Brewster, Anne Hampton (1818–1892)
Brewster, Anne Hampton (1818–1892)
American fiction writer, poet, essayist, and early female foreign correspondent, who published primarily in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston newspapers, and struggled daily to maintain her independence. Name variations: (pseudonym) Enna Duval. Born Anne Hampton Brewster in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 29, 1818; died in Siena, Italy, on April 1, 1892; daughter of Francis Enoch Brewster (an attorney) and Maria Hampton Brewster; educated primarily at home by her mother and briefly at Mary Huston's school, Philadelphia; never married; no children.
Genevieve [Welling] called me … 'a social outlaw' and she is right. I hate the arbitrary rules of privileged society.
—Anne Hampton Brewster
Converted to Catholicism (1848); published first poem and first novel (1849); served as an editor at Graham's American Monthly Magazine for a year (beginning 1850); sued older brother for a portion of their parents' estate (1856); moved to Bridgeton, New Jersey (1858); published second novel (1860); published third novel (1866); moved to Rome, Italy (1868); became foreign correspondent (1869); became member of Arcadia (1873); moved to Siena, Italy (1889).
Spirit Sculpture (1849); Compensation; or, Always a Future (1860); Saint Martin's Summer (1866); at least 52 short stories, 11 pieces of nonfiction, and four poems in Atlantic Monthly, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, The Cosmopolitan, Cummings Evening Bulletin, Daily Evening Bulletin, Daily Graphic, The Dollar Newspaper, Dwight's Journal of Music, Godey's Lady's Book, Graham's American Monthly Magazine, Harper's Magazine, Knickerbocker, Lippincott's Magazine, Neal's Saturday Gazette, Old and New, Peterson's Magazine, Sartain's Union Magazine (1845–90); short stories anthologized in Chaplet of Roses (1851) and Short Stories for Spare Moments (1869); foreign correspondence appeared in Boston Daily Advertiser (1870–83), Boston Sunday Herald (1887–88), Chicago Daily News (1885–88), Cincinnati Commercial (1870–71), Cincinnati Gazette (1878), Daily Evening Telegraph (Philadelphia, 1878–82), Daily Graphic (New York, 1876), European Correspondent (Paris, 1887), New York Evening Post (1886), New York World (1876–78), Newark Courier (1869–1870), Parisian (1879–80), Philadelphia Evening Bulletin (1869–78), and San Francisco Chronicle (1885).
At the age of 29, Anne Hampton Brewster wrote in her journal: "I have accomplished nothing in Life yet, all seems but as preparation. I have pictured such fancy scenes—that are never to be realized…. Am I to leave this world be fore the realization of these fancy dreams?" By the time of her death in 1892, Brewster had published numerous poems, essays, reviews, short stories, three novels, and countless newspaper articles. From 1858 on, she had supported herself largely with the earnings from this writing.
Anne Brewster was born in Philadelphia to Francis and Maria Hampton Brewster , Anglo-American Protestants of the middle class. Despite several suitors, Anne did not marry, writing in her journal (1845): "I have mind enough & strength to take care of myself…. I will never marry for mere convenience." Brewster's attitude toward marriage was relative to her father's abandonment of the family in 1834, when he began living with his mistress and two illegitimate sons. Brewster and her mother became financially dependent on her older brother, Benjamin Harris Brewster.
Anne wrote poetry until 1837, when Benjamin discouraged her. She stopped writing for six years until she found a supportive female role model in the actress Charlotte Cushman , regained her confidence as a writer, and started publishing short stories in 1845 under the pseudonym "Enna Duval." Like most 19th-century American woman's fiction, hers asserted that marriage for financial security is worse than remaining unmarried. Brewster abhorred economic dependency and believed that all women could develop the Victorian qualities of hard work, morality, and social responsibility in order to find happiness.
She converted to Catholicism in 1848, a year before she published her first book, Spirit Sculpture, a moderately successful novella concerning religious conversion. In 1849, Brewster also published her first poem, "New Year Meditation," in Graham's Magazine, where she secured a position as an editor in March 1850. This appointment lasted until May 1851, resulting in numerous published pieces and a $500 yearly salary.
When Maria and Francis Brewster died in 1853 and 1854, respectively, the estate was split among Francis' three sons. Benjamin planned to support his sister indefinitely, but she sued him for a portion of the estate in 1856. The court case prompted her to spend 15 months in Vevey, Switzerland, and Naples, Italy, beginning in May 1857. Upon her return to America, she settled in Bridgeton, New Jersey, supporting herself by writing and by teaching music and French. Brewster won control of her rental property, but Benjamin retained control of the family estate from which she received periodic payments. She disapproved of this arrangement and became permanently estranged from her older brother.
With the publication of her second novel, Compensation; Or, Always a Future (1860), Brewster began publishing under her true name. The story, set in Switzerland, is thematically similar to her short fiction, with discourses on art, music, nature, literature, philosophy, and religion. It was successful enough to warrant a second edition in 1870. Her third and last novel, Saint Martin's Summer (1866), is structured as the narrator's travel journal from Switzerland to Naples and explores the superiority of spiritual to physical love.
Brewster's decision to move to Rome in 1868 was fueled not only by a desire to distance herself further from Benjamin, but by a tradition of Italian travel among American writers and artists in the 19th century. With unreliable income from her inheritance, she needed a more profitable vocation than fiction writing and accepted her first newspaper engagements in 1869 as a foreign correspondent with the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and the Newark Courier, reporting on the political, religious, scientific, and cultural events in Rome. Her newspaper work, she wrote, was "elevating and beneficial—it confers a double benefit on myself and others." In 1873, Brewster became a member of Arcadia, the poetical academy in Rome, and held a weekly salon where she entertained writers, artists, and musicians.
During the 1880s, income from her inheritance dropped considerably, and Brewster's journalism career declined due to changes in newspaper-writing styles. In 1889, she moved to Siena, Italy, in order to meet expenses without additional income from writing. Anne Hampton Brewster died in Siena on April 1, 1892, leaving several writing projects unfinished, including a collection of her newspaper correspondence. Through her career, a unique combination of gentility, self-revelation, and scholarship had endeared Brewster to her audience, making her one of the most popular foreign correspondents of her day.
Baym, Nina. Woman's Fiction. A Guide to Novels By and about Women in America, 1820–1870. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978.
Fisher, Estelle. A Gentle Journalist Abroad: The Papers of Anne Hampton Brewster in The Library Company of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA: The Free Library of Philadelphia, 1947.
Wright, Nathalia. American Novelists in Italy. The Discoverers: Allston to James. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1965.
Larrabee, Denise M. Anne Hampton Brewster: 19th-Century Author and "Social Outlaw." Philadelphia, PA: Library Company of Philadelphia, 1992.
Brewster's correspondence, journals, and manuscripts located at The Library Company of Philadelphia.
Denise M. Larrabee , author and historian, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania