Hannah F Gould

Prepared by Janet Gray

HANNAH F. GOULD (1789-1865) was born in Lancaster, Massachusetts, and in 1808 moved with her family to Newburyport, where she lived the rest of her life. Her mother died when Hannah was a child. For many years she devoted herself to keeping house and providing companionship for her father, a Revolutionary war veteran. She began writing poetry in her thirties, first entertaining Newburyport citizens with mock-epitaphs of local celebrities, then contributing pieces to magazines and annuals. Her first book, Poems (1832), was published by her friends without her knowledge. It sold well, was reprinted in 1833 and 1835 and expanded in 1836. Ten other volumes followed between 1844 and 1870. In addition to children's poetry, she wrote religious, historical, commemorative, and abolitionist poems, many of which appeared in The Liberator.

Gould's poetry was highly praised by Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey's Ladies' Book. Hale's assessment of Gould's poetry reveals much about Hale's own influential poetics and her opposition to the concepts of poetic value that male Romantic poets brought to dominance:

The great popularity of Miss Gould we consider a most encouraging omen for the lovers of genuine poetry, of that which is true in thought and natural in description. She charms by the rare merit of imparting interest to small things and common occurrences. These make up far the greater part of life's reality, and, if truth be the essence of poetry, they must be poetical. . . . Passion has too often usurped the place of reason, and a selfish sensitiveness been fostered, instead of that healthful sentiment of complacency in the happiness of others, which all high exercise of the mental faculties should exalt and encourage. It is this enlarging and elevating the affections, which improves the heart and purifies the taste. And this is one important office of true poetry-such poetry as Miss Gould has written.

She also possesses great delicacy and scope of imagination; she gathers around her simple themes imagery of peculiar beauty and uncommon association-and yet this imagery is always appropriate. Then she has a very felicitous command of language, and the skill of making the most uncouth words 'lie smooth in rhyme,' which the greatest poet of the age might envy. . . .

Wit is a much rarer quality than wisdom in female writers. . . . Miss Gould's sprightly wit has the advantage of appearing quite original. She, however, uses it with great delicacy, and always to teach or enforce some lesson . . . . the great power of her poetry is its moral application. . . .

The mania for melancholy and despairing poetry, which the Byronian era introduced, never found any favour in the clear, calm, sensible mind of our poetess. Her philosophy is as practical and contented as her piety is ardent. . . .

Her poems will be popular while truth has friends and nature admirers, and while children are readers. And what praise is sweeter to a pure, good mind than the praise of childhood, in which the heart is always given with the lips?