Thayer, Caroline (Mathilda) Warren
THAYER, Caroline (Mathilda) Warren
Born 1787 (?); died 1844
Wrote under: Caroline Mathilda Warren, Caroline Mathilda Thayer Married Mr. Thayer (died); children: three
Caroline Warren Thayer was reared in New England in what seems to have been an intellectually stimulating and affectionate environment. She married a Mr. Thayer and had three children, but husband and children died within a few years. She made her living as a writer and schoolteacher, heading the "Female Department" at various schools. Many of Thayer's books went through several editions. The prefaces are the best source of biographical information. Nothing, however, is known of her later years.
The Gamesters; or, Ruins of Innocence (1805), a warning against the "vices of gaming," is Thayer's only novel. Its hero, Leander Anderson, is physically appealing and morally upright, but the potential weakness in his character is that his sensibility overwhelms his judgement; he is purposefully corrupted by his close friend, Somerton, a libertine. Several other stories, meant to provide moral guidance, are intertwined with Leander's, but all the digressions do not save or even enliven The Gamesters. The pace of the novel is very slow, and the characterization weak. Leander is the greatest disappointment; in response to Thayer's own question, "Why did he fall?" she answers, "Inquiry is vain."
Thayer's other works are nonfiction, and all were published under the name of Thayer. Religion Recommended to Youth (1817) is a plea for Methodism, to which she converted in her early twenties, in the form of letters addressed to a former pupil. Letter to the Members of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1821) is a pamphlet about her conversion to Swedenborgianism and subsequent dismissal from Wesleyan Seminary. In a clear and lively style, she outlines the points at which Methodism and Swedenborgianism differ and her reasons for accepting the latter. In Thayer's account of her dismissal, one also learns a good deal about the way the seminary was run.
Poems Moral and Sentimental by Mrs. Harriet Muzzy, which Thayer edited in 1821, contains some verses of Thayer's own. Her literary merit, such as can be found, surfaces when she speaks in her own voice, that of an intelligent and religious teacher, and not when, as in her novel, she follows various popular formulas for success.
First Lesson in the History of the U.S. (1825).
Cowie, A., The Rise of the American Novel (1948). Peter, H., The Early American Novel (1971).