Southworth's Brilliant Writing Essay

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Southworth's Brilliant Writing

Few nineteenth-century American women novelists met with success equal to that

of Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth (E.D.E.N. Southworth). Harriet Beecher

Stowe, Susan Warner, Fanny Fern, and others certainly sold record numbers of

individual novels; however, E.D.E.N. Southworth's over 40 novels consistently

became best-sellers throughout a 44-year career, making her, over time, perhaps

the best-selling author, male or female, of her generation. Her stories entered

into the American consciousness--becoming popular plays, shaping fashion trends,

developing women's visions of themselves--as well as shaped the image of

"Americanness" in the minds of international
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When Willa Cather

visited Emma Southworth's home in 1901, she was surprised to find that the

author was "no mere mercenary"; rather, Cather recognized the drive behind the

heavy writing schedule, the late nights, the rarely-missed deadlines. Southworth

believed that fiction should serve a moral purpose, and once wrote that "The

novelist--the popular novelist--has a hundred-fold larger audience than the most

celebrated preacher, and therefore a tremendous responsibility" (DU, undated

news clipping). An examination of her life and work reveals that the author's

fight against injustice was created in the crucible of her early womanhood and

gained strength as her activist sensibilities found a medium through which to

expand. Trained in the early years as a writer for the National Era, Southworth

published her early stories in the same abolitionist newspaper in which Harriet

Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin first appeared. Her passion for social change

shaped her career, making her, indeed, "no mere mercenary"; rather, Emma

Southworth was a crusader who employed entertaining characters, adventure,

marriage plots, and humor to make her principles concerning human rights

palatable to a broad audience.

As a study of her life reveals, Southworth offered the contemporary public the

image of a woman who, despite being abandoned by her husband and family, turns

her early

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