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or, Passion and Reality

“Now don’t let me see you out of bed again for a month,” said the puttering little nurse, putting some warm clothes upon the invalid’s feet, and tucking the bed up like a matronly body as she was. It was worth all the medicine in the world — or would have been to a bachelor — to have that soft, sunny face glinting like a sunbeam about the room.

ex Hagar the Martyr; or, Passion and Reality. A Tale of the North and South. By Mrs. H. Marion Stephens. “Will is destiny.” (Boston, 1855) : 234
opens to same page, UC copy at hathitrust

Harriet Marion Stephens (1823-58)

“The novel Hagar, the Martyr appeared in print the following year; a melodrama featuring a Southern heroine who is tricked into marriage before redeeming herself and becoming a well-respected writer and member of Boston society.” —
says wikipedia, which evades the center of the novel — Hagar is “mixed race”, and discovers so at pages 94-97. Indeed, she is pressured into marriage out of fear that her mixed race status would be exposed.

Wikipedia does point to Janet Gabler-Hover, her Dreaming Black/writing White : The Hagar Myth in American Cultural History (2000) —

Hagar, the Old Testament Egyptian heroine who bore Abraham’s son at the behest of Sarah, was traditionally regarded as an African. Yet the literature and paintings of the nineteenth century depicted Hagar as white. During this period, she became a popular subject for writers and artists, with at least thirteen novels published between 1850 and 1913 taking Hagar as their theme. Dreaming Black/Writing White examines how, for white feminists, Hagar became a liberating symbol to empower their own rebellion against patriarchal restrictions. Hagar’s understood blackness allowed her to represent a combination of sexual passion and artistic creativity that empowered women in the process of taking on male roles of economic power in American society. Because of Hagar’s ethnic complexity, she stands as an ironically positive figure at the center of several southern proslavery women’s novels such as The Deserted Wife, Hagar the Martyr, and The Modern Hagar. Through the persona of Hagar, women novelists felt free to create heroines whose suggestive blackness allowed readers to imagine themselves in rebellion against a restrictive patriarchy, but whose recoverable whiteness provided a safety hatch through which blackness could be disavowed. By exploring these complex and often contradictory depictions, Janet Gabler-Hover contends that the figure of Hagar is central to the canonized romance of nineteenth-century New England literature. The book also affirms Toni Morrison’s claim that blackness — indeed black womanness — lies at the heart of the white literary imagination in America.
— from publisher’s description

I have not seen Lynne T. Jefferson, The emergence of a pioneer : The manipulation of Hagar in nineteenth-century American women’s novels (Indiana University of Pennsylvania dissertation, 2008) : 3331474

also by H. Marion Stephens, her Home scenes and home sounds; or, The world from my window. [Short stories and poems] (Boston, Fetridge and company, 1854), at hathitrust

1 March 2022