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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. Later in life, Estelle Lewis composed a series of sonnets in defense of Poe’s literary reputation.

Estelle Lewis and her husband divorced in 1858, after which she lived abroad and continued to write poetry and drama under the pseudonym “Stella.” Her play Sappho: A Tragedy in Five Acts, was immensely popular, going through six editions between 1875 and 1881. There is no evidence that this closet drama was ever performed. 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.”

Another portrait appears in:

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



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