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thaxter

Celia Thaxter

[thak-ster]

Celia Laighton Thaxter (June 29 1835, Portsmouth, New HampshireAugust 25 1894) was an American writer of poetry and stories.

Thaxter grew up in the Isles of Shoals, first on White Island, where her father, Thomas Laighton, was a lighthouse keeper, and then on Smuttynose and Appledore Islands.

When she was sixteen, she married Levi Thaxter and moved to the mainland. Her life with Levi was not harmonious and she missed her islands, and so after 10 years away, she moved back to Appledore Island. Her first published poem, Landlocked, was written during this time on the mainland.

Celia became the hostess of her father's hotel, the Appledore House, and welcomed many New England literary and artistic notables to the island and to her parlor, including writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Whittier, Sarah Orne Jewett, and the artists William Morris Hunt andChilde Hassam, who painted several pictures of her. She was present at the time of the infamous murders on Smuttynose Island, about which she wrote the essay, A Memorable Murder.

William Morris Hunt, a close family friend, spent the last months of his life on Appledore Island, trying to recover from a crippling depression. He drowned in late summer 1879, three days after finishing his last sketch. Celia Thaxter discovered the painter's body, who had apparently killed himself.

Her poems first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly and she became one of America's favorite authors in the late 19th century. Among her best-known poems are The Burgomaster Gull, Landlocked, Milking, The Great White Owl, The Kingfisher, and especially The Sandpiper.

Celia Thaxter died suddenly on August 25 1894, aged 59, and was buried on Appledore, not far from her cottage.

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