Captivity, Childbirth, and the Civil War in Harriet Prescott Spofford’s ” Circumstance”. Theresa Strouth Gaul. Texas Christian University. Harriet Prescott Spofford’s. Spofford, Harriet. “Circumstance.” The Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writings. Ed. Glynis Carr. Online. Internet. Posted: Winter Circumstance has 10 ratings and 0 reviews. Harriet Prescott Spofford was a regular contributor of short stories to the well known journal, The.

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Once widely familiar, the story now requires recapitulation. As the beast, glimpsing the husband, grasps her to carry her higher, he shoots, bringing it to earth, where it breaks her fall. Alex rated it it was ok Oct 21, Based on a true incident in her family history, “Circumstance” is nonetheless startlingly unusual.

She forgot how recently, and with what a strange pity for her own shapeless form that was to be, she had quaintly sung, Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.

She did not even believe herself subject to an hallucination, but smiled simply, a little vexed that her thought could have framed such a glamour from the day’s occurrences, and not sorry to lift the bough of the warder of the woods and enter and disappear in their sombre path.

Again the cocks crowed with the passing hour,–the last time they were heard on that night. She had no comfort or consolation in this season, such as sustained the Christian martyrs in the amphitheatre. There is no home there.

Given that his wife was already part way home, he cannot have left until he spofdord the next morning, having gone to circymstance while his wife was unaccounted for.

As he drew nearer the heart of the forest, that intimation of melody seemed to grow more actual, to take body and breath, to come and go on long swells and ebbs of the ciecumstance, to increase with tune and words, till a strange shrill singing grew ever clearer, and, as he stepped into an open space of moonbeams, far up in the branches, rocked by the wind, and singing, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace,” he saw his wife,–his wife,–but, great God in heaven!


The late moon had rounded through the sky circumwtance that her gleam at last fell full upon the bough with fairy frosting; the wintry morning light did not yet penetrate the gloom. What dread comes with the thought of perishing in flames!

Books by Harriet Prescott Spofford. Walking rapidly now, and with her eyes wide-open, she distinctly saw in the air before her what was not there a moment ago, a winding-sheet,–cold, white, and ghastly, waved by the likeness of four wan hands,–that rose with a long inflation, and fell in rigid folds, while a voice, shaping itself from the hollowness above, spectral and melancholy, sighed,– “The Lord have mercy on the people!

Circumstance by Harriet Prescott Spofford

The year before she was born, her father’s business cricumstance bankrupt. The monster raised his head and flared the fiery eyeballs upon her, then fretted the imprisoned claws a moment and was quiet; only the breath like the vapor from some hell-pit still swathed her. Spofford always finds the vermilion and azure threads woven into the preescott and grays of the New England life and women she knew so well.

Her voice, at first faint and fearful, gradually lost its quaver, grew under her control and subject to her modulation; it rose on long swells, it fell in subtile cadences, now and then its tones pealed out like bells from distant belfries on fresh sonorous mornings. Allison Guenette rated it liked it Nov 27, Out of the three characters for whom any lengthy description is provided, she is the only one to exhibit favorable qualities aside from possessing good intentions and a sharp eye.

At a Japanese meal: She then in an effort to call to her husband and save herself, she sings to the beast. Cultural Objects There are no Cultural Objects for this author. These beautiful haunts that all the summer were hers and rejoiced to share with her their bounty, these heavens that had yielded their largess, these stems that had thrust their blossoms into her hands, all these friends of three moons ago forgot circumstancr now and knew her no longer.


She attended the Putnam Free School in Newburyport, Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spoffordd April 3, — August 14, was a notable American writer remembered for her novels, poems and detective stories. Another harrlet in which she challenges the typical female gender role of their place being in the home is that her husband circumstancr home taking care of the child and she was out using her skills to help an ill neighbor. She was quite aware, that, if her husband shot now, the ball must pierce her body before reaching any vital part of the beast,–and yet better that death, by his hand, than the other.


Project MUSE – “Circumstance” in

Her mettle is tested and proven shortly after she enters the woods which separate her from her settlement. Suddenly she woke pierced with a pang, and the daggered tooth penetrating her flesh;–dreaming of safety, she had ceased singing and lost it. Slow clarion cries now wound from the distance as the cocks caught the intelligence of day and re-echoed it faintly from farm to farm,–sleepy sentinels of night, sounding the foe’s invasion, and translating that dim intuition to ringing notes of warning.

Spofford’s days in Washington with her husband provide the basis for the sentimental stories in Old Washingtonand her final collection, often considered her best, The Elder’s Peoplereturns to New England.


Cheerful home sound then, how full of safety prexcott all comfort and rest it seemed! At Newburyport her prize essay on Hamlet drew the attention of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who soon became her friend, and gave her counsel and encouragement.

But this her husband also knew, and he remained motionless, just covering the creature with the sight.