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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Celia Laighton Thaxter (1835–1894)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THE POETRY of Celia Thaxter suggests the happy results for literature when a poetic nature draws inspiration from some imaginative stimulus, and lets that inspiration dominate without confusing or weakening it with others. With Mrs. Thaxter such a stimulus was the sea. It was on the northern sea-coast of New England that she lived, knew joy and sorrow, and wrote out of her heart experiences. Her verse reflects the impressions upon a sensitive soul of the sea-birds and the island blooms, of the glory and tragedy of the illimitable ocean, and the overarch of the more illimitable sky; while the drama of human existence, interwoven of good and ill, is always present, lending pathos to the beauty of nature, and imbuing with a tender melancholy the tonic of sea air and free communion with fair created things.  1
  Celia Leighton was born June 29th, 1835, at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Her father was a disappointed politician who became keeper of the White Island Light, Isles of Shoals; so that Celia grew up companioned by sea and sky. In her maturity she established her residence upon Appledore Island, one of the Isles of Shoals. There she married Levi Lincoln Thaxter in 1851; and for many years she wrote poetry, painted, enjoyed music, tended her garden; and at last, on August 26th, 1894, passed away, having won a distinct reputation as a singer of sincerity, charm, and power. When Lowell, as editor of the Atlantic, printed her first poem, ‘Landlocked,’ he recognized hers as a new voice, not an echo. ‘The Sandpiper’ is as well known and loved as any verse written by an American woman. In the finest of Mrs. Thaxter’s lyrics, felicitous description, a deep human sympathy, and sense of the dramatic are to be noted. Her verse is strong as well as sweet; it can be objective and have narrative interest, as well as be purely lyrical. Its movement and vigor preserve it from weakness or sentimentality. The didactic and moral creep in at times to the injury of the work as art, but this is only occasionally a defect. There is in much of Mrs. Thaxter’s poetry an undertone of sadness,—easily explained by events in the poet’s life, for she was not unacquainted with grief. In poems like ‘The Watch of Boon Island’ or ‘The Tryst,’ her sense of the gloom and doom of life comes boldly out. She was naturally, however, of a buoyant, sanguine temperament, and the mood of faith and hope prevails in her verse. The love of the sea and the love of flowers were passions with her; music was dear to her heart, and as a motive it is found in some of her loveliest poems,—‘Beethoven,’ ‘Schumann’s Sonata in A Minor,’ and others. She was widely receptive to the arts. She wrote charming prose, but it is as a singer that she will survive in American literature.  2
  Mrs. Thaxter’s first volume of poems appeared in 1872; the next year, ‘Among the Isles of Shoals,’ a prose history with autobiographic touches, was published. ‘Driftweed’ (1879), ‘Poems for Children’ (1884), ‘The Cruise of The Mystery, and Other Poems’ (1886), and ‘An Island Garden,’ a prose diary of her Appledore life, printed in a beautiful illustrated edition in the year of her death, complete the list of this genuine singer’s works.  3
 
 
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