Lavinia Stoddard

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Lavinia Stoddard
BornJune 29, 1787
Guilford, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedNovember 8, 1820(1820-11-08) (aged 33)
Occupationpoet, school founder
Notable works"The Soul's Defiance"
William Stoddard (m. 1811)

Lavinia Stoddard (June 29, 1787 – November 8, 1820) was an American poet and school founder. Her poem, "The Soul's Defiance", was included in most of the anthologies published in the United States in the 19th-century.

Early years and education[edit]

Lavinia Stone, a daughter of Elijah Stone, was born in Guilford, Connecticut, June 29, 1787. While she was an infant, her father removed to Paterson, New Jersey, and here she received, besides the careful instructions of an intelligent and judicious mother, such education in the schools as was at the time common to the children of farmers.[1]


In 1811, she married Dr. William Stoddard, of Stratford, Connecticut.[1] He was a graduate of Yale University in 1804; a graduate of the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1810, and a member of the Rensselaer County Medical Society in 1817.[2]

In the then flourishing village of Troy, New York, on the Hudson River, they established an academy, which they conducted successfully for several years.[1] Here, they were friends of Francis Wayland, D.D., LL.D., afterwards of Brown University, and were both noticed in his memoir in a very affectionate and complimentary way.[2]

Stoddard became ill with consumption, and about the year 1818, she removed with her family to Blakeley, Alabama, where Dr. Stoddard soon after died. Partially recovering her own health, she revisited Troy; but the severity of the climate induced her to return to Blakeley, where, they died within a year of one another, Mrs. Stoddard's death probably hastened by grief for her husband.[2] She died November 8, 1820,[1] and was buried at the Blakeley Cemetery.

Stoddard wrote many poems, which were printed anonymously in the public journals, or addressed privately to her acquaintances. The poem entitled "The Soul's Defiance", her brother stated was interesting to her immediate friends for the truthfulness with which it portrayed her own experience and her indomitable spirit, which never floundered under any circumstances. This was written in a period of suffering and with a sense of injury. It is the last of her compositions, and perhaps the best.[1] It is included in most of the anthologies published in the United States in the 19th-century.[3]

"The Soul's Defiance"[edit]

I SAID to Sorrow’s awful storm,

That beat against my breast,

Rage on—thou may’st destroy this form,

And lay it low at rest;

But still the spirit that now brooks

Thy tempest, raging high,

Undaunted on its fury looks

With steadfast eye.

I said to Penury’s meagre train,

Come on—your threats I brave;

My last poor life-drop you may drain,

And crush me to the grave;

Yet still the spirit that endures

Shall mock your force the while,

And meet each cold, cold grasp of yours

With bitter smile.

I said to cold Neglect and Scorn,

Pass on—I heed you not;

Ye may pursue me till my form

And being are forgot;

Yet still the spirit, which you see

Undaunted by your wiles,

Draws from its own nobility

Its high-born smiles.

I said to Friendship’s menaced blow,

Strike deep—my heart shall bear;

Thou canst but add one bitter woe

To those already there;

Yet still the spirit that sustains

This last severe distress

Shall smile upon its keenest pains,

And scorn redress.

I said to Death’s uplifted dart,

Aim sure—oh, why delay?

Thou wilt not find a fearful heart—

A weak, reluctant prey;

For still the spirit, firm and free,

Unruffled by this last dismay,

Wrapt in its own eternity,

Shall pass away.


  1. ^ a b c d e Griswold 1858, p. 44.
  2. ^ a b c Gilder & Gilder 1895, p. 200.
  3. ^ Alden 1891, p. 76.


  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Alden, J. B. (1891). Alden's Cyclopedia of Universal Literature, Presenting Biographical and Critical Notices, and Specimens from the Writings of Eminent Authors of All Ages and All Nations ... (Public domain ed.). J. B. Alden.
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilder, Jeannette Leonard; Gilder, Joseph Benson (1895). "To The Editors Of The Critic. -By Juliet Lavinia Tanner". The Critic. 26-27 (Public domain ed.). Critic printing and publishing Company.
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Griswold, Rufus Wilmot (1858). The Female Poets of America (Public domain ed.). Ardent Media. GGKEY:5L03N2GB1RC.

External links[edit]