Hewitt, Mary E(lizabeth) Moore

views updated

HEWITT, Mary E(lizabeth) Moore

Born 1808, Malden, Massachusetts; died death date unknown

Wrote under: Mary Elizabeth Hewitt, Ione, Jane

Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Moore; married James L. Hewitt, circa 1827; Mr. Stebbins, n.d.

Mary Elizabeth Moore Hewitt was born in a suburb of Boston. Her father, a farmer, died while she was quite young, and she and her mother moved closer to the city. In 1829 she and James L. Hewitt, a music publisher, moved to New York City, where Mary Elizabeth continued to live for most of her life. Known primarily as a poet, Hewitt published her first verses in Knickerbocker magazine under the pseudonyms Ione and Jane; most of her work appeared in magazines in the 1840s and 1850s. She became acquainted with many of the popular writers of her day.

The Songs of Our Land, and Other Poems (1845), her first collection, was made up primarily of poems that had appeared in various publications; it was reissued, almost unchanged, as Poems: Sacred, Passionate, and Legendary (1853). Hewitt's poetry has little to recommend it save perhaps an interesting variety in subject matter. In her collections, one finds fervently nationalistic poems as well as some translations from French poets and poems drawn from Greek and Norse legends. The poems deal with love and loss, with historical events, and with secular and religious themes.

"The Songs of Our Land" is a long poem that echoes the mood of the nation in the mid-19th century. Taking her inspiration from the optimism and sense of achievement then existing in America, Hewitt's theme is that the songs of her land, although not based on ancient traditions, are all one superior song, that of "Liberty." Many verses on the American pioneer experience—such as "A Thought of the Pilgrims," about the early experience on the "lonely Mayflower," and "The Axe of the Settler"—reflect the literary and political mood of Hewitt's time.

Titles such as "Love's Pleading," "Alone," "A Wife's Prayer," and "The Lady to Her Glove" characterize Hewitt's love poetry, which too often shows no originality or imagination. "I pine, my cherished one! for Thee! for Thee!"—a line from "A Voice of the Heart"—is typical of her sentimental verse. She is more successful when dealing with natural forces, such as the sea. A series of poems about mariners and the sea was praised by Poe. The ambitious "Myth," one of her most interesting failures, is about fishermen "on the Ionian sea." In "Myth" Hewitt attempts, through the use of a chorus, an invocation, and several alternating voices, to create the atmosphere of a Greek drama within a poem.

Heroines of History (1856) is a series of prose sketches. In the preface, Hewitt says she wishes to present women "rendered illustrious by their heroism and their virtues." The prose style of these tales is unremarkable, and the subjects seem to have been chosen because they had violent, unhappy lives; they include Semiramis, Zenobia, Beatrice Cenci, Anne Boleyn, Joan of Arc, and Charlotte Corday.

Hewitt's writing is characterized by her love of drama and her intense feeling, as evidenced most often by her use of the exclamation point and a short emphatic line. Praised for her "impassioned heart," her "lyrical power," and (by Poe) for her "poetic fervor," Hewitt was valued more for her emotions than her poetry even in her day, and may today be appreciated primarily for the variety of her subject matter and a certain innocent intensity in some of her poems.

Other Works:

The Gem of the Western World (1850).


Poe, E. A., The Literati of New York (1860).

Reference works:

American Female Poets (1848). CAL. A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors (1870). FPA. Woman's Record (1853).