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Not Even Past: Sister Arts

By Mary Katherine Matalon
Not Even Past

The 1792 poem “Verses to Abigail Smith,” was preserved by Abigail’s brother, Elihu Hubbard Smith, who transcribed the poem into his diary and chronicled the strong friendship that existed between Sarah Pierce, the author and future founder of the Litchfield Female Academy, and his sisters Abigail and Mary. Like Smith, Lisa Moore is interested in recording and preserving the rich world of female friendship and same sex desire that she has discovered in a variety of creative media in the late eighteenth century.  While diverse in form, these “sister arts,” including garden design, paper collage, collecting, and poetry, were united by the ways that their practitioners all used the landscape and the natural world both literally and metaphorically to create artworks that forged and memorialized the bonds among women.

In this lavishly illustrated book, Moore analyzes the lives and works of eighteenth-century women who practiced the sister arts:  the artist Mary Delaney, the natural philosopher and collector Margaret Bentinck, the Duchess of Portland, poet Anna Seward, and the aforementioned Sarah Pierce.  Moore is a skilled and vivid storyteller and her compelling prose enables the reader to inhabit the affective and intellectual landscapes these women traversed.

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Sister Arts