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American Literary Studies

Emma Lazarus Correspondence

The Collection

Location: Department of Special Collections, Green Library

Call Number: M1023 - in process

Size: 98 letters

Finding Guides: Available in the Reading Room of the Department of Special Collections.

Research Access and Use: Materials in the Department of Special Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the Special Collections' Reading Room in the Cecil H. Green Library. The Reading Room is open 10:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Photocopies, photographs, and microfilm can be made of some materials in the collections. For more information about the collections and access policies, please contact Special Collections by telephone at (650) 725-1022, by electronic mail at or by regular mail at the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94305-6004.

Career of Emma Lazarus, 1849 - 1887:

Emma Lazarus was a poet and essayist whose first work, Poems and Translations (1867) was published when she was just 18 years old. The book attracted the attention of Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom Lazarus visited in Concord, commencing a life-long correspondence with him. She dedicated her second book, Admetus and Other Poems (1871) "To my friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson." During the next decade she contributed numerous poems to Scribner's Monthly, and she found other correspondents in the editor, Richard Watson Gilder and his wife, Helena de Kay Gilder. The persecution of Russian Jews during 1879-1883 caught her attention and became a lifelong cause for her. When the refugees began to crowd into Ward's Island in 1881, she became prominent in organizing efforts for their relief. In 1882 Century magazine, now editied by Richard Gilder, published her critical study, "Was the Earl of Beaconsfield a Representative Jew?" There then appeared an article by a Russian journalist defending the pogroms. In reply she published the article, "Russian Christianity versus Modem Judaism." which soon defined her as the leading American champion of her race. Her impassioned articles and poems on "The Jewish Problem" appeared in Century magazine and The American Hebrew. Her sonnet on the Statue of Liberty was honored by being placed on its pedestal in 1886. She died from cancer the following year at the age of 38.

Description of the letters:

The letters range from 1877 to 1887 and are written to Mrs. Richard Watson Gilder, as well as one l0-page letter to Richard Watson Gilder, editor of Scribner’s Monthly and Century magazines. The 55 letters comprise over 400 holograph pages in which she discusses architecture, music, art and literature and the people of her acquaintance including William Morris, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward Burne-Jones, Anton Rubenstein, Robert Browning, and Henry James among others.

Also included are other Lazarus family letters to Mrs. Gilder

Sarah Lazarus: 24 letters, 1894 to 1909

Annie Lazarus: 2 letters, 1887 and 1898

Josephine Lazarus: 18 letters 1887 to 1905.

Links to other resources:

University of Toronto: Selected Poetry of Emma Lazarus


Last modified: July 3, 2006

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