Rose Terry Cooke (1827–1892)

Document Type



English (Scripps)

Publication Date



American Literature | Literature in English, North America | Women's Studies


At least two Rose Terry Cookes command our attention a hundred years after the historical woman's death. One, the writer of realist short stories, has long been recognized as a pioneer of New England regional fiction, an innovator in the use of dialect, and the forerunner of works by Rebecca Harding Davis and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among others...This Rose Terry Cooke does indeed deserve the recognition she has been receiving since 1967, when Jay Martin wrote that her work had been unjustly ignored by most historians of American literature. However, there is another, quite different Rose Terry Cooke, whose compositions have been misunderstood and dismissed while the realist writer has prospered. This is the romantic Rose Terry, best encountered in her first volume of poems (1861). Whereas the presiding spirit of Cooke's realist fiction is temperate, decent, honest, practical, warm-hearted, and ready to praise such Yankee virtues as "faculty" and hard work, this other, impulsive spirit luxuriates in indolence, passionate sexuality, extreme and even cruel emotions, strange poses, and fantasies of terror. Hardly respectable by nineteenth-century standards, she was politely ignored by the critics and has remained virtually unknown ever since.

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© 1992 University of Nebraska Press

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