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MARGARET M. DAVIDSON (1823 – 1838)

Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck, eds. Cyclopaedia of American Literature (1855), vol. 2, p. 484.

MARGARET M. DAVIDSON (1823 – 1838)

Margaret M. Davidson was a younger child of the notoriously frail Davidson clan, a family in which seven of the nine children died before their mother (also named Margaret Davidson), who herself experienced recurring periods of invalidism. Her older sister Lucretia died when Margaret was a toddler, and was posthumously declared a poetic prodigy. Margaret's mother encouraged her younger daughter to write poetry as well, claiming that Lucretia's "poetic mantle" descended "like a robe of light, on her infant," and the young Margaret agreed to "fill [Lucretia's] place."

Educated and raised under her mother's protective watch, Margaret Davidson composed poems that aped the work of the better-known romantics as well as that of her sister. During her short, sickly life, she cared for her frequently ill mother, studied languages, philosophy, and history, and of course, wrote poetry. She befriended one of her sister's admirers who had come to visit Lucretia's shrine, and he took her to New York City for an evening at the theater in what was surely one of the most memorable episodes of her short life. Like her sister, she died of "consumption" (today called tuberculosis) in her teens.

Margaret Davidson's death added to the romantic mystique which already surrounded Lucretia's short life and sentimental writings. Through their consumptive deaths, the sisters evoked the romantic ideal of feminine fragility and poetic sensibility, for "consumption" was thought to carry with it the mark of artistic genius. Washington Irving memorialized Margaret in the Biography and Poetical Remains of the Late Margaret Miller Davidson (1841).



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