Warfield, Catherine (Ann) Ware

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WARFIELD, Catherine (Ann) Ware

Born 6 June 1816, Natchez, Mississippi; died 21 May 1877, Louisville, Kentucky

Daughter of Nathaniel A. and Sarah Ellis Ware; married Robert E. Warfield, 1833

Catherine Ann Ware Warfield was brought up by her father, a major during the War of 1812 and an amateur scientist, who had strict notions about home education and the benefits of travel. Her mother was institutionalized for insanity after the birth of her second daughter in 1820. Nathaniel Ware then sold his property in Mississippi and moved with his children to Philadelphia, where he obtained tutors for his daughters' social education, while he taught them academic subjects at home. Each year the family traveled for educational purposes in both the South and the North. After her marriage, Warfield settled at her husband's home in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1857 she and her family moved to Beechmoor, an estate near Louisville, where she lived in comparative retirement until her death.

Warfield and her sister, Eleanor Ware Lee, wrote poetry together and, with their father's encouragement, published The Wife of Leon, and Other Poems in 1843, followed by The Indian Chamber, and Other Poems in 1846. While none of the verse is attributed specifically to either of the sisters, clear hints of Warfield's later work pervade the poetry's tone, settings, subjects, and themes: the pieces are generally sentimental, while insisting on rigid principles of conduct and on moral absolutes. They are often stilted, with conventional rhythms, rhymes, and forms; yet the emphasis on character, first person voices, and narrative suggests the strengths of Warfield's fiction.

She ceased writing for a time after her sister's death in 1849. Her calm and secluded life at Beechmoor, however, evidently provided the proper atmosphere for a return to writing; Warfield wrote steadily after her first novel, The Household of Bouverie was published in 1860. This novel is not only one of her best, it is characteristic of her fiction. It is a lengthy, somewhat autobiographical study of a fascinating criminal scientist, Erastus Bouverie, who tortures his wife and, obsessed by monomaniacal jealousy and possessiveness, uses strange chemical processes to maim and murder those he resents. The first part of the narrative is written from the point of view of Bouverie's granddaughter, Lilian; the story is carried on by a detached narrator after Lilian's death; and the last third of the novel consists almost entirely of excerpts from the diary of Bouverie's wife. The plot depends heavily on mystery, suspense, and sensationalism, and is not always psychologically sound. The strengths of The Household of Bouverie lie in its experiments with point of view and its sometimes sharply drawn details; in its sustained, if windy, narrative; and in its emphasis on women's responses to bizarre exploitation.

In the story of the Bouveries, as throughout her writing, Warfield stresses primarily domestic tensions, but at times her social and political allegiances become explicit, as when she writes of the necessity of slavery, noting that "God intended the white man to govern the negro." The Civil War inspired Warfield to return to writing poetry, which she published in periodicals and anthologies. Her verse shows strong Confederate sympathies, as do her later novels.

Warfield deserves recognition in the history of American literature as one of the first female novelists of consequence in the South.

Other Works:

The Romance of the Green Seal (1866). The Romance of Beauseincourt: An Episode Extracted from the Retrospect of Miriam Monfort (1867; also published as Miriam's Memoirs, 1876). Miriam Monfort (1873; parts 1 and 2 published separately as Monfort Hall, Sea, and Shore, 1876). A Double Wedding; or, How She Was Won (1875). Hester Howard's Temptation (1875). Lady Ernestine; or, The Absent Lord of Rochester (1876). Ferne Fleming: A Novel (1877). The Cardinal's Daughter: A Sequel to "Ferne Fleming" (1877).


Brown, A., The Cabells and Their Kin (1895). Simpson, E. M., "The Meadows," in Bluegrass Houses (1932). Townsend, J. W., Kentucky in American Letters (Volume 1, 1913). Warfield, J. D., The Warfields of Maryland (1898).

Reference works:

LSL (1910). Southland Writers (Volume 1, 1870). Women of the South Distinguished in Literature (1861).