November 11, 2012

Birth of Anne Charlotte Lynch Botta

The daughter of an Irish nationalist who later moved to Cuba, Anne Charlotte Lynch was born in Bennington, Vermont, on November 11, 1815, raised in Connecticut, went to school in Albany, New York and, later, wrote her first book on Rhode Island. It was in Connecticut that she wrote to her friend on her 20th birthday:

I believe I have had every variety of feeling humanity is capable of, and there remains nothing for me now, not even a disappointment. My mind, too early matured, has reached at this period the limit it should only have attained at threescore; and now, like some plant, blossoming prematurely, it droops and withers, while all around it is verdant. But you will call me an egotist, and I shall deserve it; so let me turn to some more agreeable topic.

She then moved to Manhattan and established herself at the center of literary and elite cultural circles (surrounded by people like Margaret Fuller, Horace Greeley, Fanny Kemble, Edgar Allan Poe, Bayard Taylor, and others). It was in Europe that she met her husband, the Italian professor Vincenzo Botta.

In addition to earning a reputation as one of the greatest salon hostesses of the era, Lynch Botta was a prolific poet and occasional artist. Much of her writing reflects those dual interests; several of her poems are based on her reactions to paintings or sculptures. Usually, her poems had a slight religious tint to them and many mused on death and the afterlife. Her poem "Books for the People" (published in 1849):

          Light to the darkened mind
Bear, like the sun, the world's wide circle round,
Bright messengers that speak without a sound!
          Sight on the spirit blind
Shall fall where'er ye pass; your living ray
Shall change the night of ages into day;—
          God speed ye on your way!

          In closet and in hall,
Too long alone your message hath been spoken:
The spell of gold that bound ye there is broken;
          Go forth and shine on all;
The world's inheritance, the legacy
Bequeathed by Genius to the race are ye;
          Be like the sunlight, free!

          A mighty power ye wield!
Ye wake grim centuries from their deep repose,
And bid their hoarded treasuries unclose,
          The spoils of time to yield.
Ye hold the gift of immortality;
Bard, sage, and seer, whose fame shall never die,
          Live through your ministry.

          Noiseless upon your path,
Freighted with lore, romance, and song, ye speed,
Moving the world, in custom and in creed,
          Waking its love or wrath.
Tyrants, that blench not on the battle-plain,
Quail at your silent coming, and in vain
          Would bind the riven chain.

          Shrines, that embalm great souls!
Where yet the illustrious dead high converse hold,
As gods spake through their oracles of old;
          Upon your mystic scrolls,
There lives a spell to guide our destiny;
The fire by night, the pillared cloud by day,
          Upon our upward way.

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