Term of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Literature

Committee Chair

Timothy Whelan

Committee Member 1

Gautam Kundu

Committee Member 2

Douglass Thomson




For Mary Gardiner, writing poetry was a passionate avocation she assiduously pursued throughout her brief life. She is one of the many overlooked 19th-Century American women poets who though appreciated at the time are unknown today. Gardiner is missing from the anthologies, biographies, and scholarship that include such authors as Sarah Hale, Lydia Sigourney, Frances Osgood, and the Cary sisters who wrote to provide for their families and consequently were far more prolific. However, Gardiner’s perceptive insight and imaginative creative voice qualifies her as one of the meritorious poets Cheryl Walker asserts “should be available for study” (xvi).

Gardiner published one book of thirty-two poems in 1855, and though twenty-one other compositions appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Knickerbocker Magazine, and Graham’s Magazine, three of the most popular periodicals at the time, there has been no effort to publish a new edition of her complete body of works. This thesis is a critical edition that includes all fifty-three of her poems together with letters to her from Sarah J. Hale and Anne C. Lynch, two prominent authors, as well as twenty-six entries from her journal.

The excellent quality of her writing is exemplified by her diverse use of literary genres, which include lyrics, elegies, laments, pastorals, panegyrics and narratives based on Old Testament stories, historical events, and native folklore. Her broad range of meter and rhyme schemes verify her mastery of versification. Gardiner’s compositions adroitly blend her perceptive imagination with abundant descriptions of nature, spirituality, and extensive use of analogies, similes, and metaphors that add multi-layered dimensions and vivid depth to her Romantic works.

INDEX WORDS: 19th-Century American women poets, Sarah Josepha Hale, Anne C. Lynch, Eben Norton Horsford, Lion Gardiner, Godey’s Lady’s Book, Knickerbocker Magazine, Graham’s Magazine, Woman's Record, American Romanticism, imagination, nature, religion, spirituality, spirits, aberrations, Gardiner’s Island, Shelter Island

Research Data and Supplementary Material