Reviving Louisa: new light illuminates a neoclassical feminist sculptor, Part I

Louisa Lander

Louisa Lander, engraving from the Cosmopolitan Art Journal, March, 1861


I walk down Chestnut Street in Salem on a freezing February afternoon, the white sky predicting snow. Wide and straight, at least by Salem standards, the street is lined with large and stately clapboard homes. Perhaps because of the cold, the neighborhood is quiet and deserted, and as I pick my way over narrow, frost-rucked brick sidewalks it’s not difficult to imagine Salem in 1860, or 1880, or 1923, the year of Louisa Lander’s memorial service at number 22.
A yellow double house in the Federal style, 22 Chestnut Street was the home of Miss Anna Endicott. Anna’s family must have been close to the Landers; Louisa died at age 98, outliving her immediate contemporaries. The Endicott home is four blocks from 5 Summer Street, the three-story brick townhouse where Louisa lived so much of her life, and another two blocks from the Broad Street Cemetery, where Louisa is buried near her mother and brother Frederick.
Having spent the day in the Phillips Library reading Lander family papers, I thought of Louisa’s large, bold, spidery handwriting, so much like her brother Edward’s and her father’s. Louisa’s extraordinary family included an explorer and dashing Union General feared by Stonewall Jackson (brother Frederick); a federal judge who defended Puget Sound settlers and Native Americans from a rapacious governor (brother Edward); a well-known, young-adult author whose travel books are still in print (sister Sarah); and a notorious heiress (grandmother Elizabeth Derby West), daughter of America’s richest man, who created a home of dramatic beauty: three of its rooms are recreated in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
When Lander walked on Salem’s streets, she was part of an interconnected web of family, merchants, and friends—yet she was a quiet and singular woman who imagined that a face like her own could be the new symbol of a new America. Her art used female subjects almost without exception to embody ideas of loyalty, sacrifice, honor, and longing. She was, in short, imagining an entirely new sculptural world with women at its core, and had the means, education, support, and intellect to carry it through.

     —Salem, Massachusetts, Winter, 2019

Louisa Lander’s life story raises all of the usual feminist questions about who writes history, and whom history is written for. The legends around her life fit romantic stereotypes of betrayal, rejection, and resulting personal instability. Lander’s sculpture was created over long decades of study and practice of a difficult craft; her reputation was unfairly damaged by jealous gossip; her sculptures are lost or misattributed. Contemporary writers called her a genius, and one of the preeminent American sculptors of the age, but some of her greatest work has vanished without a trace.
I first became interested in Louisa Lander when I saw her bust of Nathaniel Hawthorne in the Concord Free Public Library in Concord, Massachusetts. This library doubles as a gallery of neoclassical sculpture, featuring marble portraits of Transcendentalist notables by Daniel Chester French, another Concord native. Amid this ghostly assembly, Lander’s work is somehow alive. It is free of overdone detail, and an alert, almost tense expression seems modern. That this arresting portrait was by a woman, was exhilarating.
Most information I was at first able to find about Lander relies on a few inaccurate accounts, repeated again and again: she died alone in Washington DC, a broken woman, talking to her statue of Virginia Dare. This legend fits a conventional narrative of female tragedy and madness, and, as it turns out, never fit the buoyant, intellectual, and well-traveled woman whose talent carried her to Rome and whose supportive, close-knit family were as extraordinary as she was.


When Maria Louisa Lander was born on Broad Street in Salem, Massachusetts, on September 1st 1826, 1 her home city was old by American standards. A deep, sheltered bay had early provided a base for profitable maritime trade and housed miles of wharves. Salem traders visited Sumatra, St. Petersburg, The Bay of Bengal, Canton, and Cuba. Unlike the hectic whaling hub of New Bedford, or low-lying Boston surrounded by fens and so recently occupied by enemy troops, hilly Salem afforded views of a crenelated coast, the enormous sails of merchant ships approaching from every corner of the world. The city was a gracious background for a social elite boasting the greatest per capita wealth in America. Salem merchants and sea captains funded cultural institutions, churches, and mansions, creating a civic taste for culture and the celebration of town history. Luxury goods: sugar, spices, exotic furniture and fabrics, ceramics, and even a live elephant could be bought, sold, or merely gawked at. 2


The Family: Landers, Derbys and Wests
Louisa Lander was the seventh of eight children born to Edward and Eliza West Lander. Eliza was the daughter of the notorious Elizabeth Derby West, herself the daughter of the richest man in America and the first woman to win a divorce suit and retain her own fortune. Feisty Elizabeth brought a group of prostitutes to court to prove her husband’s infidelity. That she took this flamboyant step, which ruined her reputation, speaks to an innate determination and confidence, traits which were at the time condemned as vanity and willfulness.
As a little girl, Lousia was quiet and thoughtful, and loved to draw and look at art. She modeled replacement heads out of sealing wax for two of her broken dolls; the results were good enough that her mother chose to display them. Louisa saved stone from a broken alabaster clock, and with a penknife carved small sculptures from the pieces. She carved cameos, drew and painted, and studied anatomy as best she could at the Essex Institute, even once borrowing human finger bones which she brought to the tea table. 3
Although reserved, Louisa was loyal, had a good sense of humor, and seems to have made friends easily. When her friendship with the Nathaniel Hawthornes was still in full bloom, she once entertained the children by dressing up as an “old New England Dame” and tottering about the room with a cane until the family was in stitches. Hawthorne himself wrote: “I like her exceedingly.”


Oak Hill and the Derby Chest
Oak Hill, the exquisite rural estate decorated by Louisa’s notorious grandmother, was her home from age 6 (1832) until her mother’s death in 1849, when the family returned to Salem proper. Oak Hill featured elaborate gardens and a pond full of many varieties of Egyptian lotus flowers; painted panels by Corné in the parlors; drawing room walls covered in rose-colored damask, and furniture and carvings by Samuel McIntire. (Three of Oak Hill’s magnificent neoclassical rooms are reconstructed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, although the house itself was razed and the site is under the present-day North Shore Mall in Danvers.) 4
A singular piece of art that Louisa grew up with is the so-called “Derby Chest-on-Chest,” a masterpiece by the early 19th century cabinet maker and self-taught sculptor Samuel McIntire. This large, tall, mahogany chest of drawers is topped with a cornice whose central figure is a 15-inch carved sculpture of a woman, known as “America.” Commissioned by Louisa’s grandmother, this chest remained in the family and was in Louisa’s own possession for most of her life. 5
Young Louisa must have daily looked at proud “America” at Oak Hill, and long afterward. McIntire’s “America” is a young woman, wearing a flowing, long gown, holding in her right hand a laurel wreath and in her left a liberty pole. She wears a large brooch in the shape of a sun disc on her Empire-waisted ensemble (a new fashion in the neoclassical mode). In his comprehensive survey of the life and work of McIntire, Peabody Essex Museum curator Dean Lahikainen mentions that the symbolic attributes of the Derby “America,” Victory, Authority, Virtue (a Wreath), and a Liberty Pole (the Sun) are heightened with gilding, perhaps indicating their representation of the chief values of the young nation.
But more important than material comfort, even the sumptuous furnishings of Oak Hill, was the understanding and tolerance Edward and Eliza showed for young Louisa’s idiosyncrasies. Both mother and father encouraged their daughter, and were proud of her talent, however many un-ladylike accommodations needed to be made. According to an article in the Cosmopolitan Art Journal, Louisa’s mother arranged a studio for her in the nearby “farmhouse” and provided her with wood, shell, stone, and wax to model and carve.6  Louisa was also able to study anatomy at the Essex Institute and presumably given free reign, hence the bones-at-the-tea-table incident. As was standard practice, Louisa probably studied and copied existing sculpture, but soon branched out into her own subject matter.
Louisa’s family considered her talent to be equal to that of other well-known American artists, as seen in The Catalogue of the Twenty-Eighth Exhibition of Paintings and Statuary at the Athenaeum Gallery (The Boston Athenaeum). This 1855 exhibit lists a “Bust of a Gentleman” by L. Lander, loaned by an E. Lander.7 It is presumed that this piece was a portrait of her father, Edward Lander, but like many of Louisa’s sculptures it has been lost. Father Edward accompanied Louisa to Rome where she hoped to win a place in the studio of Thomas Crawford. This was an unconventional move for a mid-19th century paterfamilias, and it demonstrated the support of Louisa’s family, to whom she seems to have been extraordinarily close.


Elizabeth Ellet comments on Lander’s personality and early work
The prolific 19th-century writer and voluminous chronicler of American women, Elizabeth Ellet, comments on Lander’s personality, calling her “grave and thoughtful, serious and reserved at all times, and decided in her judgment, which was always according to the dictates of good sense.”
“When a very little child, she modeled two heads for broken dolls…of light sealing wax, and the modeling of both was so wonderfully accurate that her mother would not allow the child to play with them, but kept them as curiosities.” Ellet reiterates stories of Lander carving cameos at a young age: several Lander cameos exist in the Peabody Essex Museum’s collections.
Ellet continues: “Her first modeling was a bas-relief portrait of her father; it was followed by a bust of her brother, the late Chief Justice of Washington territory” (Edward Lander). 8


The Neoclassical World
Neoclassicism, an international aesthetic style, developed in the early years of the 19th century. The emphasis in sculpture was on the idealized human body, like the art of ancient Greece. Recent excavations of classical sculpture at Herculaneum and Pompeii whetted the public’s appetite for ancient art. That the excavated sculpture mostly lost its original bright painting and inlay escaped the notice of many; the imitative fashion arose of sculpture in pure white marble and became ubiquitous.
Following on the heels of Italian sculptor Antonio Canova, whose idealized, yet realistic sculptures of the human body were carved in local white marble, American sculptors traveled to Rome to study and to set up studios of their own. Horatio Greenough was the first American sculptor to set up shop near Rome in 1825, and many others soon followed. Tourists from Europe and America were ready buyers for their art, and supported a thriving artists’ colony.
Quarries at Carrara and Seraveza had plentiful supplies of high quality marble; skilled craftsmen and carvers, dozens of whom could be called upon as needed to complete a single large monument, were readily available. An unbelievable (to the American eye) wealth of classical and Renaissance sculpture was on view—in churches, galleries, museums, and the streets—offering an instant education for those who could spend time in Rome or Florence.9
Thomas Crawford, a successful American sculptor, established a large and busy studio in Rome in 1835. He received several significant commissions for the United States Capitol building in 1853, including a 60-foot pediment with 13 life-size marble figures. It’s probable that Louisa saw his Orpheus on display at the Boston Athenaeum in 1844, when she was eighteen; at any rate, she decided to ask him to be her teacher, and he in turn needed many skilled workers who could independently carve, model, and paint.


In a Sculptor’s Studio: Thomas Crawford and the Neoclassical in Rome
In 1852, when she was 26, Louisa sailed with her father to Rome, carrying an ambrotype (an early form of photography) of her bust titled “To-Day.” Lander’s intent was to visit Crawford’s Roman studio and become his student, the first step in her own career. Lander no doubt considered “To-Day” her masterpiece. The bust has been described by Elizabeth Ellet as the head of a young woman, life-size, wearing a “chaplet of morning glories,” her robe fastened at the shoulders with brooches shaped like stars. The dynamic of the piece was one of forward motion, and to emphasize this, one of the morning glories had fallen from its headpiece and was resting on the figure’s neck.10
Crawford had one of the busiest workshops of all the American expatriate sculptors. Unfortunately, many of his papers from Louisa’s tenure in his studio have not survived, although this quote from later writings tells how Crawford delegated much of his sculpting to students and staff.
“The secret of being able to complete a great variety of work is to be found in the power of the artist to invent, compose, and direct, thus the hands of others become, a it were, his hands, and younger artists who can do nothing alone may be made serviceable in many ways.
…Assistants properly directed have at all times enabled the great artists of the past and present to accomplish innumerable works, each having the distinctive impress of the master mind. Thus, schools have been created, youthful talent has been brought forward, and the country of the master artist has been enriched.” 11
In White Silence, Sylvia Crane notes that Crawford had about fifty workmen under his supervision, among them two Americans who had come to Rome to study sculpture: Louisa Lander (Crane incorrectly says “Maria Louise Lander”) and J. Augustus Beck of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. After Crawford’s death, Lander opened her own studio and Beck moved to Florence to work for Hiram Powers, eventually becoming a landscape and portrait painter.12
Did Crawford accept Lander as his pupil because he saw in “To-Day” an idea that could be used for the central figure in the “Progress of Civilization” pediment? The complex sculptural group was carved between fall 1853 and spring, 1856. Though Lander’s conception of the “To-Day” may have resonances of Samuel McIntire—and Crawford’s “America” certainly employs established tropes of neoclassical symbolism—the energy of the Capitol’s “America” calls to mind a newer, feminine, conception of the figure.
A series of restorations in 2016 resulted in clear photographs of each sculpture in the massive 60-foot-long “Progress of Civilization.” “America” is the standing figure of a young woman whose loose, flowing hair is held in place by a chaplet not of morning glories, but stars. Her long flag-cloak is fastened at each shoulder by a round brooch. Her expression is open and alert, her eyes upraised, her mouth parted as though about to speak. On her head is a liberty cap—the knitted hat given to freed Roman slaves and adopted as the symbol of the French revolution’s partisans. In her right hand she carries an oak and laurel wreaths (representing both military and economic success), and at her left foot sits an eagle clutching a group of arrows. Her left hand, palm outwards, seems to gesture towards the eagle.13
While Lander’s photograph of “To-Day,” and indeed the sculpture itself, may have been lost, stylistic and technical similarities exist. In addition to the loose hair decorated with a chaplet, cloak pinned with stars, and forward-striding demeanor, a technical peculiarity of carving stands out. Crawford’s “America” has long hair which, instead of being treated as a mass, is carved into distinct, ropy strands. These are supported by small struts in the manner of ancient Roman techniques for carving and stabilizing the deep channels created by representation of long, wavy hair—something an artist would have known from close observation of classical antiquities in Rome.14
In at least one major work, bunches of long, “ropy” hair were a device used by Lander. Her sculpture of Evangeline was reviewed as part of an exhibit in New York’s Dusseldorf Gallery in the The New York Times. The sculpture was praised overall, but was criticized for its heavy hair which obscured the face.
“…the first thing which catches the eye of the visitor is a statuette of “Evangeline,” the heroine of LONGFELLOW’S poem of that name. It is the work of the American sculptress, Miss LOUISA LANDER, of Salem, Mass., and reflects great credit on the lady, who is, as yet, but a young artist…
The sculptress has imparted a great deal of the beautiful serenity, the happy peace which this line suggests, to her little figure, which reposed full length on a flowery bank…the workmanship of the piece is very elaborate and beautiful. It has a few faults, one of which is a superabundance of long, thick, ropy bunches of hair, hanging on each side of the almost infantile face and extremely delicate form of the sleeping girl…”15
As misfortune would have it, Crawford died of eye cancer in 1857, only two years after Louisa’s arrival. The work on the pediment was complete, and it was installed in Washington, DC.
Louisa remained in Rome and set up her own studio. She was far from alone; a group of American expatriate women sculptors were there at the same time, including Harriet Hosmer, Emma Stebbins, and Edmonia Lewis. William Wetmore Story, Joseph Mozier, Paul Akers, and other male American artists were also active in Rome. Tourists made a point of visiting artist’s studios, which were listed in guidebooks. To bring back a piece of sculpture or a painting from one’s Italian Grand Tour was a hallmark of good taste and prestige.


Process of Making Sculpture it the 19th Century
Making sculpture was much more than an individual endeavor. Some few, like Louisa’s contemporary Edmonia Lewis, did their own marble carving—essentially, their own manufacturing—at least, of small and medium-sized works. But more usual was the following process:
First, an artist would often make a small version of the sculpture as a kind of three-dimensional sketch, called a maquette. Once a design had been worked out, an armature was made. In the nineteenth century, armatures for large sculptures were made of iron by a blacksmith, and looked similar to a minimal skeleton covered with dangling supports—small crosses of wood called “butterflies”. The iron armatures had to be measured carefully to dimensions taken from the model or sitter. A strong armature is necessary for work in clay because the weight of wet clay, unassisted, would collapse. Hired artisans would also, typically, do the first roughing-in layer of clay.
The artist would then, in the presence of the sitter or her sketches, work on the clay piece, adding and subtracting, always keeping the damp clay covered to prevent it drying out and cracking. Because clay is easily ruined—dry clay cracks, soggy clay sags—a plaster copy was made in order to preserve the work exactly. This was done by making a re-usable plaster mold over the clay, designed in sections keyed to one another so they fit exactly. Most artists could make smaller molds themselves, if they chose—others hired artisans to do this step. The re-usable plaster mold was used to make one or more plaster copies of the original clay piece. To cast in bronze or other metal, a wax version was made in the mold and sent to a bronze foundry for lost-wax casting. For a marble sculpture, a plaster cast was sent to a carving studio where specialized artisans could also enlarge or reduce the scale of the piece. The number of these artisans varied from project to project, but there were always specialists: These would have included a smodellatore (who specialized in roughing out the marble block using a pointing system); an ornatista (who refined all ornamental forms except the human figure); a pannista (who sculpted drapery); and several scultori (who refined and detailed the human figure). One of the attractions of sculptors to Rome was its proximity to high-quality marble and a legion of artisans necessary to carve and finish the stone, many of whom were professional sculptors in their own right.
Louisa Lander would have seen all of these operations in Crawford’s studio where she studied for two years, and she would have been expected to be versatile in all techniques of modeling and carving. Lander is said to have done the final finishing—the fine carving and surface polishing—of at least one sculpture all by herself— the life sized Virginia Dare.


Lander’s Roman Studio
When Hawthorne sat for his portrait, he wrote in the French and Italian Notebooks,
“I went out in the forenoon, and took a sitting at Miss Lander’s studio, she having done me the honor to request me to sit for my bust…I talked a good deal with Miss Lander, being a little inclined to take a similar freedom with her moral likeness to that which she was taking with my physical one.” Hawthorne mentions that Lander’s studio is rather dreary, housing only the tools and materials needed for work. This in contrast to Harriet Hosmer’s more charmingly decorated space, made homey with flowers and cushions (the contrasting studios reflect to some degree differences in the artists’ personalities).16
“Miss Lander has become strongly attached to Rome, and says that when she dreams of home, it is merely of paying a short visit, and coming back before her trunk is unpacked” writes Hawthorne, “This is a strange fascination that Rome exersizes[sic] upon artists: I think it is the peculiar mode of life, and its freedom from the inthralments of society, more than the artistic advantages which Rome offers.”17
Hawthorne seems to have admired the fact that Lander “…is living here quite alone, in delightful freedom, and has sculpted two or three things that may make her favorably known. ‘Virginia Dare’ is certainly very beautiful.” 18
The prolific Elizabeth Ellet cites a “letter from Rome” in her cornucopia-like Women Artists in All Ages and Countries for a tantalizing list of Louisa’s lost works seen in her Roman studio: 19
1. Undine
2. Sylph
3. Bas-relief of Mountford
4. Galatea
5. Ceres Mourning for Proserpine
6. Virginia Dare (1/2 life size)
7. Elizabeth, the Exile of Siberia
Published in 1859, Ellet’s account of Lander captures her at the first moment of early fame and independence. Lander had been working hard, creating a body of sculpture she no doubt hoped would gain her fame and commissions in America.


Louisa Lander and Nathaniel Hawthorne
Much has been written about Louisa Lander’s bust of Nathaniel Hawthorne: her friendship with Hawthorne’s family in Rome; her close ties with the family; Hawthorne’s ready agreement to sit for Louisa; the success of the resulting marble bust, now in the collection of the Concord, Massachusetts Free Public Library.
Louisa had been in Rome for several years, working for Crawford and subsequently establishing her own studio, when Nathaniel Hawthorne arrived in Rome on the grand tour he and his wife Sophia were taking with their children. Louisa paid a call on the Hawthornes, fellow Salemites, in January of 1858, just a few days after their arrival. Louisa was almost immediately accepted into the family circle, going on excursions and acting as a guide, taking meals with the family, and ultimately, sculpting a bust of Nathaniel at the height of his fame.
Louisa seems to have been admired by all of the Hawthornes. In March, after a family excursion to the Roman Catacombs, Louisa entertained the girls as she “turned into an old New England dame for baby’s amusement—with admirable truth—in muslin cap and spectacles, old brown cloak and black gown and cane. She looked an hundred years old, and was not Miss Lander at all. We laughed beyond all comfort and propriety” 20
Soon after this evening, Nathaniel Hawthorne began sitting for Louisa at her studio. On some occasions he and his wife went together, but on other occasions he went alone, and this may have started rumors that damaged Louisa’s career. Hawthorne initially wrote in glowing terms to his publisher, William Ticknor of Ticknor and Fields, that the portrait was: “Excellent…even Mrs. Hawthorne is delighted with it.” He asked Ticknor to “…do what may be in your power to bring Miss Lander’s name favorably before the public; for she is coming back to America (for the summer only) and might be greatly benefited by receiving commissions for busts etc.” 21
When Louisa finished Hawthorne’s portrait, she left it to be carved by Roman craftsmen, and returned home to America in the summer of 1858.


Lander Returns to Salem in 1858
Louisa returned to Salem in the spring of 1858 with the intention of finding new commissions to bring back to her studio in Rome. Prominent Salem citizens had tried to drum up interest in a public monument honoring Leslie’s Retreat, a pre-Lexington-and-Concord skirmish at North Bridge (Salem) in which British troops were dissuaded from capturing a store of munitions. A statue representing Liberty, with accompanying bas-reliefs, was suggested. 22 The Salem Register argued “…Salem people surely appreciate what is noble, beautiful and refined, and it is a reflection upon themselves not to value aright their native genius and skill.” 23 Special committees were formed to raise funds, but nothing came of the project, probably since there was disagreement of the actual nature of the North Bridge incident and whether or not it was worth memorializing. Perhaps the life size group “America Defending Her Children” (also known as “Pioneer Mother Defending Her Children,” and other titles) was Lander’s bid for this monument, assigned a different identity once the North Bridge project fell through.
Lander did produce a bust of former Governor Christopher Gore, from a portrait by John Trumbull, a difficult task as she could not model from life. This piece was made for Harvard University, and is still there, in a large dining room off-limits to the public in the University’s Memorial Hall.


A Roman Scandal
Upon return to Rome with her oldest sister Elizabeth, Louisa called on the Hawthornes but was snubbed. Eventually she received an brief letter from Nathaniel written in the third person. In his curt and stilted note, Hawthorne calls upon Louisa to clear her name, and explains that he cannot see her in order to protect the reputation of his family.
Sculptor John Rogers, a young cousin of Louisa’s also studying in Rome, was struggling to adapt to the neoclassical style, but his tabletop genre scenes of homespun American life were soon to be popular on mantelpieces everywhere. In 1858, he wrote home about Louisa’s plight:
“She has the reputation of having lived on uncommonly good terms with some man here. She is very vain of her figure and a number of respectable people affirm that she has exposed herself as a model before them in a way that would astonish all modest yankees—I suppose there is not much doubt of that part of the story and it probably forms the foundation of all the rest…If I had been in her place such a loss of reputation would have killed me I believe but she snaps her finger at all of Rome and has not the least desire to leave.” 24
That Louisa could so easily—it seemed—obtain an important commission from the most famous writer in America must have rankled the American artist community in Rome, ever a small and gossiping world. In fact, news of Louisa’s indiscretion was brought to the ear of Hawthorne by American painter Cephas Giovanni Thompson, who had earlier painted Hawthorne’s portrait. 25
We do not know specifics, as neither Hawthorne nor Lander commented on the situation in writing (or any that now exists). The limits of Victorian propriety for women were so narrow, so fraught with nuance, that almost any behavior on a woman’s part, taken out of context, could ruin her reputation­—thought not the man’s, an irony Hawthorne himself examined in The Scarlet Letter. Women were, for example, forbidden to study art from nude models, or attend anatomy classes; they were still excluded from most American universities. Any accusation of sexual impropriety made against any young woman was likely to be taken as truth.
Did Louisa pose for another artist in the nude, or in clothing that was revealing? Did the gossip about her being on “uncommon good terms with some man or other” refer to her unchaperoned sessions with Hawthorne himself? Was their friendship too close for the comfort of Hawthorne’s wife, or Lander’s rivals, or all of them combined? That Hawthorne did not defend his friend and turned her away from his door with a cruel note, may have been an attempt to deflect attention from his own guilt in the matter. He distanced himself effectively from the woman he liked so much: it was not until the 1970s that Hawthorne’s relationship with Lander was discovered. Sophia Hawthorne attempted to delete all mention of Lander in family documents. Such scrupulous erasure of Lander’s name may be proof of a wife’s jealousy. The family soon disposed of Lander’s marble portrait, donating it to the Concord Library in 1873.
Louisa’s reaction to this salacious gossip was to ignore it. Louisa was, at this point in her life, a 32-year-old woman of mature intellect and developed talent. She was not a young girl, to be quietly put aside, persuaded to alter her own perceptions, or be pressured into revealing her personal life before a group of strangers. The sculptor William Wetmore Story, who may have had mixed motives, tried to call a meeting at which Louisa was to plead her case and defend her reputation. Louisa did not attend. Her silence on the matter was seen as further proof of guilt by some. 26 Louisa’s independent nature and her patrician upbringing allowed her to “snap her fingers at all of Rome,” as her cousin Paul Rogers commented. It’s likely that Louisa saw no reason to dignify gossip with a response.


Next in Part Two: Another Roman Scandal

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