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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Helen Hunt Jackson

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Three months after Rennie's death, her first poem, Lifted Over, appeared in the Nation:--

    "As tender mothers, guiding baby steps,
    When places come at which the tiny feet
    Would trip, lift up the little ones in arms
    Of love, and set them down beyond the harm,
    So did our Father watch the precious boy,
    Led o'er the stones by me, who stumbled oft
    Myself, but strove to help my darling on:
    He saw the sweet limbs faltering, and saw
    Rough ways before us, where my arms would fail;
    So reached from heaven, and lifting the dear child,
    Who smiled in leaving me, He put him down
    Beyond all hurt, beyond my sight, and bade
    Him wait for me! Shall I not then be glad,
    And, thanking God, press on to overtake!"

The poem was widely copied, and many mothers were comforted by it. The kind letters she received in consequence were the first gleam of sunshine in the darkened life. If she were doing even a little good, she could live and be strong.

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And then began, at thirty-four, absorbing, painstaking literary work. She studied the best models of composition. She said to a friend, years after, "Have you ever tested the advantages of an analytical reading of some writer of finished style? There is a little book called Out-Door Papers, by Wentworth Higginson, that is one of the most perfect specimens of literary composition in the English language. It has been my model for years. I go to it as a text-book, and have actually spent hours at a time, taking one sentence after another, and experimenting upon them, trying to see if I could take out a word or transpose a clause, and not destroy their perfection." And again, "I shall never write a sentence, so long as I live, without studying it over from the standpoint of whether you would think it could be bettered."

Her first prose sketch, a walk up Mt. Washington from the Glen House, appeared in the Independent, Sept. 13, 1866; and from this time she wrote for that able journal three hundred and seventy-one articles. She worked rapidly, writing usually with a lead-pencil, on large sheets of yellow paper, but she pruned carefully. Her first poem in the Atlantic Monthly, entitled Coronation, delicate and full of meaning, appeared in 1869, being taken to Mr. Fields, the editor, by a friend.

At this time she spent a year abroad, principally in Germany and Italy, writing home several sketches. In Rome she became so ill that her life was despaired of. When she was partially recovered and went away to regain her strength, her friends insisted that a professional nurse should go with her; but she took a hard-working young Italian girl of sixteen, to whom this vacation would be a blessing.

On her return, in 1870, a little book of Verses was published. Like most beginners, she was obliged to pay for the stereotyped plates. The book was well received. Emerson liked especially her sonnet, Thought. He ranked her poetry above that of all American women, and most American men. Some persons praised the "exquisite musical structure" of the Gondolieds, and others read and re-read her beautiful Down to Sleep. But the world's favorite was Spinning:--

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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