Today we heard that Nelle Harper Lee died at the age of 89. No doubt this last year had been rather difficult for her, no matter which aspects of the publishing debate over Go Set a Watchman are actually true. I hope she was peaceful and at rest before her passing. We’ve lost an important American literary icon, and one whose insights into America’s problems with race aren’t fully appreciated, despite the fact that she wrote one of the most popular novels on the subject. Like many Americans, I first encountered To Kill a Mockingbird in the stunning film version starring Gregory Peck.
If Harriet Vaughan Foster Cheney’s mother hadn’t been Hannah Webster Foster, the author of the early seduction novel The Coquette, it might be even more difficult to find biographical information about her. Harriet was born in Brighton, Massachusetts, on September 9, 1796, and lived in New England for over thirty years, until she moved to Montreal, Canada, where she spent the rest of her life. Not quite an American author, she’s not fully a Canadian one, either, which might be one reason she’s fallen through the cracks of the historical record. Her works also tended towards the didactic and religious,