University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Ann S. Stephens collection, 1835-1980

Full finding aid (pdf)

Collection Scope and Content

The majority of the collection material consists of Stephens’ published works in periodicals of her time, including an 1859 open letter to Victor Hugo. Also included are one manuscript poem, a bibliography of her published pieces in The Ladies Companion, 1838-1839, and a piece combining biographical information and literary criticism of Ann Stephens written in 1880.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ann Stephens, one of the most widely read 19th-century American writers, was born in Humphreysville, Connecticut. In 1831 she and Edward Stephens married and moved to Portland, Maine. Three years later they began publishing Portland Magazine. He was the publisher and she, the editor/writer.

Ann Stephens published her first book, The Portland Sketch Book, in 1836, a collection of local writers’ work and in 1837 the Stephens moved to New York City where Ann Stephens began her long career as a magazine writer and editor. She was associated with Ladies Companion, Graham’s Magazine, and Peterson’s Magazine.

Stephens started her own magazine in 1856, Mrs. Stephens’ Illustrated New Monthly, and two years later it merged with Peterson’s. Stephens wrote mostly historical and romantic melodramas that first appeared in serial form in the above magazines and other popular women’s publications. Many of the stories were then published in book form that Stephens’ numerous avid readers quickly purchased. Stephens met Edgar Allan Poe, editor of Graham’s Magazine, when she was on the periodical’s staff in 1841 and 1842. Poe later mentioned her and her work in “The Literati of New York City,” a series published in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1846.

Stephens was the author of the first dime novel Beadle & Adams Company published when the company reissued her 1839 serial, Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter (1860) in book form. It is reported to have sold over 300,000 copies. Stephens, like Elizabeth Oakes Smith, became one of the writers in the publisher’s stable.

In addition to her novels and short stories, Stephens also wrote verse and literary reviews. One of her poems, “The Cable” was set to the music of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Stephens used the pseudonym Jonathan Slick when she wrote a series of sketches focusing on an imaginary Yankee’s experience in New York City. Edward Stephens published them under the title High Life in New York, which is an edited version of the piece “A Series of Letters to Mr. Zephariah Slick, Justice of the Peace, and Deacon of the Church over to Weathersfield, in the State of Connecticut” (1843), by Jonathan Slick, Esq., of Weathersfield, Connecticut.