Lydia H. Sigourney:
Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney (1791-1865) published a prolific amount of poetry, educational tracts, stories, travel narratives, memorial tributes, and conduct literature during her lifetime. Born in Norwich, Connecticut, the only child of Ezekial Huntley, a gardener, and Zerviah Wentworth, she benefitted from the patronage of a wealthy family in Hartford, the Lathrops, in receiving her education.
After her formal education ended, she continued to study Latin and Hebrew and began to teach others. In 1811, she and a friend, Nancy Maria Hyde, opened a girl's school in Hartford, Connecticut. This venture ended after Hyde's health declined. In her letter of September 20, 1834, Sigourney wrote to George Griffin about compiling, editing, and publishing her friend's papers after Hyde's death. A few years later in 1814, a friend of the Lathrops financed a school for Sigourney to oversee herself. As in other female academies at the time, the curriculum in Sigourney's school focused on intellectual and moral development, rather than on ornamental accomplishments. Many of the pieces that Sigourney initially composed for use in her school ended up in her first literary work, Moral Pieces in Prose and Verse, which was published in 1815.
Lydia gave up her teaching when she married Charles Sigourney, a Hartford widower with three children, in 1819. Charles Sigourney (1778-1854) worked as a merchant and eventually became the president of a bank. Lydia and Charles had five children together, only two of whom, Mary (1828-1889) and Andrew (1831-1854), reached adulthood.
Although her husband initially objected to her endeavors as a published author, Lydia H. Sigourney's literary pursuits grew during her marriage. After publishing anonymously for several years, she began to produce material under her married name in 1833. In the next two years alone, she oversaw the publication of nine texts. She actively contributed work to periodicals as well. The letters in the collection to her friend and intermediary, George Griffin, address how and what she wrote as well as how she negotiated different avenues of publication.
In tandem with her work as an author, Sigourney also participated in several female moral reform and charitable societies. As the collection reveals, she remained involved in her earlier pursuits as an educator as well, and George Griffin encouraged her in this effort through his letters. In addition to focusing many of her published works on education, she also hosted a reunion of the scholars of her academy in 1837, which she described in a letter included in the collection.
Sigourney's work enjoyed a widespread audience during her lifetime, enough for her to garner considerable income from her publications. Remembered as "the Sweet Singer of Hartford" and the "female Milton," she had produced 65 published works by the time of her death in 1865.
George Griffin (1778-1860), a lawyer, was born in East Haddam, Connecticut, and graduated from Yale in 1797, before eventually settling in New York City in 1806. Late in his life, he published three books on Christianity, Sufferings of Our Saviour (New York, 1845), Evidences of Christianity (New York, 1846) and The Gospel its Own Advocate (New York, 1850). Several letters relating to these publications, including Boston theologian Edward Beecher's response to Sufferings of Our Saviour, are in the collection.
George Griffin married Lydia Butler Griffin (1783-1860) on July 3, 1801, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he was practicing law at the time. Together, they had 8 children: Francis (1802-1852), Edmund Dorr (1804-1830), Ellen (1807-1823), Caroline Ann (1809-1810), George (1811-1880), Charles Alexander (1814-1859), Caroline Lydia (1820-1861), and Ellen Ann (1826-1831). The collection most directly deals with Edmund Dorr Griffin (1804-1830) and George Griffin, Jr. (1811-1880), though it does include a few letters from Francis, Charles, Caroline, and Francis's wife, Mary Sands Griffin. George Griffin died on May 6, 1860, in New York City.
Francis Griffin (1802-1852) was born in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Yale in 1822 before becoming a lawyer. He married Mary Sands (1804-1888) of Sands Point, New York, in 1829. They had five children. Charles Alexander Griffin also became a lawyer, having attended Williams College, from which he graduated in 1833. He married Pastora Jacoba DeForest, of New Haven, Connecticut, with whom he had four children. He died in New York City.
Edmund Dorr Griffin (1804-1830) was born in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Columbia College in 1823. He initially studied law with his father, but soon entered the New York Theological Seminary to pursue ordination in the Protestant Episcopal Church. Beginning in 1826, he briefly served as an assistant minister at St. James and Christ churches in New York City. Edmund made an 18-month trip to Europe between October 1828 and April 1830, during which he spent considerable time in Italy, Switzerland, France, and Great Britain. Upon his return to the United States, he gave a series of lectures at Columbia on Roman, Italian, and English literature. He died unmarried on September 1, 1830. His father, George Griffin, and brother, Francis Griffin, oversaw the publications of his "Remains," which included a memoir by the Rev. John McVickar, a professor at Columbia, in 1831.
George Griffin, Jr. (1811-1880) worked for several years in a merchant's counting house in New York City before receiving, in 1830, a sudden desire to become a Presbyterian minister. Because he had not attended college previously, his father, George Griffin, advised him to undertake accelerated study at Williams College (Williamstown, Massachusetts) under the supervision of his uncle, the Reverend Edward Dorr Griffin (1770-1837). George did not end up pursuing the ministry and instead became a farmer. He married Anne Augusta Neilson (d. 1841) in 1834, and together they settled in Catskill, New York. They had three children: Augusta (b. 1835), Francis Butler, who died at the age of 12, and Edward Dorr (b. 1838). Two letters that Francis Butler wrote to his father from boarding school in 1847 are part of the collection. After Anne Augusta's death in 1841, George married Mary Augusta Cooke (d. 1848), of Catskill in 1845. She gave birth to one child, Frederick Cooke, before her death. In 1850, George traveled to Europe with his sister Caroline, whose health was ailing. Upon his return, he married Elizabeth Frances Benson, with whom he had four children: Francis Butler, George, Lydia Butler, and Sophia Day.