MacDowell Colony Poem, other Sonnets, and a Typed Letter by Isabel Fiske Conant

Isabel Fiske Conant a.k.a. Isabella Fiske Conant
Three typed sonnets and a typed letter by prolific late 19th and early 20th century poet Isabel Fiske Conant (1874–?). One sonnet, “At Edward MacDowell’s Grave,” celebrates the memory of the composer and founder of The MacDowell Colony of artists in New Hampshire. Appropriately for a composer, the poem evokes musical imagery:

I leave a wild-rose where he rests and sleeps,
And yet I know he is not truly here
More than in winter-pines’ symphonic deeps,
Or in arpeggios of the summer year…

Conant’s letter makes reference to a “sonnet contest” that she intends to enter, apparently sponsored by The Bookfellows, a Chicago book club. Conant had seen notice of it in the club’s magazine, The Step Ladder. The letter is accompanied by three typed sonnets: “Storm Music,” “Tempo of Hearts,” and the previously mentioned, “At Edward MacDowell’s Grave.”

The poems appear to be retained copies and each show evidence of of typed or pencil corrections. The letter too appears to be Conant’s retained copy and bears some annotations. The letter is written on the verso of a piece of stationery from The MacDowell Colony.


Susan Lee Warner
Accompanying Conant’s letter and poems is an autograph letter signed by pianist Susan Lee Warner (1838–1921), wife of novelist and Mark Twain collaborator, Charles Dudley Warner.

Susan Warner’s letter, written on personal stationery and addressed to “My Aunt Marie,” was written from London and familiarly signed “Susan L.W.” It concerns an upcoming visit and contains a references to an errand for embroidery supplies. “Susan was a distinguished pianist with a warm personality, who held informal weekly concerts at home. She helped establish the Hartford Philharmonic Orchestra in 1899.”¹


Accompanying the letter is a 1911 newspaper article which reports that Susan was only one of the few amateurs invited to give a performance at The MacDowell Club in New York City. The MacDowell Clubs preceded the founding of The MacDowell Colony in 1907, one year before Edward MacDowell’s death. First organized in 1896, these clubs promoted music and the arts and later helped support The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

A small cyanotype with Warner’s letter appears to depict Susan Warner as a middle-aged woman, writing at a desk in a small rustic cottage or colonial revival room.

We do not know of any connection between Isabel Fiske Conant (sometimes seen in the record as Isabella) and Susan Lee Warner. As artistic women at the beginning of the 20th century, it is not surprising that they should have some common interest or association with Edward MacDowell and his circle of artists, composers, and writers.


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