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ESTELLE ANNA LEWIS (1824 – 1880)

Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck, eds. Cyclopaedia of American Literature (1855), vol. 2, p. 680.


ESTELLE ANNA LEWIS (1824 – 1880)

A precocious student and writer, Estelle Lewis translated Virgil's Aeneid into English verse and published a book of original poems, Records of the Heart, while still in school at Emma Willard's Female Seminary in Troy, New York. In 1841, she married Sydney Lewis and moved to his home in Brooklyn, where they became central figures in the New York literary scene, hosting salons in their home. Both Lewises grew close to Edgar Allan Poe, and Sydney Lewis, a lawyer, provided Poe with occasional financial support and legal advice. Poe, in return, mentored Estelle's career by allegedly revising her work and publishing flattering reviews of her poems in the New York literary magazines.

She and her husband divorced in 1858, after which she lived mostly in Europe and continued to write poetry and drama. Her play Sappho of Lesbos, first produced in London in 1868, was immensely popular, going through seven editions and performed throughout the continent. Regarding Sappho's success, Estelle Lewis wrote that "the British press has placed me on a plane with Shakespeare – the highest position accorded to a woman since the Greeks seated Sappho by the side of Homer on the pinnacle of fame." Perhaps the flattery of Poe, in whose defense she composed a series of sonnets shortly before her death, had influenced her opinion of herself a bit too strongly.

Another portrait appears in:

Sarah J. Hale, ed. Woman’s Record (1853), p. 727; also 1855 ed.

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