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LUCRETIA M. DAVIDSON (1808 – 1825)

Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck, eds. Cyclopaedia of American Literature (1855), vol. 2, p. 482.

LUCRETIA M. DAVIDSON (1808 – 1825)

Born in New York state near Lake Champlain, Lucretia M. Davidson was the second daughter of a chronically ill family in which seven of the nine children died young. Her mother, Margaret, who had periodic spells of months-long invalidism, educated her children at home. Upon discovering four-year-old Lucretia's early experiments with poetry, she eagerly encouraged this talent. Under the patronage of benefactor Moss Kent, Lucretia Davidson attended the Troy Female Seminary and Miss Gilbert's school in Albany, but ill health frequently interrupted her schoolwork. She died of "consumption" (today known as tuberculosis) before her seventeenth birthday.

After Lucretia Davidson's death, her mother gathered her poetry and published it in Amir Khan, and Other Poems (1829) as well as a larger collection in 1841. Though some critics have described the work as immature and conventional, the tragic figure of Lucretia herself attracted sentimental admiration from her contemporaries, drawing memorials and flattering reviews from the pens of Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Morse, and Catharine Sedgwick. Many Americans of the antebellum era considered "consumption," then a poorly understood and rarely treated disease, to be a mark of poetic sensibility as well as the cause of sudden creative energy. Along with consumptive illness, qualities such as feminine delicacy and childlike helplessness also possessed a certain romantic appeal, and Lucretia Davidson fully embodied this idealized feminine type.

A younger Davidson sister, Margaret, also achieved renown as a frail child-poet who died an early tubercular death.



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