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Notices & Reviews of Scenes in My Native Land, by Lydia H. Sigourney (1844)

The works of Lydia H. Sigourney (1791-1865) were enormously popular with early 19th-century American readers. Today, the attraction is difficult to understand. Reading the notices and reviews of Scenes in My Native Land doesn’t help: words like “interesting” and “excellent” are so generic, it’s easy to assume that critics hadn’t actually read the book. In fact, reviews of Scenes are difficult to find; most mentions in the press are notices that the book was being published or had been published. None of these include extracts from the book. An exception appeared nine months after Scenes was published, when The Southern and Western Monthly Magazine and Review reprinted Sigourney’s poetical description of Niagara Falls beneath a blistering paragraph. The author’s description of Sigourney’s works as “equally monotonous and voluminous” and “[c]oldly correct, elaborately dull, laboriously common-place” could have been written by a 21st-century reader.

Daily Evening Transcript. 5 December 1844

Christian Register. 7 December 1844

Daily Evening Transcript. 28 December 1844

Massachusetts Ploughman and New England Journal of Agriculture. 28 December 1844

Christian Register. 28 December 1844

Graham’s American Monthly Magazine of Literature, Art, and Fashion. June 1845

The Southern and Western Monthly Magazine and Review. September 1845

“A New Work By Mrs Sigourney.” Daily Evening Transcript [Boston, Massachusetts] 5 December 1844: 2.

Munroe & Co. have in press a volume entitled “Scenes in my Native Land,” intended as a companion to the “Pleasant Memories of Pleasant Lands,” written by that must esteemed authoress Mrs Lydia H. Sigourney. Of the latter work nearly three thousand copies have been sold, and from what we have been able to see of the proof sheets of the former, it will be attended with similar success.

Notice. Christian Register 23 (7 December 1844): 195.

James Munroe & Co., have just published the Second Edition of Livermore’s Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. They will shortly publish a new volume by Mrs. Sigourney, entitled “Scenes in my Native Land.’ we have seen some of the sheets of this volume, and feel justified in announcing it as one of great beauty, and of high interest. The same Publishers will soon give us a volume by Rev. Mr. Bulfinch.

Review. Daily Evening Transcript [Boston, Massachusetts] 28 December 1844: 2.

James Munroe & Co are continually publishing an assortment of new works as worthy in their contents as they are neat in their outward appearance. Amongst the latest emanations from their press, we notice a new work by Mrs Sigourney, entitled “Scenes in my Native Land”—a most pleasant production as connected with the home associations and olden reminiscences of the gifted autor. The book scarcely needs our commendation, and yet we are pleased to refer to it as a volume full of gentle thoughts and kindly recollections. …

Notice. Massachusetts Ploughman and New England Journal of Agriculture 4 (28 December 1844): 2.

Twice Told Tales, by N. Hawthorne, and “Scenes in my Native Land,” by Mrs. Sigourney; “Proverbs, in Alphabetical order,” by Wm. H. Porter, and “Lays of the Gospel,” by Rev. S. G. Bulfinch, are all beautifully printed, and suited for presents at this season, or at any other. Published by Jas. Munroe & Co. 134 Washington street.

Review. Christian Register 23 (28 December 1844): 206.

Scenes in my Native Land, by Mrs. L. H. Sigourney. Boston: James Munroe & Co., 12mo., pp., 319.

This beautifully printed volume is a fitting companion for the last preceding work of the accomplished authoress, the “Pleasant Memories of Pleasant Lands.’ She does in this for her own country, what she did in that for some fair regions and storied localities of Europe. There is a great variety of subjects and topics in the volume before us, and they are severally presented to the reader in a becoming mood of mind, with a serious simplicity, or with a cheerful gayety of thought and language. Of course, the power of associations, and the weight of ancient memories do more to impress the subject of her previous volume with interest, than they can possibly do for any scenes or histories in this land. Still there is romance here, and there are scenes and objects which address the deeper feelings of the heart, and move to melancholy or kindle the fancy. Many of these, such as local narratives, domestic occurrences, and impressive occurrences, Mrs. Sigourney has portrayed and described, now in Prose, then in poetry, with a fertility of imagination and a beauty of diction, which characterise her as a writer. May her volume join everywhere the companionship of its predecessor, and add to the deserved esteem and fame which belong to Mrs. Sigourney.

Review. Graham’s American Monthly Magazine of Literature, Art, and Fashion 27 (June 1845): 284.

Scenes in my Native Land. By Mrs. L. H. Sigourney. Boston: James M[u]nroe & Co. 1 vol. 12mo.

The subject of this elegant volume is calculated to make it popular almost independent of its literary merits. Like other volumes of the same authoress, it occasionally betrays the book-maker more than the poet. In Mrs. Sigourney’s poetry there is often displayed so much excellence that it seems strange she should ever drop into verbiage and commonplace. The present volume contains some fine imaginations, many glittering fancies, much deep and humane feeling, and some graceful descriptions of natural scenery. Of those portions of the work which are not comprehended in this praise, our gallantry forbids us to speak. We wish, however, for her own fame, that Mrs. Sigourney could be induced, either by eulogy or condemnation, to try for once the full force of her mind on some subject which would test its capacity. No person receives more tender treatment, when she publishes a mediocre book; and none would be more certain of obtaining applause, if she produced one worthy of her own talents and American letters.

“Scenes in my Native Land.” The Southern and Western Monthly Magazine and Review 2 (September 1845): 208-209.

Scenes in my Native Land. By Mrs. Sigourney.

We frankly confess to a total want of admiration for the writings of this lady, who is equally monotonous and voluminous. Coldly correct, elaborately dull, laboriously common-place, she has nothing to commend her, in our eye, unless it be the moral tone and inoffensive aim of her writings. And these are rather technically than intrinsically moral. It is good morals to the ear that she bestows upon us—the stereotyped lessons of virtue, and not its vital truths—which are rather to be enforced through the medium of the sympathies, than by any rigid repetitions of doctrine. Still, in morals, she is to be counted unexceptionable, and we have no objection that it should be so. Such is her merit. We may admit farther, that, so far as mere correctness goes, she makes very good verses. She has written some small pieces, which, in an indulgent period, might be considered poems. Some lines on the death of an infant, which commence thus—

“Death found strange beauty on thy infant brow,”

have a smack of poetry about them, which might almost persuade us to hope for something; but even these finally dwindle into common place. Another piece, entitled “Indian names,” is fair enough verse in a reign of mediocrity. The present volume, which is of mixed verse and prose, has nothing half so good as either of these. The prose is very prose, and for the poetry, take the following “Farewell to Niagara,” as a sufficient specimen. Thus apostrophized, how “Niagara” must have roared and blubbered at the parting.


My spirit grieves to say, Farewell to thee,

Oh beautiful and glorious!

Thou dost robe

Thyself in mantle of the colored mist,

Most lightly tinged, and exquisite as thought,

Decking thy forehead with a crown of gems

Woven by God’s right hand.

Hadst thou but wrapped

Thy brow in clouds, and swept the blinding mist

In showers upon us, it had been less hard

To part from thee. But there thou art, sublime

In noon-day splendor, gathering all thy rays

Unto their climax, green, and fleecy white,

And changeful tinture, for which words of man

Have neither sign nor sound, until to breathe

Farewell is agony. For we have roamed

Beside thee, at our will, and drawn thy voice

Into our secret soul, and felt how good

Thus to be here, until we half implored,

p. 209

While long in wildering ecstasy we gazed,

To build us tabernacles, and behold

Always thy majesty.

Fain would we dwell

Here at thy feet, and be thy worshipper,

And from the weariness and dust of earth

Steal evermore away. Yea, were it not

That many a care doth bind us here below,

And in each care, a duty, like a flower,

Thorn-hedged, perchance, yet fed with dews of heaven,

And in each duty, an enclosed joy,

Which like a honey-searching bee doth sing,—

And were it not, that ever in our path

Spring up our planted seeds of love and grief,

Which we must watch, and bring their perfect fruit

Into our Master’s garner, it were sweet

To linger here, and be thy worshipper,

Until death’s footstep broke this dream of life.

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