Celia Thaxter

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Celia Thaxter (1835-1894).

Celia Thaxter had lived in relative isolation off the coast of New Hampshire on the Isle of Shoals until she married her tutor at age 16. Once married, she moved to Watertown, Massachusetts, and later to Newtonville. Unhappy in her new home, Thaxter wrote a poem entitled “Land-locked.” Her husband discovered the piece and brought it to the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, where it was published in 1861. Ten years later, Thaxter returned to Appledore Island and became the hostess of Appledore House, her father’s resort and the retreat of artists and writers such as Childe Hassam, Sarah Orne Jewett, Annie and James Fields, and William Morris Hunt.


Among the Isle of Shoals (Boston: 1873).

Published first in The Atlantic and later in book form, this series of essays and pen drawings by Thaxter describes the local land and seascape from a native islander’s point of view. Among the Isles of Shoals also appeared in a fifty-cent guidebook edition, which was sold in railway stations. The volume on display is open to Thaxter’s drawing of Trap Dike, Appledore.


The Cruise of the Mystery, and Other Poems (Boston: 1888).

The American impressionist artist Childe Hassam (1859-1935), a great friend of Thaxter’s, added several original ink and brush illustrations to this volume of poetry. The volume is open to the last lines of a poem entitled “Bethrothed”:

Infinte joy with white wings furled,
All heaven is here and Thou the morning-star
Thou splendor of my life!
Though day o' the world!

An Island Garden (Boston: 1894).


While Thaxter had become one of the best-known poets by the end of the 19th century, it is her book An Island Garden, in which she recounts the year she spent working in her famous garden, that continues to charm 21st-century readers. Her close friend, the artist Childe Hassam (1859-1935), completed the book’s illustrations. The volume on display is open to Hassam’s drawing of the part of the garden called “The Bride.”


A.L.S. to Dear friend (Newtonville, November 12, no year).

Although the title of the book that she describes to her friend goes unmentioned, Thaxter argues to keep the volume with her typical passion:

Let me keep the title. Don’t you see it is more than a name & signifies something, namely-- as the water is God to the sea-weeds, making them to live out of the cold & dark bottom of the sea & and as the sun is God to the land weeds making them grow out of the barren, “bare-blown rock,” so is our God to our barren lives. And these little verses are weeds that sprang out of the rock & never know any cultivation- don’t you know I never went to school? I can fancy you saying to yourself there is little need of telling you that.



A.L.S. to Annie Fields (Newtonville, October 3, 1872).


A.L.S. to Annie Fields (Newtonville, October 3, 1872).

Levi Thaxter, a Harvard graduate, was able to introduce his wife to several influential people in literary Boston, but Thaxter needed more than her husband’s connections to be happy:

I came home… to find everything in heaps… all in snarl & one thing after another came over me till I thought I should succumb. The selfishness & hardheartedness of the male portion of the world seemed to have reached a climax…