is in Jesus," the priest is portrayed as the devil himself, who "holds tyrannical sway under the mask of holy counsel." Young Vanclive is publicly accused of possessing a Bible, and he admits to being a Protestant. Vanclive's premature death leads to his father's conversion to Protestantism at the moment of his own death. When the priest attempts to gain access to the father's money, he is beaten as a scoundrel by a Protestant.

Glennair (1869) deals with Hazlett's Scottish ancestry. While the purpose of the novel is not to convert any definite group of nonbelievers, religion plays an enormous role in the book. When the matriarch, Mrs. Graeme, dies, "her soul winged its way to the home where Jesus was waiting with hosts of angels, to welcome it." Again, dialogue, this time in Scottish dialect, is the principal form. Lord Glennair, whose faith has lapsed, is aroused to "true religion" (The Great I AM) under the pressure of difficult times.

The religious overtones of Hazlett's novels no doubt made her one of the less-read sentimental novelists of her day. Despite her intolerance toward nonbelievers, it is unfortunate no one cared to record her biographical data.

Other Works:

The Pastor's Widow (Son); or, The Contract (1865). A Ray from the South


Reference works:

A Supplement to Allibone's Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors (1891). Wright American Fiction 1851-1875. Research Publication Microfilm, No. 1147.