The daughter of an American export agent, Anna Cora Mowatt
spent the first eight years of her life in
Her first published work, a story in verse called Pelayo, or The Cavern of Covadonga (1836) by "Isabel," garnered negative reviews, to which she replied in her more successful 1837 book Reviewers Reviewed. As her husband lost money and declined in health, she turned to literature and performance to support herself, her husband, and their three adopted children. A series of public readings stirred up enough scandal – female performers almost never came from the middle or upper classes – to be enormously well-attended, and she also earned money through the frequent publication of her poems, articles, and manuals in periodicals.
Fighting recurring bouts of consumptive illness, Anna
Mowatt turned to playwriting, and achieved lasting success with her satirical
comedy about high-society
In 1846, Edgar Allan Poe described her in his “The Literati of New York City. No. II,” in Godey’s Lady’s Book, v. 32, p. 267:
Her figure is slight, even fragile. Her face is a remarkably fine one, and of that precise character best adapted to the stage. The forehead is, perhaps, the least prepossessing feature, although it is by no means an unintellectual one. Hair light auburn, in rich profusion, and always arranged with exquisite taste. The eyes are gray, brilliant and expressive, without being full. The nose is well-formed, with the Roman curve, and indicative of energy. This quality is also shown in the somewhat excessive- prominence of the chin. The mouth is large, with brilliant and even teeth and flexible lips, capable of the most instantaneous and effective variations of expression. A more radiantly beautiful smile it is quite impossible to conceive.
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