The Female Prose Writers of America: With Portraits, Biographical Notices, and Specimens of their Writings/Sarah J. Hale/From "Woman's Record"


A few words respecting the influences which have, probably, caused me to become the Chronicler of my own sex, may not be considered egotistical. I was mainly educated by my mother, and strictly taught to make the Bible the guide of my life. The books to which I had access were few, very few, in comparison with the number given children now-a-days; but they were such as required to be studied—and I did study them. Next to the Bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress, my earliest reading was Milton, Addison, Pope, Johnson, Cowper, Burns, and a portion of Shakspeare. I did not obtain all his works till I was nearly fifteen. The first regular novel I read was “The Mysteries of Udolpho,” when I was quite a child. I name it on account of the influence it exercised over my mind. I had remarked that of all the books I saw, few were written by Americans, and none by women. Here was a work, the most fascinating I had ever read, always excepting “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” written by a woman! How happy it made me! The wish to promote the reputation of my own sex, and do something for my own country, were among the earliest mental emotions I can recollect. These feelings have had a salutary influence by directing my thoughts to a definite object; my literary pursuits have had an aim beyond self-seeking of any kind. The mental influence of woman over her own sex, which was so important in my case, has been strongly operative in inclining me to undertake this my latest work, “Woman’s Record.” I have sought to make it an assistant in home education; hoping the examples shown and characters portrayed, might have an inspiration and a power in advancing themoral progress of society. Yet I cannot close without adverting to the ready and kind aid I have always met with from those men with whom I have been most nearly connected. To my brother[1] I owe what knowledge I possess of the Latin, and the higher branches of mathematics, and of mental philosophy. He often lamented that I could not, like himself, have the privilege of a college education. To my husband I was yet more deeply indebted. He was a number of years my senior, and far more my superior in learning. We commenced, soon after our marriage, a system of study and reading which we pursued while he lived. The hours allowed were from eight o’clock in the evening till ten; two hours in the twenty-four: how I enjoyed those hours! In all our mental pursuits, it seemed the aim of my husband to enlighten my reason, strengthen my judgment, and give me confidence in my own powers of mind, which he estimated much higher than I. But this approbation which he bestowed on my talents has been of great encouragement to me in attempting the duties that have since become my portion. And if there is any just praise due to the works I have prepared, the sweetest thought is—that his name bears the celebrity.

  1. The late Judge Buell, of Glen’s Falls, New York.