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  • From the Periodical Archives:Ann S. Stephens's "The Jockey Cap"—The First Version of "Malaeska"

Ann S. Stephens (1810–1886) was among the best-known and most prolific literary women of her day, the author of novels, short stories, sketches, and poems and the editor of several popular magazines. As a young bride, she and her husband Edward moved to Portland, Maine, where, in October 1834, they published the first number of their new literary monthly, the Portland Magazine, with Edward as its publisher and Ann as editor—and chief contributor. In 1837, they moved to New York, where Ann became an associate editor and frequent contributor to William Snowden's monthly the Ladies' Companion, winning its $200 writing competition prize for her tale "Mary Derwent, a Tale of the Early Settlers," consolidating her reputation among the New York literati. In 1839, the Ladies' Companion published her three-part serial tale "Malaeska" (like "Mary Derwent," a romantic Indian tale), which will be discussed in detail below. In 1841, she became an associate editor at Graham's Magazine, and the following year she became a co-editor at Charles J. Peterson's Lady's World of Fashion (Peterson's Magazine after 1849), where she remained until 1853, while also contributing to numerous other popular periodicals. In an otherwise complimentary profile of Stephens for his "Literati of New York" series in 1846, Edgar Allan Poe noted that while she had "been announced as editress" of the Ladies' Companion, Graham's, and Peterson's, he claimed that "these . . . were announcements and no more; the lady had nothing to do with the editorial control of either [sic] of the three last-named works."1 There is ample evidence, however, that Stephens did indeed do editorial work for these magazines, including soliciting contributions from various authors.2

In 1854, Stephens was editor of Frank Leslie's Lady's Gazette of Fashion, but by 1856 she had left this position to launch another [End Page 101] magazine of her own, Mrs. Stephens' Illustrated New Monthly (published by her husband, as the Portland Magazine had been). In 1858 this magazine was merged with Peterson's Magazine, and Ann Stephens seems to have brought her editing career to a close, but she was now among the most popular novelists of the day (her 1854 Fashion and Famine and her 1855 The Old Homestead had been especially successful3 ), and she continued to write a serialized romance each year for Peterson's. These (along with many of her earlier serialized works of fiction) were subsequently published in book form by Peterson's brother, T. B. Peterson, of Philadelphia. In 1869, T. B. Peterson published a fourteen-volume edition of the Works of Mrs. Ann S. Stephens, and an expanded, twenty-three volume edition was in press at the time of Stephens's death in 1886.

Of all the many and varied works of Ann Stephens, and in spite of her popularity among her contemporaries, only one of her novels is generally remembered and given any critical attention today.4 In 1860, when Stephens's reputation was at its height, Irwin P. Beadle & Co. paid Stephens $250 for the right to reprint her tale Malaeska; the Indian Wife of the White Hunter as the very first Beadle's Dime Novel. Soon, according to Madeleine B. Stern, "300,000 copies were said to have been sold—perhaps as many as half a million copies in the various reprints."5 As a best-seller and a watershed publication in the history of the mass-marketing of literature, Malaeska has long had a place as at least a footnote in American literary history, as well as a place in the history of the literature of the American frontier. Most recently, Malaeska has attracted particular critical attention for its engagement with the theme of Indian-White miscegenation.6

Virtually every source on Stephens follows Stern in asserting that Malaeska "had first appeared as a serial in a New York magazine called The Ladies' Companion between February and April of 1839."7 While other scholars have noted that Stephens revised the Ladies' Companion text for the 1860 Beadle edition, no scholar has recognized that...


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