Page 159 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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In any case we learn something of Emma’s nature that sharply
contradicts her sister Josephine’s tempered view of it. Emma
sends a scathing letter to Emerson withholding very little of her
feelings. Bitterly she writes to her mentor, “I feel as if I had won
for myself by my own efforts a place in any collection of American
poets, & I feel myself treated with absolute contempt in the very
quarter where I had been encouraged to build my fondest
Nonetheless, Emma meets the literary challenge undaunted,
and turns to yet another male, Turgenev, for encouragement. In
1874 she had turned her hand to fiction and wrote a novel,
which was a fictionalized version of an event in the life of Goethe
— once more the artist is the hero, and once more a woman sacri­
fices herself for him. The Russian novelist, Turgenev, was now
reaching the end of his career and was living in Paris. Emma,
quite recovered from the Emerson episode (and once more in
good relations with him), sends a copy of her novel to the Russian
master. She evidently had written to him that she admired his
work and had been influenced by it; and in response he wrote,
along with some words of advice, “I feel very proud of the appro­
bation you give to my works — and of the influence you kindly
attribute to them on your own talent: an author, who writes as you
do — is not a ‘pupil in art’any more; he is not far from being him­
self a master.”19 Emma remained in correspondence with
Turgenev for the next few years, and as Turgenev’s biographer
Avraham Yarmolinsky reports, “in 1878 [Turgenev] met the abo­
litionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson. . . . He spoke warmly to
him of his compatriots, naming Emma Lazarus, with whom he
had had some correspondence. . . .”20
Now, in 1874, at the age of twenty-five Emma Lazarus has
three literary masters. In 1876 when she privately publishes a
verse drama,
The Spagnoletto,
(again about an artist, Jose de
Ribera, a tragedy in five acts set in Italy in 1655), she sends it to all
18 Letters o f Emma Lazarus, p. 12.
19 Letters to Emma Lazarus, p. 17.
20 Avraham Yarmolinsky,
Turgenev: The Man, His Art and His Age.
(New York,
1959), p. 323.