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Rebecca Harding Davis
Writing Cultural Autobiography

Editor(s): Janice Milner Lasseter, Sharon M. Harris

This is the annotated edition of novelist/journalist Rebecca Harding Davisís 1904 autobiography, Bits of Gossip, and a previously unpublished family history written for her children. The memoirs are not traditional autobiography; rather, they are Davis's perspective on the extraordinary cultural changes that occurred during her lifetime and of the remarkable--and sometimes scandalous--people who shaped the events. She provides intimate portraits of the famous people she knew, including Emerson, Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Ann Stephens, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Horace Greeley. Equally important are Davis's commentaries on the political activists of the Civil War era, from Abraham Lincoln to Booker T. Washington, from the "daughters of the Southland" to Lucretia Mott, from Henry Ward Beecher to William Still.

Biography of Editor(s)

A nineteenth-century specialist, Janice Milner Lasseter is professor of English at Samford University and has published widely on Rebecca Harding Davis, including "Hawthorne's Legacy to Rebecca Harding Davis" in Hawthorne and Women.
Sharon M. Harris is the Lorraine Sherley Professor in Literature at Texas Christian University. She is the author of Rebecca Harding Davis and American Realism, co-editor of Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, and president of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers.


  • Rebecca Harding Davis: Writing Cultural Autobiography is an important contribution not only to the study of Davis's life and work but also to our understanding of autobiographical forms. Bits of Gossip is fascinating.
    --Shari Benstock, co-editor, with Suzanne Ferris, of Footnotes: On Shoes
  • This fascinating account of nineteenth-century American life on the eastern seaboard will be of interest to the general reader as well as the student and scholar of American literature and American studies.
    --Wendy Martin, author of An American Triptych: The Lives and Work of Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, and Adrienne Rich