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Catherine Ann Warfield

Catharine Ann Warfield was actively engaged in writing prior to the Civil War. Born Catherine Ann Ware on June 6, 1816, in Natchez, Mississippi, Warfield and her younger sister, Eleanor, were raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after their mother was institutionalized shortly after Eleanor’s birth. Provided with an education that was closely supervised by her father, Warfield married, at age sixteen, into a prominent Kentucky family. In the early 1840s, Warfield and her sister produced two books of poetry. The first, The Wife of Leon, and Other Poems by Two Sisters of the West, published in 1843, attracted the attention and praise of William Cullen Bryant and others. The second, The Indian Chamber, and Other Poems, was dedicated to Bryant and was published in 1846.

Very little information is available about Catherine Warfield's personal life. Diaries and correspondence, if extant, have not been recoverable to date. Little is known of her marriage to Robert Elisha Warfield except that they, and their family of six children, resided in the Lexington, Kentucky, area until 1857, when they moved, due to financial difficulties, to a farm near Louisville. However, throughout her novels, a motif of domestic violence exists that calls into question the tranquility of the Warfield marriage. It is also known that Warfield was a slave owner and, through land speculations by her father, inherited considerable property in Texas.

In 1860, eleven years after the death of her sister, Catherine Warfield published her first novel, The Household of Bouverie, or the Elixir of Gold. Written in the tradition of Gothic fiction, this romance elicited a favorable review from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in which it was proclaimed for its “unquestionable imaginative power” (838). Warfield was complimented by the reviewer as “a female novel-writer who displays the unmistakable fire of genius, however terrific its brightness” (839).

This “fire of genius,” however, was temporarily doused as the outbreak of the Civil War shifted Warfields attention, and the nations, to the conflict being played out on the battlefield. Although her adopted state did not secede from the Union, Warfield took up her poets pen in support of the Confederacy. During the war, she wrote several poems, which were published in various southern newspapers, expressing her commitment to the southern cause. In 1864, Warfield wrote the lyrics for a “patriotic song,” entitled “You Can Never Win Us Back,” which was dedicated to “Mosby and his men.” Several of Warfields poems celebrating the southern cause were included in Southern Poems of the War, published in 1867.

While little is known of her personal life, Warfields literary record is impressive. In 1866, she published her second novel, The Romance of the Green Seal, a short fiction about an abused southern wife who carries on a secret correspondence with an unknown admirer of her poetry. In 1867, she extracted a portion of a much longer work in progress and published it as Beauseincourt: An Episode. This novel is written more in the vein of the “plantation novel” and represents a significant shift in thematic emphasis for Warfield. Set in Georgia in the late 1850s, Beauseincourt was Warfields initial entry into the realm of historical fiction.

Not until 1873 did Warfield publish again, revising the Beauseincourt story and rejoining it to the earlier excised material to tell the complete story of Miriam Monfort. Between 1875 and her death in 1877, Catherine Warfield published seven other works of fiction: Hester Howard's Temptation, A Double Wedding, Lady Ernestine, or The Absent Lord of Rocheforte, Miriam’s Memoirs, Sea and Shore, A Sequel to ‘Miriam’s Memoirs,’ Ferne Fleming, A Novel, and The Cardinal’s Daughter, A Sequel to ‘Ferne Fleming.’ Of these latter novels, only Lady Ernestine and Ferne Fleming are historically based, the former set in revolutionary France and the later, like The Romance of Beauseincourt, set in the pre-war American South. These later works attracted little critical interest.

(Article first posted May 1998)

Related Links & Info

The “American Female Poets” section of the University of Michigan's American Verse Project features several of Warfield and Lee's poems from their two volumes published under the pseudonym “Two sisters of the West.”

Publications

Fiction:

  • The Household of Bouverie, or The Elixir of Gold. New York: Derby & Jackson, 1860.
  • The Romance of the Green Seal. New York: Beadle & Co., 1866.
  • The Romance of Beauseincourt: An Episode. New York: G. W. Carleton & Co., 1867.
  • Miriam Monfort, A Novel. New York: Appleton, 1873.
  • A Double Wedding; or, How She Won. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson & Brothers, 1875.
  • Hester Howard's Temptation: a Soul's Story. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson and Brothers, 1875.
  • Lady Ernestine, or, The Absent Lord of Rochefort. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson & Brothers, 1875.
  • Miriam’s Memoirs. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson & Brothers, 1876.
  • Sea and Shore. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson and Brothers, 1876.
  • The Cardinal’s Daughter. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson & Brothers, 1877.
  • Ferne Fleming, a Novel. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson & Brothers, 1877.

Poetry:

  • (with Eleanor P. Lee) The Wife of Leon, and Other Poems by Two Sisters of the West. Cincinnati: E. Morgan & Co., 1843.
  • (with Elanor P. Lee) The Indian Chamber, and Other Poems. New York: Derby & Jackson, 1846.
  • You Can Never Win Us Back. Lyrics. Music by J. E. Smith. J. W. Davies & Sons, 1864.

Bibliography:

Reviews, Criticism, and General Resources:

  • Forrest, Mary. Women of the South Distinguished in Literature. New York: Derby & Jackson, 1861.
  • Gray, Janet. She Wields a Pen. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1997.
  • Rev. of The Household of Bouverie, or the Elixir of Gold, by Catherine Ann Warfield. Harpers New Monthly Magazine Vol. XXI, Jun-Nov 1860, pp. 838-9.
  • Lloyd, James B., ed. Lives of Mississippi Writers, 1817-1967. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1981.
  • Rutherford, Mildred Lewis. The South in History and Literature: A Handbook of Southern Authors. Atlanta: The Franklin-Turner Company, 1906.
  • Smith, Sydney Louise. “A Critical Study of the Life and Novels of Catherine Ann Warfield.” Diss. University of Mississippi, 1929.
  • Tardy, Mary T., ed. The Living Female Writers of the South. Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen & Haffelbinger, 1872.
  • Townsend, John Wilson. Kentucky in American Letters, 1784 - 1912. 2 Vol. Cedar Rapids: The Torch Press, 1913.

Internet Resources

Online Texts:

  • Two Sisters of the West. Biographical sketch of Warfield and Lee, and text of poems titled “A Valley of Virginia,” “Lines,” “The Palaces of Araby,” and “Bury Her with Her Shining Hair.” Part of the University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative American Verse Project.

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