Anna Cora Mowatt, Eugenie Foa, Lucy Landon, and “Cecil and His Dog”

Anna Cora Mowatt, Eugenie Foa, and images of "Le Petit Robinson de Paris"

Three Misfortunes that Resulted in a Happy Ending for Readers

Although today her works are primarily of interest to scholars for the detailed insight they give readers about the lives of Jewish women in the Victorian Era, by far the most financially successful work of French author, Madame Eugenie Foa was her 1840 children’s classic, “Le Petit Robinson de Paris.” This short novel (also known by the title “Cecil and His Dog” in its English translation) went through numerous editions in France, England, and the U.S.  It stayed in print continually through the beginning of the twentieth century.  The English version of the book was published in 1843 by James Mowatt & Co.  The translator was identified as Lucy Landon.  However I believe that “Lucy Landon” is a previously undisclosed pseudonym for Anna Cora Mowatt.  In this blog entry I want to describe the three unfortunate events that befell the actress/author and her family that tie Mowatt to “Le Petit Robinson”  and convince me that she is “Lucy Landon.”

Eugenie Foa
Eugenie Foa

The presence of the Ogden family in Bordeaux in the early 1820s was the first of the three misfortunes to befall Mowatt and those nearest to her that connect her to Madame Foa’s novel.  In 1806, Anna Cora’s father, Samuel Governeur Ogden became entangled in a power struggle between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.  If you are a fan of the musical, “Hamilton,” (or U.S. history,) you’ll know that serious friction had developed between Burr and Jefferson by the time of his presidency despite the fact that Burr was serving as Jefferson’s vice president.

Colonel William Smith
Colonel William Smith

At trial before U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, Ogden and U.S. Surveyor Colonel William Smith (a son-in-law of ex-President John Adams) testified that they were instructed by the White House to secure funding for General Francisco de Miranda’s ill-fated mission to invade Spanish-held territory in Venezuela.1 Smith and Ogden maintained these orders came from Secretary of State James Madison and President Thomas Jefferson himself.  Federal prosecutors held that the mission was part of conspiracy spearheaded by then ex-vice president Aaron Burr.  Justice Marshall ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.  Aaron Burr was acquitted of the charge of treason brought against him by the U.S. Department of Justice. Marshall also found Smith and Ogden innocent of the lesser charge of violation of U.S. neutrality.

Samuel Gouverneur Ogden
Samuel Gouverneur Ogden

Although Samuel Ogden’s honor was intact, he was left in a precarious position by the trial.  He had lost $200,000 on the failed Miranda mission.  An internet converter equates that amount to $4,805,948.72 in today’s money.  Although these sorts of calculators can fail to fully factor in inflation rates and account for all the dynamics that can have an impact on buying power, this figure does give you some idea of the massive amount of money Ogden sank into the adventure.  After he testified against them in open court, there was little possibility that either Jefferson, the sitting president, or Madison, who was elected to the office next, was going to make any effort to see that Ogden was reimbursed by the government in any way for his losses.

Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr

Additionally, it is always optimal for businessmen to have good relationships with  Federal as well as local authorities. Ogden was involved in the import and export of goods. Such dealings would make him vulnerable to tariffs and excise taxes. It is probable that part of Ogden’s transactions directly or through his holdings involved winning government contracts.  His position as an assistant to a U.S. Surveyor seems to indicate that some of his efforts were taking place on that sort of level.

Samuel G. Ogden and Col. William Smith had accused the President and his Secretary of State of lying in order to strengthen charges of treason against an ex-Vice President of the United States.  Ogden and Smith’s accusations had been upheld by the ruling of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  The situation they found themselves in was potentially explosive.  These two private citizens had become political enemies of the man who was the third President of the United States and the man who would become the fourth.

Presidents Monroe, Jefferson, and Madison
Presidents Monroe, Jefferson, and Madison

Although staggered by his losses, Ogden’s credit was still good.  He managed to stay in business for the remainder of Jefferson’s term in office and the first few years of Madison’s. In 1815, Ogden had managed to recover sufficiently to relocate his family to an estate he purchased in Bordeaux and establish a base of operations there with the help of some of his international trading partners.  He remained in Europe until James Monroe, another Jefferson ally, finished his term in office.  The Ogdens finally returned to the U.S. in 1825 when John Quincy Adams became president.

Thus, Anna Cora Ogden was born and lived the first few years of her life near Bordeaux.  Eugenie Rodrigues-Hernandez Foa was also born in that city.  Several members of Foa’s family were merchants who engaged in international trade.  By chance, Eugenie also left Bordeaux in 1825.  Her family moved to Paris after the death of her father. It is conceivable that relatives of Eugenie Foa could have numbered among Samuel Ogden’s contacts. However it is unlikely that she was having meaningful literary discussions with Anna Cora at this time.  In 1825, Eugenie Foa was twenty-nine years old.  Anna Ogden was six.

The primary points of intersection between the two writers I wish to highlight from these years are that Anna Cora was, from infancy, fully fluent in French.  She had a life-long sentimental attachment to the Bordeaux region of France.  There is also a small chance that Eugenie Foa’s family had business dealings with Samuel Ogden.

Fast-forwarding to our next crisis point for Mowatt — in April of 1839, Emma Frances Ogden, a sister just a year younger than Anna Cora, married Henry Menke.  The couple traveled to Bremen, Germany for an extended stay with the groom’s family. Anna Cora, who had been dangerously ill with a bronchial infection, was sent with the bridal party on her doctors’ recommendation.  At this time, physicians often prescribed travel as being restful and restorative for invalids.  Also, James Mowatt may have been beginning to experience serious difficulties in his health and his finances that he wished to conceal from his young wife at this time.

When James finally joined his wife in Bremen, disaster struck.  The lawyer completely lost his vision. Anna Cora does not disclose any details about the nature of the malady that led to this condition.  James Mowatt would lose his sight again near the end of his life around a decade later.  She merely tells us that he was very ill and that a number of different treatments were tried.  After trying a number of treatment options without success, the couple traveled to Paris and consulted the renowned surgeon, Valentine Mott. Dr. Mott was able to restore James Mowatt’s sight. Anna Cora was left free to enjoy the cultural scene of Paris for several months while her husband convalesced.

Dr. Valentine Mott
Dr. Valentine Mott

The Mowatts lived with the in-laws of her older sister, Charlotte Seaton Guillet. Anna Cora describes in her autobiography the delight she took in the sights and sounds of Paris.  She mentions walks in the beautiful gardens of the Tuileries and describes attending lavish parties thrown by the U.S. Ambassador, General Cass.  She talks of her admiration for the tragedienne, Rachel, and her many visits to view productions staged by the Comédie-Française.2 Anna Cora also mentions reading aloud novels to her home-bound husband.

Title Page of "Le Petit Robinson de Paris"
Title Page of “Le Petit Robinson de Paris”

A new publication of 1840 was Eugenie Foa’s “Le Petit Robinson de Paris.”  Although it was a children’s book, the early parts of the narrative were set in Bordeaux where Mowatt had been born. The setting alone might have been enough to spark an interest in the book.  Someone in the Guillet household could have purchased the popular volume to read to a niece, nephew, or grandchild.  It would have made a lovely gift for Anna Cora to bring back home to the U.S. as a souvenir for her other Bordeaux-born siblings and/or their young children.  I think there is a very good chance that Mowatt could have easily encountered this short children’s novel during her stay in France.

Madame Foa was at this time residing in Paris.  On the slim chance that there had been any previous connection between the Ogden family and hers in Bordeaux, there could have been direct communication between the Mowatts and Foa.  Although such an encounter is possible, I don’t consider it probable. I have no evidence that a meeting or exchange of letters occurred.

Eugénie_Foa
Eugénie_Foa

Lucy Landon’s preface to “Little Robinson of Paris” reads as follows;

I am quite sure that the reader, whether parent or child, will agree with me, that this is one of the most delightful little stories ever written to win the attention of the young, and sow the seeds of goodness in their hearts.

The morality is so pure and unaffected, the humor so delicate and true, the interest so powerfully yet artlessly sustained, and the whole tendency of the work is so excellent, that it seems to me to possess the elements of an enduring reputation to as great an extent as “Paul and Virginia,” “The Exile of Siberia,” “Sandford and Merton,” or any other of those few evergreen publications, which find a place on the shelves of every juvenile library.

Since the days of Berquin and Madame de Genlis, no book that has appeared in France has been so eagerly sought after by the community of youthful readers as “The Little Robinson of Paris.”  It was first published only a few months since; and I am happy to have it in my power to present to the American public the first English translation that has been made.

The perfect novelty and freshness of the story, added to its great merits, should commend it to the attention of all, who are looking out for holiday presents for their young friends; and I can securely promise, that the latter will never say, after they have read it, that they have been disappointed in their gift.

L.L.

Astor House, New York, Dec. 18433

When the translator says she has it “in her power,” Landon may merely be indicating that she has the ability to accurately translate from French to English.  Alternately, Landon may be signaling that she has secured permission from the author to present the translation.  The text uses Eugenie Foa’s name, but does not contain any kind of prefatory material from the author clearly indicating her support for the English version.

In Paris, in 1840, James and Anna Cora Mowatt had been hit by a couple of big health scares.  They were not yet facing the financial tidal wave that was yet to come.  That punch landed in 1841.  James Mowatt took heavy losses on stock market speculations.  Because of his illness and lingering damage to his eyes, he was unable to return to running his law firm.  The couple lost their mansion, Melrose.

Melrose Hall, Flatbush, New York
Melrose Hall, Flatbush, New York

The Mowatts moved into rooms at Astor Place.  This establishment, built by John Jacob Astor in 1836, was New York’s first luxury hotel.  It was a meeting place for the fashionable and influential.  Other literary figures such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were in residence at this time.  Accommodations weren’t cheap. I feel safe saying that there weren’t overwhelming numbers of people trying to eke out a living translating French novels using this rather hoity-toity address.  In other words, the Mowatts weren’t so broke that they were down to eating pork and beans from a can, but they were in, what was for them, reduced circumstances.  If you will note, Lucy Landon in her preface to “Little Robinson in Paris” gives her address as the Astor House, New York. The Mowatts were still living there in 1843.

Astor Place, New York, 1862
Astor Place, New York, 1862

Anna Cora worked as a free-lance writer in the first years after the Mowatts lost Melrose, submitting poems, short stories, and articles to periodicals like Grahams, and Godey’s.  Although the pay she collected for these efforts did not compare to the income that James had drawn from his law firm and investments, the work was profitable.  In a previous entry, as I attempted to enumerate Mowatt’s many pseudonyms, I quoted an excerpt from the young author to Boston publisher James Fields, asking him to find a home for a text that she did not wish printed under her own name.  Here is that letter in full;

I acknowledge through our mutual friend (E.O.W.) the reception of your agreeable letter and am now making you my debtor for another for the purpose of transacting some business.  I have a moral tale for the young in hand, something in the style of those now in vogue, and I am anxious to dispose of it.  Your will not wonder at my turning to Boston for the fulfillment of my wishes, for it is natural for us to seek again the hand which has been once stretched kindly towards us.  Will you undertake to make some disposition of the troublesome little encumbrance for me?  Of course it will be the best in your power.  Is Mr. Ticknor in the habit of publishing stories of the kind?  I have no objection to selling the copyright of the tale but I do not wish it published with my name. I learn that the New World gives 150$ for the stories published in its [illegible.]  All that I ask of you, and I ask on the strength of your former willingness to render me any service in your power, is to see what arrangement you can make with your publisher in Boston to whom you may choose to apply; and to let me hear from you as soon as convenient.  With kind remembrances to our Boston friends.  I am ever

Your &c,

Anna Cora Mowatt 4

I was initially surprised at the amount that Mowatt was asking from Ticknor and Fields for this unnamed project. When Mowatt said Park Benjamin was paying that much for “stories” printed in his paper, I assumed she was talking about short stories. $150 in 1843 is a pretty princely sum to be paid for a single story.  Conversion rates, as I have said before, are tricky things, but that much money would have the purchasing power of a couple thousand dollars today ($4,891.66.)  I thought this amount sounded inflated. However, if the text she is trying to sell is “Little Robinson in Paris,” a short novel of two hundred and eight pages divided into thirty-six chapters that could be printed over the course of many issues of a journal, the price seemed more reasonable.

William Davis Ticknor and James T. Fields
William Davis Ticknor and James T. Fields

Mowatt also states that she was flexible on selling the copyrights for the story, only stipulating that she did not wish for it to be published under her own name. Reprint rights for the translation of a novel such as Foa’s “Le Petit Robinson” that by the time Mowatt wrote Fields in 1842 had already demonstrated its power to attract impressive numbers of readers in France could justifiably demand a higher asking price than an unproven original work.

Despite the payday that selling Foa’s novel might have represented for the Mowatts, there was no publication of “The Little Robinson in Paris” in 1842 by either Park Benjamin or Ticknor & Fields.  The failure of either of these publishing outlets to take up the opportunity to print this book brings up three possibilities that I want to acknowledge:  1) It is possible that “Little Robinson in Paris” is not the work Mowatt is referencing in her letter to James Fields. 2) Perhaps the Mowatts did not have sufficient proof of permission from Foa for their translation to satisfy these U.S. publishers. 3) It is possible that Anna Cora Mowatt is not Lucy Landon.

Finding that her work was either forming or was significantly supplementing their income stream at this time, the couple refocused Anna Cora’s efforts to an avenue designed to maximize profitability.  Rather than producing original work, she began to work on editing projects for a publishing house called Burgess and Stringer.  In her autobiography, she does not specify if all the topics were chosen for her or if she selected some of them herself.  These pamphlet-sized publications were collections of material on topics of everyday interest.  Representative titles included: “Etiquette for Ladies,” “Ballroom Etiquette,” “Knitting, Netting, and Crochet.”5 These publications were, in short, the Victorian-era equivalent of clickbait.

The business model worked so well that James Mowatt soon decided to cut out Burgess and Stringer as  middlemen and go into the publishing business himself.  As Anna Cora explains in her autobiography;

These books, especially the first, proved very profitable, so much so that Mr. Mowatt concluded he would derive greater benefit by publishing the works I compiled himself than by selling the copyright to other publishers. He accordingly established a firm, and his books were supplied chiefly by me. The success of the undertaking was of brief duration.6

In 1844, Hunt’s Merchant Magazine list the following “books in pamphlet form publications for James Mowatt & Co.: Mrs. Ellis’ Housekeeping Made Easy; or Complete Instructor in all branches of Domestic Economy;The Lady’s Hand-book of the Toilette, A Manual of Fashion, Health, and Beauty; The Lady’s Guide to Embroidery; The Lady’s Work-Box Companion; being Instruction in all Varieties of Canvass-Work With twenty-nine engraved specimens.; and The Management of the Sick-Room, with Rules for Diet, Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent, &c. Compiled from the latest medical authorities by a Lady of New York, under the approval of C.A. Lee, M.D. 7

The James Mowatt & Co. edition of “The Little Robinson of Paris” translated by Lucy Landon dates from 1843.  Unlike Anna Cora Mowatt, I am not bilingual from birth.  My last classes in French took place during the Ford Administration.  My ability to translate Madame Foa’s original novel is questionable to say the least.  However, from my line by line comparison, I judge that the Lucy Landon translation adds very little original material to this text.  It seems like a very faithful reflection of the original text.  The translator did change the main character’s name from “Camille,” which English-speaking readers of the Victorian era might have gender-coded as a feminine name, to the more masculine-sounding “Cecil.” The villainous cousin’s name was switched from a somewhat Gallic “Gustave” to more Anglophonic “Augustus” perhaps purely for aesthetic reasons.   “Jacques,” the workman in Chapter Two, is renamed “John.”  The translator gives up on re-naming characters as Cecil leaves Bordeaux to journey to Paris. There she allows people to have French names in what is undeniably as recognizably French a setting as is possible.

Madame Foa’s novel is, as Mowatt characterized the text she was speaking about in her letter to James Fields, the sort of moral tale for young people that was very much in vogue during the 19th century. As I describe the outline of the plot, you will recognize many familiar tropes of classics of childhood literature dating from that time period – even if you have never cracked the cover of a single volume of a YA novel written before 2010.  “The Little Robinson of Paris” reminded me strongly of the plot of many of Mary Pickford films from the silent era and Shirley Temple’s movies from the 1930s, in which an honest and plucky orphan succeeds against the odds.  The main outline of the novel unfolds as follows;

Twelve-year-old Cecil is weeping by the grave of his dear uncle as the story begins. Cecil is an orphan who had been left in care of his doting, rich uncle and raised at his beautiful chateau in Bordeaux.  Cecil walks into the house just in time to find his spendthrift, twenty-something-year-old cousin, Augustus throwing papers from red portfolio into the fire. (Three guesses as to what those could be…) The next day, Augustus takes Cecil on a carriage ride to Paris.  This seems like a real treat to Cecil until he discovers that Augustus has abandoned him in the Tuileries Gardens and is not coming back for him.  All poor little Cecil has with him is a copy of “Robinson Crusoe” that his uncle gave him.  The streets of Paris, Cecil decides after several hours, are a more hostile climate than a desert island because, among other terrors, the police actively seek unclaimed children out and put them in jail.

Illustration of Cecil and Fox
Illustration of Cecil and Fox

Cecil does experience one piece of good luck. He rescues a wounded spaniel.  The little dog and little boy comfort each other and find food together. They are able to obtain shelter for the night by befriending a blind and crippled soldier who is paid to stand guard on a half-constructed building.   As recompense for sharing his food and rudimentary lodging with the boy and his dog, Cecil runs errands for the soldier and reads the newspaper to him – particularly items about the old campaigner’s idol, Napoleon.  The orphan widens his circle of friends and allies by giving reading lessons to journeyman masons working on the building they are occupying.

Cecil is welcomed by the family of the blindman
Cecil is welcomed by the family of the blind man

Another stroke of good luck occurs when Cecil narrowly avoids being robbed by two confidence men (one a Frenchman pretending to be an American tourist.) In the process of making his escape, Cecil rescues a blind fiddler.  The fiddler himself is destitute and cannot directly repay the orphan, but the boy’s bravery, unselfishness, and skill at playing the violin all attract the attention of friends, family, and neighbors of the old man.  As a result, through a series of events, Cecil is given a job guarding a small plot of land near the Tuileries.  His friends, the masons, build him a one-room cottage on it.  He and his little dog live there quite happily for the next two years.

Cecil and Madame Marboef
Cecil and Madame Marboef

Two crises occur simultaneously — a mysterious veiled lady in a coach drives by one day, calls Cecil’s dog by name, then has a footman catches him and takes the little dog away. While the orphan is mourning the disappearance of his friend and companion, a vagabond shows up who Cecil recognizes to be his cousin Augustus. For several chapters, Cecil agonizes over the loss of his dog.  Augustus tells him nothing.  Cecil tracks the dog down to the house of Madame Marboef. Augustus says he will speak to the lady, but Cecil arrives in time only to see his cousin being rudely ejected.  Finally in the last chapter, everything is made clear. Madame Marboef is Cecil’s aunt.  The papers that Augustus burned were the sections of his uncle’s will that left the little boy part of the old man’s estate. Cecil ends the book restored to his family, his fortune, and his dog.

Foa’s novel, whose full English title reads “The Little Robinson of Paris; or Industry’s Triumph,” though not significantly altered by the translator, does share several characteristics with Eugene Scribe and Ernest Legouve’s play “Le Doigts de Fee” that Anna Cora Mowatt would translate and adapt into the novel Fairy Fingers twenty years later.  Both Foa’s novel and Scribe’s play feature scenes in Bordeaux and Paris.  Haughty Breton aristocrats in each unjustly reject a poor orphan.  The rejected outcast demonstrates true nobility by embracing a Christian work ethic and ultimately guides their cold-hearted noble relatives through a redemptive arc by teaching them to repent of their selfish dishonesty, find a mission in life, and value the labor of others. Many of Mowatt’s original texts, such as her novel, Evelyn, contained a strong emphasis on the redemptive power of labor, particularly on middle to upper class women finding some type of occupation that was simultaneously intellectually fulfilling and contributed to helping others.  Thus Foa’s children’s novel previewed some of the characteristics and themes that would later appear in Mowatt’s own works.

"Knowles' Eloqutionist" edited by Epes Sargent
“Knowles’ Elocutionist” edited by Epes Sargent

One reason that I feel confident in identifying Anna Cora as Lucy Landon is that I’m not certain if there were any writers and editors working for Mowatt & Co. other than Epes Sargent and Anna Cora Mowatt.  Sargent had several titles listed under his own name such as The Drawing Room Library series and his Knowles’ Elocutionist: A First Class Rhetorical Reader and Recitation Book.  The Modern Standard Drama series that Sargent started with James Mowatt’s little company would go on to become an important 19th century reference of theatrical works.  Anna Cora Mowatt identifies some of her titles in her autobiography.  “Helen Berkeley’s” Memoirs of Madame D’Arblay was published here in 1844 as was “George Browning’s” Life of Goethe the same year.  There are others that I assume to be her work as editor because of the subject matter or strong indications she has given us in her autobiography such as the “Mrs. Ellis” pamphlets and The Character of Hamlet by John Quincy Adams and John Hackett, edited by “a Lady of New York,” 1844.

Title page of "The Character of Hamlet"
Title page of “The Character of Hamlet”

As I discussed in a previous blog entry, it can be a little tricky determining who the actual authors of publications by Mowatt & Co. were.   In a marketing technique to induce the public to buy, title pages often made it seem like their condensed and edited versions were new publications from best-selling writers. Mowatt biographer Eric Barnes assumed Anna Cora was using “Dr. Charles Lee, M.D.” as a pen name, when actually the title of the book is The Management of the Sick-Room, with Rules for Diet, Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent, &c. Compiled from the latest medical authorities by a Lady of New York, under the approval of C.A. Lee, M.D.  “Lady of New York” is the Mowatt pen name (as it seems to be in The Character of Hamlet.) The book is a re-mix of old works by Dr. Lee, not an original publication.

I thought I had located a third author working for the company in John Evans, L.L. D. contributing the volume History of All Christian Sects and Denominations; Their Origin, Peculiar Tenents, and Present Condition, only to discover that the James Mowatt & Co. edition was “revised and enlarged with the addition of the most recent statistics relating to religious sects in the United States” by The American Editor. That editor is probably Anna Cora Mowatt unless Epes Sargent had some compelling reason to use a pen name in that circumstance.

"History of Christian Sects"
“History of Christian Sects”

My final argument for my identification of Anna Cora Mowatt as Lucy Landon is the coincidence between a last episode of misfortune in the life of the Mowatts and a significant development in the career of the novel. In 1850, Walter Watts, the manager of the Marylebone and Olympic Theatres, was arrested for embezzlement.  The Mowatts, who had invested heavily in both his venues, were wiped out financially.  James Mowatt had suffered a re-occurrence of the illness that cost him his eyesight.  This time, he was dying.  Anna Cora was mired in scandal, ill, and unable to work for over half a year.

Philadelphia edition of "Little Robinson of Paris" 1850
Philadelphia edition of “Little Robinson of Paris” 1850

Sometime in 1850, the J. & J.L. Gihon publishing company of Philadelphia reprinted a lavishly illustrated version of James Mowatt & Co.’s “Little Robinson of Paris.” In 1851, permission to print Lucy Landon’s translation of Madame Foa’s novel in the U.K. was obtained by the Thomas Nelson Company of Paternoster Row in London.

London edition of "Little Robinson of Paris" 1851
London edition of “Little Robinson of Paris” 1851

This, I know, is my weakest argument for an identification of Anna Cora Mowatt as Lucy Landon.  A translator who was not Anna Cora could have sold the copyright for the work to James Mowatt.  James lived until February of 1851.  He could have been the person who made these deals with the Gihon and Nelson publishing firms without Anna Cora’s cooperation.  However, because of the timing, I still want to put forward the possibility that Anna Cora was the translator and participated in these sales.  The Mowatts were in desperate need of a quick source of funds in late 1850 -1851.  If Anna Cora was Lucy Landon and still held the rights to her English translation of “The Little Robinson of Paris,” I have little doubt she and her husband might have liquidated this asset in this manner at this time.

Late 19th century reprint of "Litte Robinson of Paris"
Late 19th century reprint of “Little Robinson of Paris”

To summarize, I believe that Anna Cora Mowatt was the Lucy Landon who translated Eugenie Foa’s “Le Petit Robinson de Paris” for James Mowatt & Co. for the following reasons: Mowatt was fully fluent in French and could have easily translated the work.  She was born in Bordeaux maintained an interest in the region throughout her life. There is a slight chance Eugenie Foa’s family were business contacts of Samuel Ogden. Mowatt was in Paris at the time of the novel’s publication and could have easily have obtained a copy at that time.  She wrote a letter in 1842 to James Fields looking for publication outlet for a “moral tale for the young” to which she did not want her name attached.  Mowatt was actively looking for lucrative publishing projects at the time of the novel’s publication.  “The Little Robinson of Paris” was published by her husband’s publishing company.  No writers/editors/translators other than Anna Cora Mowatt and Epes Sargent seem to have worked for James Mowatt & Co.  Lucy Landon, like Anna Cora Mowatt lived in the Astor House Hotel in 1843. The U.S. and European copyrights for “The Little Robinson of Paris” were sold in 1850 and 1851, corresponding to a time when Anna Cora Mowatt was in a deep financial crisis.

20th century edition of "Cecil and His Dog"
20th century edition of “Cecil and His Dog”

This is not an air-tight case, I know.  I have no documentation that conclusively establishes the identity of the translator of the English version of “Le Petit Robinson.” Until letters, contracts, or proof of that sort emerges, my identification must remain speculative. However, in all probability, Anna Cora Mowatt was Lucy Landon.

As you know, I stumbled onto this discovery a few weeks ago.  I have done only the most rudimentary sort of investigation into Madame Foa’s life and career. I am by no means an expert on her works. I don’t know if the writer was properly compensated for this English translation of her most popular publication.  I don’t know the other side of the story I have uncovered.

20th Century edition of "Little Robinson of Paris"
20th Century edition of “Little Robinson of Paris”

If I am uncertain as to what conclusions my identification of Anna Cora Mowatt as the English translator of Madame Foa’s “Little Robinson of Paris” for Foa scholarship, I can at least can at least extract a few worthwhile deductions about Mowatt. What makes “Little Robinson of Paris” an exciting find for me is not the work itself. I would have much preferred to find an original piece of fiction.  The work was a thrillingly quick answer to a research question I had posed.  After seeing a collection of poems in an unpublished manuscript from the Hawthorne Family Collection, some of which had been published under a variety of pseudonyms, I hypothesized that Mowatt may have also published fiction under pen names that she did not disclose in her autobiography.  Armed with this supposition, I uncovered the “Lucy Landon” pseudonym within days. I have not yet found any further uses of this particular pen name.  She may have used it only for this project.

Conversely, the letter to James Fields that refers to “a moral tale” may not refer to “Little Robinson of Paris.” There may be other Mowatt-created or translated juvenile fiction texts under assumed names as yet to be found. Anna Cora Mowatt was producing works at a feverish pace in the years from 1842-1845 in an effort to save stave off the financial ruin brought on by her husband’s losses on the stock market. She was editing, writing poems, short stories, novels, non-fiction interviews, and producing translations. For over one hundred and seventy years, scholars have assumed that we knew all those works and all the names she used to publish them.  If nothing else, my discovery of “Lucy Landon” proves one thing —

We don’t.

Anna Cora Mowatt, Eugenie Foa, and images of "Le Petit Robinson de Paris"
Anna Cora Mowatt, Eugenie Foa, and images of “Le Petit Robinson de Paris”
  1. Porcelli, Aurelio Albert. The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr Before Chief Justice Marshall. (1942) Master’s Thesis. Page 66
  2. Let me take this opportunity to correct an error I have made in earlier blog entries. I have said that Anna Cora attended a school run by the sisters of Rachel.  This is not correct.  Mowatt met Rachel’s sisters while they were in school. I got this incorrect impression from a misreading by a secondary source, but still, I should have double-checked the Autobiography before I believed and repeated it.
  3. Landon, Lucy. Preface. The Little Robinson of Paris, by Eugenie Foa. Philadelphia: J.& J.L. Gihon, 1850. Pages v-vi.
  4. Mowatt, Anna Cora. Letter to James Fields. Sept. 23, 1842.  Papers of Anna Cora Ogden Mowatt Ritchie, Accession #8010-e, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
  5. Mowatt, Anna Cora. Autobiography of an Actress; or Eight Years on the Stage. Boston: Ticknor, Reid, and Fields, 1854. Pages 186.
  6. Page 183
  7. “Books in Pamphlet Form, Published Since Our Last.” Ed. Freeman Hunt. Hunt’s Merchant’s Magazine and Commercial Review. Volume 10, April 1844. Page 396.