American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

LARCOM, LUCY (1824-1893). Lucy Larcom was a prolific and highly regarded writer of descriptive and religious verse, short fiction, and inspirational prose in the second half of the nineteenth century. Born on the Massachusetts North Shore in Beverly, she lived and worked as a young girl in the Lowell mills, taught elementary school in Illinois, and, for eight years, taught at the Wheaton Seminary (now Wheaton College) in Norton, Massachusetts. She retired from teaching in 1863, and, as the protege of John Greenleaf Whittier,* achieved a considerable literary reputation. Her volumes of poetry include Similitudes, from the Ocean and the Prairie (1853), Poems (1863), Hillside and Seaside in Poetry (1877), and Wild Roses of Cape Ann (1880). Ships in the Mist: And Other Stories was published in 1860, and the autobiographical A New England Girlhood, recounting her life in the mills and as a teacher, in 1889.

Her poems characteristically articulate a faith that God may be found in the contemplation of nature. They rely on images and sentiments that are often trite by contemporary expectations; the frequent images derived from her own life on the Massachusetts coast are no exception. But occasionally, Larcom’s precise and colorful observations of the physical and social qualities of her New England environment, particularly in her earlier poems, convey a joyousness that makes reading her a pleasure. [See also SEA IMAGERY IN MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY POETRY]

Thomas R. Brooks