Lippincott, Sara Jane (Clark)
LIPPINCOTT, Sara Jane (Clark)
Also wrote under: Sara J. Clarke, Grace Greenwood, Mrs. L. K.Lippincott
Daughter of Thaddeus and Deborah Baker Clarke; married Leander K. Lippincott, 1853
The youngest daughter among 11 children of a physician and a great-granddaughter of Jonathan Edwards, Sara Jane Lippincott spent her childhood near Syracuse, New York, and attended school for eight years in Rochester, New York. When she was nineteen, she moved with her family to New Brighton, Pennsylvania.
Lippincott's first poems appeared in Rochester papers, and in 1844 her verse was published in N. P. Willis's New Mirror. Soon she wrote prose and informal letters for the Mirror and Home Journal under the pseudonym "Grace Greenwood." Later she worked as a journalist and correspondent for Godey's Lady's Book, Graham's, Sartain's, the Saturday Evening Post, the abolitionist National Era, the New York Times, and the New York Tribune. Throughout her career, because of her Puritan heritage or her own staunch sense of right, Lippincott spoke out strongly for such causes as abolition, woman suffrage, prison reform, and Colorado's right to statehood and against capital punishment.
Her marriage was unhappy. Lippincott and her husband Leander were coeditors of the early and highly popular juvenile magazine the Little Pilgrim (1853-75), but in 1876 Leander fled the country and disappeared after being indicted for embezzlement connected with his job at the Department of the Interior.
Greenwood Leaves (1850), Lippincott's first bestseller, epitomizes mid-19th century taste. It combines saccharine and sentimental tales and sketches ("Sly Peeps into the Heart Feminine," "A Spring Flower Faded") with a series of lively informal letters and parodies of Poe, Melville, Longfellow, and other authors. The letters, though often prolix and gushing, give promise of the journalism that would later be Lippincott's forte.
Haps and Mishaps of a Tour in Europe (1854) was another Greenwood bestseller and was still being reprinted in the 1890s. A lively and often humorous account of her journey alone to England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, and Italy, it records visits to literary and historical sites, prisons, almshouses, and lunatic asylums and meetings with literary, artistic, and political lions. Haps and Mishaps mixes sentiment and gush, American chauvinism, and some of the dry Yankee wit later to be fully developed in Twain's The Innocents Abroad. As in the first and second series of Greenwood Leaves, the most interesting parts are the segments of straight reporting, especially Lippincott's impressions of people.
Merrie England (1855), like Bonnie Scotland (1861) and other juvenile works, first appeared in the Little Pilgrim. Linked with sites she visited on her first trip to Europe are "tales" or "historical sketches." Most of the history presented is highly suspect by modern standards and often seems comic in its invention and moralizing: "But the neighbors all shook their heads wisely, and said, 'Mrs. Shakespeare is spoiling that boy; he'll never make the man his father is.' I am sorry to say that, as he grew out of boyhood, the young poet fell into rather wild ways."
Heavy morality, sentimentality, and emphasis on sickbed and deathbed scenes typify many of Lippincott's tales for children. In Nelly, the Gypsy Girl (1863), written for the General Protestant Episcopal Sunday School Union and Church Book Society, the eponymous heroine is no Romany, but a motherless girl who reforms her dissipated father by reading him the parable of the prodigal son. Her father then effects a reconciliation with his father, who, "the gout having reached his stomach," dies and leaves him £10,000. Nelly and her father devote their lives to good works (improving the vicarage school and playground, founding a training school for servants) until her father dies.
Much of Lippincott's best writing is in accounts of her travels in Europe during the 1870s and 1880s written for the Independent, after she stopped gushing. Her power and charm continued in letters from Washington, D.C., written through the 1890s and even into the 20th century. Once-popular books by "Grace Greenwood" have now been largely forgotten, while the works of contemporaries she far outsold in her lifetime (e.g., Thoreau and Melville) have become American classics. Her poetry, sentimental tales and sketches, and children's books merit obscurity, but her strong-minded, firsthand reporting still deserves and rewards attention.
History of My Pets (1851). Poems (1851). Greenwood Leaves, Second Series (1852). Recollections of My Childhood, and Other Stories (1852). A Forest Tragedy (1856). Old Wonder-Eyes (1857). Stories and Legends of Travel and History (1857). Stories from Famous Ballads (1859). Records of Five Years (1867). Stories and Sights of France and Italy (1867).Stories of Many Lands (1867). New Life in New Lands (1873). Heads and Tails: Studies and Stories of My Pets (1874). Emma Abbott, Prima Donna (1878). Treasures from Fairy Land (with R. W. Raymond, 1879). Queen Victoria: Her Girlhood and Womanhood (1883). Some of My Pets (1884). Stories for Home-Folks, Young and Old (1884). Stories and Sketches (1892).
Hart, J. S., Female Prose Writers of America (1852). Pattee, F. L., The Feminine Fifties (1940). Marzolf, M., Up From the Footnote: A History of Women Journalists (1977). Rosh, I., Ladies of the Press: The Story of Women in Journalism by an Insider (1936). Thorp, M. F., Female Persuasion (1949).
AA. American Female Poets (1854). American Literary Manuscripts. AW (1897). CAL. DAB. Eminent Women of the Age (1869). FPA (1857). NAW (1971). NCAB. Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995). Woman's Record (1853).
AL (Jan. 1938). Atlantic (June 1859, Sept. 1859). New England Quarterly (Dec. 1985). NYT (21 April 1904).
—SUSAN SUTTON SMITH