By: Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie (1819-1870)
Fortune Hunter: A Novel of New York Society
Mowatt wrote The Fortune Hunter to be submitted to a contest held by the New World newspaper. Contest rules dictated that the title of the work, that the setting had to be New York, and that the text had to be completed within six months. So, recycling a few characters from short stories written under the pen name “Helen Berkeley,” Mowatt quickly created a tale that started with two fashionable fellows in search of wealthy wives -- Brainard and Ellery. They, in turn, are pursued by the inexorable debt collector, Mr...
Mimic Life; or Before and Behind the Curtain
Mimic Life; or Before and Behind the Curtain is a collection of three narratives about life in the theater based on Mowatt’s career on stage. The stories, “Stella,” “The Prompter’s Daughter,” and “The Unknown Tragedian” reveal the every-day challenges faced by Victorian theatrical workers and argue against prejudices against this profession still held by many people at that time. - Summary by Kelly S. Taylor
Autobiography of an Actress; or Eight Years on the Stage
Anna Cora Mowatt was the author of the first Broadway comedy hit written by a woman. Her 1845 play “Fashion” is still performed today. She was also the first woman to professionally perform solo public readings of literature in the U.S. In pre-Civil War America, she was a popular novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, and correspondent. Autobiography of an Actress tells the dramatic story of her life and her struggles to overcome the anti-theatrical prejudices of her day. - Summary by Kelly S. Taylor
Mute Singer, a Novel
Sylvie de la Roche is the daughter of a destitute former nobleman and his wife living in the slums of Paris circa 1847. Her magnificent singing voice is discovered by the irascible, but equally impoverished, old musician, Maître Beaujeu. Under his guidance and training, she is well-prepared when an opportunity comes for her to sing with the great tenor, Lablanche. Overnight, aristocrat patrons are all at her feet – in particular a very intriguing young nobleman and his lady companion. On the eve of her greatest triumph, though, Sylvie loses her wondrous contralto voice. Will it ever be recovered? - Summary by Kelly S. Taylor
Italian Life and Legends
A mix of short works written by Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie during her residence in Florence from 1864-65, this collection was edited and prepared for publication by her sister, Mary Thompson, wife of artist, Cephas Giovanni Thompson, after her death. It contains short stories, legends, historical sketches, profiles of noted Italian performers and foreign literati, and even an account of a devastating flood of the Arno that the author witnessed. - Summary by Kelly S. Taylor
Evelyn; or A Heart Unmasked
Evelyn is a two-volume novel told in an epistolary style – alternating between letters from the point of view of a trusted, unmarried female friend of the young, naïve heroine of the novel and those of the feckless adventurer who decides that he must seduce the beautiful Evelyn. The author, actress/novelist/playwright Anna Cora Mowatt, was a fan of the works of Fredericka Bremer . This narrative is heavily influenced by that writer’s style. Like Mowatt’s hit comedy, “Fashion,” the plot centers on the misadventures of nouveau riche family social climbing in New York society of the late 1830’s...
Gulzara; or The Persian Slave
“Gulzara, The Persian Slave” is a rare example of a script for a Victorian melodrama that was intended as a private theatrical – to be performed by a limited cast of amateurs in a home or school, not on a public stage. Rarer still, “Gulzara” was written by a female author to be performed by a cast of women. The only male character, Amurath, was a “breeches role,” played by a young girl. Thus this drama, set in a harem in Constantinople, in addition to spinning a yarn about the abduction of Sultan Suliman’s son, gives us an unusual peek at the lives of young women in the U...
Armand; or The Peer and The Peasant
Although almost completely obscure today, this romantic melodrama was arguably a bigger hit for actress/playwright Anna Cora Mowatt than her theatre history-making comedy “Fashion” Wisely cashing in on the craze for settings and characters made popular by Alexander Dumas’ “Musketeer” novels still being published in serial form when the play debuted, this drama focuses on the adventures of sweet, beautiful, peasant maiden Blanche, who discovers she may be the illegitimate daughter of the scheming Duke de Richelieu...