Born 1866, Boston, Massachusetts; died 11 May 1937, Boston, Massachusetts
Daughter of Benjamin H. and Caroline Cushman Ticknor
As a member of a family prominent in the publishing business, from childhood Caroline Ticknor knew many men and women in the literary establishment and was devoted to their work. She was the granddaughter of William D. Ticknor, who founded Ticknor and Fields. The firm published the most successful authors of the period; directed the old Corner Bookstore, rendezvous for the intellectuals of Boston, Cambridge, and Concord at the time of their dominance in the country's cultural life; and also published the Atlantic Monthly, whose contributors included leading writers of America and England. Her father continued in the business, and Ticknor became an author and editor.
Having been educated privately, except for a year in public school and a special course at Radcliffe College, Ticknor began writing at the age of eighteen "for the fun of it." She wrote both short fiction and articles for Harper's, Century, the Independent, Cosmopolitan, the New England Magazine, and Atlantic. Although a collection of minor stories and a light satire appeared in 1896, her work as a biographer is more important.
Hawthorne and His Publisher (1913) is an account of the mutually rewarding relationship between the major American author and William Ticknor from 1851 to 1864, when they both died. The work relies on family recollections of the two men and their acquaintances, as well as 150 letters from Hawthorne to Ticknor's grandfather. Consonant with the spirit of a memorable friendship, Ticknor neither intrudes nor shows partiality in the depiction of the two men. Sympathetic in her characterization of Hawthorne, she thereby reflects the integrity of the self-effacing and loyal publisher on whom the man of letters counted not only for good advice but magnanimous favors.
The second biographical study by Ticknor is Poe's Helen (1916), a tribute to Sarah Helen Whitman, preeminent among the literary women closely associated with the controversial writer. The substance of the book is derived from Whitman's manuscripts and correspondence, including Poe's previously published letters to her. Poe figures in the biography as a romantic poet, a fascinating and morbid genius; "Helen" is the woman "of poetry and moonlight," but one with whom he had intellectual and spiritual ties. Whitman is praised for being free from bias, generous in her attitudes toward Poe's "eccentricities," and keen in her critical judgements. The praise is weakened, however, by Ticknor's failure to consider even briefly Whitman's bold defense of him in Edgar Poe and His Critics (1860).
In Glimpses of Authors (1922), Ticknor takes advantage of experiences she enjoyed as a member of a family hospitable to "the great and near great" writers associated with the publishing house. The book is, in fact, semiautobiographical, but its author is modest, discreet, and gently amusing in her reminiscences. Because she is dependent upon a variety of sources—the testimony of relatives and friends, letters, proof sheets, and other memorabilia—some of which are inconsequential, Glimpses of Authors is composed of fragments. Those about Lew Wallace, Joel Chandler Harris, and Thomas de Quincey, for example, prove more interesting than those about Henry James and Mary N. Murfree. Her sketches evoke the manners, tastes, diversions, and anxieties of American and English literary circles before the rise of modernism.
Ticknor was aware of the vicissitudes of those who write for a livelihood; she observed that originality is always theoretically in great demand but finds itself scantily appreciated when it appears. Nonetheless, at the time when a radical change in perspectives necessitated a reappraisal of the history of American literature, Ticknor ratified the accepted 19th-century view of its achievement. There is a suggestion of nostalgia in Ticknor's adherence to the aims of conserving records of an earlier period.
A Hypocritical Romance, and Other Stories (1896). Miss Belladonna: A Child of Today (1896). Miss Bella-donna: A Social Satire (1897). The "Old North" Signal Lights, 1723-1923; or, Christmas Comes to Boston (1923). May Alcott: A Memoir (1928). Washington's Surprising Ancestor (n.d.).
Flagg, M. B., Boston Authors Now and Then (1966).
Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the Untied States (1995).
Boston Globe (12 May 1937).