Memoirs of Mrs. Hetta L. Ward with Selections from her Writings (Presentation Copy)
Berkeley: T.R. Marvin, 1843.
Berkeley: T.R. Marvin, 1843. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding with gilt to front board. Minor loss of cloth to crown of spine. Faint residue of removed library label to spine and front board. Peach endpapers. Light scattered foxing as is typical of the period. Inscribed on the front endpaper by Ward's husband, the compiler: "Reverend Mr. Ellingwood with the respects of J.W. Ward." Bookplate on the front pastedown reveals that the recipient Rev. Ellingwood went on to donate the volume to the Theological Seminary of Bangor, Maine. A scarce and important example of a published American elegiac volume, produced in this case by an eminent family to mourn the loss of an educated woman. Memoirs is unrecorded by OCLC and has never appeared at auction.
In their marriage, James Wilson Ward and Hetta Lord Hayes Ward united two prominent Northeastern families. A senator and Congregationalist minister, James descended from the founders of Plymouth and had attended Andover and Amherst. Hetta, the daughter of a judge and niece of a Dartmouth president, was herself a graduate of Miss Grant's Seminary Academy. The present volume, released "exclusively for private circulation among the friends of the deceased," is a testament to Hetta's value not as a daughter who married well or a wife who effectively managed a house, but as a companion, an intellectual, and an individual. In this sense, it deconstructs the period's expectations of separate spheres or hierarchy between sexes. With an opening letter by Susan Hayes, Hetta's mother, as well as a copy of the eulogy conducted by her husband, the book reveals vast details about who Hetta was as a person. Both describe her as tender and affectionate; but time and again, emphasis is placed on her mind. Though Hetta was skillful with a needle as a child, according to her mother, "her numberless questions interested and surprised me...She acquired a fondness for poetry...She became as much interested in the in the study of the exact sciences as in the works of imagination, making herself acquainted with the higher branches of Mathematics, Algebra, Geometry, etc." James, similarly, eulogizes his wife. What becomes clear is that he is grieving the loss of a companion and equal. "If we have found a friend of distinguished excellence, and for years rejoiced with that friend in mutual interchange and warm affections, it is natural when death intervenes and separates us from the dear object of our love, to contemplate their virtues...First characteristic which I would notice which she possessed in an eminent degree is an ardent love of truth...She possessed great powers of abstraction...She saw with great clearness the point of an argument and was quick to distinguish between sophistry...She loved to trace the workings of the human mind." Not satisfied simply to have their own testaments to Hetta's extraordinary mind, the compilers included to the last half of the book a collection of her own poetry and prose.
A scarce work, in a genre underappreciated in American literature and history. Such coterie publications of intimate mourning were uncommon for the time, particularly for a woman.
National Cyclopedia of American Biography 148. Very Good + (Item #4025)