Harriet Prescott Spofford

Harriet Prescott Spofford

Harriet Prescott Spofford (1835 - 1921) was a Calais, Maine-born American author of gothic romance, detective stories, and poetry. She offered refreshingly unconventional treatment of female stereotypes for the time period. For example, in Tom's Money, Mrs. Laughton declares: "I'd be a man if I was a man. Get up. I'm not going to hurt you."

Though relatively unknown compared to contemporary author, Bret Harte, they shared a passion for stories set in the American West, and for creating vivid, artful character descriptions. Her story The Amber Gods, published in The Atlantic Monthly in early 1860 distinguished her powerful style and intrigued readers with her startling ending: "I must have died at ten minutes past one."

Spofford began her writing career as a teenager when her parents became ill. She subsisted on small payments for stories submitted to Boston papers until her first big break in 1859 when The Atlantic Monthly published her intriguing mystery, In a Cellar, an account of Parisian life with rich themes of morality, politics, and culture. The editors initially mistook it for a French translation, underestimating the quality of the inexperienced young author's submission.

The Amber Gods, and Other Stories (1863) is one of her most notable story collections, as is her children's story collection, Children of the Valley (1901).

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