Chapter 3: Nineteenth Century to 1865

Alice Cary

Phoebe Cary

Paul P. Reuben
October 15, 2016


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Alice Cary Poems |

Page Links: | Brief Biography | Primary Works | Selected Bibliography 1980-Present | MLA Style Citation of this Web Page |

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Source:Ohio Poets

Brief Biography: Born near Cincinnati, Ohio, Alice on April 26, 1820, and Phoebe on September 4, 1824, the Cary sisters grew up on a farm and received little schooling. Nevertheless they were for their time well educated, Alice by their mother and Phoebe by Alice, and they early developed a taste for literature.

Alice's first published poem appeared in the Sentinel, a Cincinnati Universalist newspaper, when she was 18; for 10 years thereafter she continued to contribute poems and prose sketches to various periodicals with no remuneration. Phoebe began to write under Alice's guidance and had her first poem published in a Boston newspaper about the time of Alice's first. Their work attracted the favorable notice of Edgar Allan Poe, Horace Greeley, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Rufus W. Griswold, through whose recommendation their joint works were issued as Poems of Alice and Phoebe Carey [sic] (1850). Some two-thirds of the poetry was the work of Alice. Their book's modest success encouraged the sisters to move to New York City.

In New York City, Alice and Phoebe became regular contributors to Harper's, the Atlantic Monthly, and other periodicals. Alice, much more prolific than her sister, enjoyed the higher reputation during her lifetime, although Phoebe was later held in greater critical esteem for the wit and feeling of her poems. Their salon became a popular meeting place for the leading literary lights of New York, and both women were famed for their hospitality.

Among Alice's books were two volumes of reminiscent sketches entitled Clovernook Papers (1852, 1853), three novels and several volumes of poetry. Phoebe devoted much of her time to keeping house and, in later years, to caring for Alice. As a result, she published only Poems and Parodies (1854) and Poems of Faith, Hope and Love (1868), but one of her religious verses, "Nearer Home" (sometimes called, from the first line, "One Sweetly Solemn Thought"), became widely popular as a hymn.

Both sisters supported the women's rights movement. Phoebe was for a short time an assistant editor of Susan B. Anthony's paper The Revolution. In 1868 Alice reluctantly agreed to serve as first president of Sorosis, the pioneer women's club founded by Jane Croly. After a long illness Alice died in New York City on February 12, 1871; exhausted by grief and stricken with malaria, Phoebe died on July 31, 1871, in Newport, Rhode Island.

Source: Women in American History: the Carys

Primary Works

The poetical works of Alice and Phoebe Cary, with a memorial of their lives by Mary Clemmmer. NY: Hurd and Houghton, 1887 [1876]. (E-Text)

The Lover's Diary, 1868.

Uncle Christopher's, 1853.

Clovernook, or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West, 1852; Hagar: A Story for Today, 1852; Clovernook, Second Series, 1853; Pictures of Country Life, 1859.

Selected Bibliography 1980-Present

Cane, Aleta F., and Susan Alves, Susan. eds. 'The Only Efficient Instrument': American Women Writers and the Periodical, 1837-1916. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2001.

Csicsila, Joseph. Canons by Consensus: Critical Trends and American Literature Anthologies. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2004.

Johnson, Rochelle, and Daniel Patterson, Daniel. eds. Susan Fenimore Cooper: New Essays on Rural Hours and Other Works. Athens: U of Georgia P, 2001.

Knight, Denise D. ed. Writers of the American Renaissance: An A-to-Z Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2003.

Showalter, Elaine. ed. The Vintage Book of American Women Writers. NY: Vintage, 2011.

Weinstock, Jeffrey A. Scare Tactics: Supernatural Fiction by American Women. NY: Fordham UP, 2008.

MLA Style Citation of this Web Page

Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 3: Alice and Phoebe Cary " PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. WWW URL: (provide page date or your date of logon).

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