Knox, Adeline Trafton

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KNOX, Adeline Trafton

Born 8 February 1845, Saccarappa, Maine; died date unknown

Wrote under: Adeline Trafton

Wrote under: Adeline TraftonDaughter of Mark and Eliza Young Trafton; married Samuel Knox Jr., 1889 (died 1897)

Adeline Trafton Knox was educated in private and public schools in Massachusetts. She married a lawyer from St. Louis, where they apparently resided until her husband's death in 1897. Knox's last-known residence was Springfield, Massachusetts. Although biographical information on Knox is sketchy, material on the life of her father, a Methodist clergyman, is not. He was a one-term congressman, an author, and a temperance and antislavery advocate. These are themes that his daughter uses in her fiction.

Knox wrote four novels, all of which appeared first as serials in magazines. She contributed numerous stories to Scribner's magazine. Her works, originally written for adults, continued to have popular appeal with adolescent readers into the 20th century. Three of her works were reprinted in the American Girl series.

Knox's first book, An American Girl Abroad (1872), is apparently an account of a European trip that the author took as a young woman. In a chatty first-person narrative, this guidebook presents the travels of a young woman (unnamed) and her chaperone. The narrator describes the various countries of Europe, most often observing scenic landscapes and comic or quaint local customs. This work ends with a list of recommendations to would-be women travelers: that women can travel alone safely through Europe, that they should bring little baggage, dress warmly, and be equipped with "an abundant supply of patience and good nature."

The heroine in Katherine Earle (1874) is an upright, independent young girl who at one point even harbors a fugitive slave in her home. As she matures, she fancies herself in love with Dacre Home, a man she had hated as a child. He returns her affections initially; nevertheless, after she accepts a teaching job away from home, he becomes a negligent suitor. Dacre's possible role in a bank robbery and the discovery of his unfaithfulness cause Katherine much unhappiness, with the impending Civil War, a nasty colleague, and her stern supervisor, Professor Dyce, aggravating the situation. Through the treachery of another, Katherine and Dyce lose their way in the woods overnight and, to save their reputations, get married. After a shaky beginning, the marriage proves to be a happy one.

Dorothy's Experience (1890) is Knox's most moralistic tale. It uses a familiar theme of 19th-century popular fiction: the affluent, well-educated woman who finds herself and religion in unselfish work for others. Dorothy's work involves the establishment of a mission home for women who work in a shoe factory by day and have too much free time at night. The idea is a noble one, although to the modern reader Knox's description of the working-class people will seem both condescending and naive.

Adeline Trafton is a name few now recognize. It is doubtful her works made an impression on (or were even read by) the better writers of her time. Her plots, by modern standards, seem contrived and sentimental, yet she wrote lively, interesting stories. Since she was more intent on providing entertainment than a moral message, Knox remained popular with young readers for at least a few decades.

Other Works:

His Inheritance (1878).

Bibliography:

Reference works:

Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography (1900). AW. A Dictionary of American Authors (1904).

—AMY DYKEMAN

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