Skip to main content

Distributed for University Press of New England

The Remarkable Mrs. Ripley

The Life of Sarah Alden Bradford Ripley

A contemporary of Emerson, Hawthorne, the Alcotts, and other New England Renaissance figures, Sarah Alden Bradford Ripley (1793–1867) is largely unknown to today’s readers. Although she left no published works, Sarah is frequently mentioned in letters and journals written by her fellow intellectuals. She was a self-educated classical scholar who was well versed in languages and the sciences, ran a boarding school with her Unitarian minister husband to prepare boys for Harvard College, and raised seven children. Legend has it that she simultaneously rocked a cradle, shelled peas, heard one boy recite his Latin and another, his Greek. In this first biography of the remarkable Mrs. Ripley, Joan W. Goodwin draws on Sarah’s letters and the writings of her contemporaries to paint as full a picture as possible of a compelling figure known until now only as a literary footnote. Goodwin reveals the inner drama of a woman’s lonely struggle to reconcile the liberal Christian worldview with her own increasing skepticism, and her traditional domestic role with the pursuit of intellectual attainments. The author’s skillful presentation of primary materials allows Sarah to speak to the reader in her own voice, particularly through her correspondence with Mary Moody Emerson and Abigail Allyn Francis, lending insight into the anguish that shaped much of her life. In a biography as distinctive as the celebrated woman it depicts, the author re-creates the life and times of Mrs. Ripley and rescues an overlooked New Englander from obscurity. This is a captivating story that will appeal to historians and general readers alike.

424 pages | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4

Biography and Letters

View all books from University Press of New England

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations • Acknowledgments • Introduction • Prologue • Father, may I study Latin? • God made the country, and man made the town • An acquaintance with a Miss Emerson • On the very eve of engaging myself • A country clergyman’s wife • For what exalted purpose? • Mrs. Ripley’s skepticism • Her sphere-which is not very narrow • I cannot help fastening the thread • The affections ... spread out in rays • The sun shines bright and the grass looks green • At last a home! • One of the most remarkable persons in Concord • Very happy with her quiet house and her lichens • The bright sunset • I am no Spartan mother • There are no limits to love • Notes • Bibliography • Index

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press