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Bacon, Delia Salter.

Bride of Fort Edward, The.


[Bacon, Delia Salter]. The Bride of Fort Edward. Founded on an Incident of the Revolution. New York: S. Coleman, 1839.
12mo.; contemporary ownership signature on front endpaper; writing on rear paste-down; spine cracked at p. 98; moderate foxing; green cloth, stamped in blind; printed paper spine label; a.e.g.; small black spot on front board; general wear to extremities and spine label.
First edition. In her preface, "the author" (Bacon's name never appears in the text) states that the work is not to be misconstrued as a drama and was not written with any intention for performance. She defines the genre as a "dialogue," explaining that while her subject matter demanded a more active medium than prose, she wishes only to recreate "the passions and events of a day long buried in the past," and to remain true to the "sentiment of Actual life" without the "hurried action," "crowded plot," or "theatrical elevation" of a play that might muddle her story. The "well-known crisis" of which Bacon writes concerns "the sacrifice of the individual in the grand movement for the race": the dialogue loosely retells the legendary murder of Jane McCrea, who was killed by the Native American hired to escort her across dangerous territory to her bridegroom, David James, an officer in the British Army. There are varying accounts of the infamous murder-which happened near Fort Edward, which was situated in what is now upstate New York-all of which highlight McCrea's virtue, innocence, and of course, beauty, making the crime all the more tragic.
Delia Salter Bacon (1811-1859) attended Catharine Beecher's Hartford Female Seminary and initially set out to build a career in the church. However, due to her obvious passion for learning and gift for elocution, she quickly entered into the field of teaching, devoting her free time to lecturing women's audiences throughout the Northeast. A friend and literary rival of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Bacon wrote one book prior to The Bride of Fort Edward entitled The Tales of Puritans, but her literary career came to a sudden halt after she was implicated in a public scandal involving a man ten years younger than herself. Her popularity as a lecturer diminished after this humiliation (made worse by the fact that the young man showed no interest in marrying Bacon) and Bacon put all her energy into her next and final book, the highly controversial The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded, published in 1857. Bacon earned herself a permanent place in history as one of the first scholars to suggest openly that William Shakespeare was not the author of the plays that bear his name, a theory which in her day earned her only ridicule, but has since gained some support. After traveling to England and immersing herself in Shakespeare's texts (but oddly enough, not conducting much historical research), Bacon created a list of other writers and notable figures such as Francis Bacon and Walter Raleigh whom she thought might be responsible for the plays attributed to Shakespeare. Figures such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne came to her aid both emotionally and financially when her reputation came under attack after the Shakespeare allegations were made public, but despite their efforts, the book was a failure and apparently almost unreadable due to the incoherence and poor organization of her ideas. Bacon eventually retired to the Hartford Retreat for the Insane, where she died in 1859. (NAW I 79-81)       

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