ELIZA LOFTON PUGH

Eliza Lofton Pugh, nee Phillips, is a native of Louisiana, though of French and Irish extraction; and few, who have any acquaintance with her, fail to recognize, both in manner, conversation, and appearance, the prominent characteristics of the races from which she sprang; few either, who, recalling her father, fail to remember in him the true type of the “Irish gentleman” – a man well and widely known throughout the State, generous, brave, and hospitable, endearing himself to all ranks by his bonhomie of manner, which, united to his talents and energy, made him a successful politician. To fine qualities of mind and heart he united the gifts of a ready narrator, and that talent, not uncommon to his countrymen, of rendering himself the “life of convivial gatherings.” To all who knew and loved Colonel Phillips this sketch of his daughter among the literati of the South will not prove uninteresting. Alas! That an early death snatched from him the gratification of realizing in the woman the fond predictions of the early promise of the child. From her infancy she evinced a constitution so remarkably fragile, that it caused her devoted mother many an hour of sad reflection – particularly sad, as she discovered that as the powers of her mind were being rapidly developed, the inspiration of the soul seemed wearing away the body. She lived in a world of her own creation, surrounded by images of her own fancy. Her conversation has ever been remarkable for its originality and freshness, which has rendered her from childhood interesting to persons of all ages.

Reared in the almost entire seclusion of home – bereft one by one of its inmates and the companionship of those endeared to her not less by the closest ties of relationship than a warm and earnest sympathy in the passion of her life, -- she became prematurely thoughtful as the companion of her widowed mother, in the absence and marriage of an only sister. At the age of ten she wrote a little story, in which the precocity of her inventive genius was apparent. She also evinced great talent in the extreme force of her descriptions, the elevation of her sentiment, and the poetic beauty of her language.

After careful home education, she completed her course under the able direction of Miss Hull, whose seminary at the time had no rival in the confidence of the people of the South. Miss Hull, in speaking of her, said:

“She came to me under high encomium from Mrs. M., a friend of mine who said: 'You will find in her an apt pupil, an eager student, a patient, untiring reader. She possesses talent which will do you much credit.' I next day welcomed the pupil thus introduced, into my seminary, and surveyed her with interest, but with some disappointment. In the pale, slender, delicate child, with stooping shoulders, and grave, unattractive face, only enlivened by a pair of dark thoughtful eyes, I saw slight indication of the mind, which, however, an early examination into her studies satisfied me was of no ordinary promise.”

Two years of close application to study, and the advantage of free access to the private library of her preceptress, and to which was added the privilege of unrestrained communication with the finely cultivated mind of her teacher, closed the educational course of Eliza Phillips.

She returned home to devote herself to her still secret passion for her pen. Married at the age of seventeen to a son of the Hon. W.W. Pugh, of Louisiana, she passed the first three years of her married life on her husband's plantation; where, in its unbroken solitude, without the solace of her favorite authors, without other companionship than that of her family, she first acquainted her friends with her efforts at authorship.

Blelock & Co. published a novel, entitle “Not a Hero,” in 1867, which was written by Mrs. Pugh at the beginning of the war, or at the time when the war-cloud was gathering its wrath. Short sketches, “literary and political,” were published in the “New York World,” “New Orleans Times,” and other journals of less note, under the nom de plume of “Arria.”

Improved in health and appearance, she now devotes herself to the pursuit which has, from her childhood, taken so strong a hold upon her fancy; but to the exclusion of no single duty, either as daughter, wife or mother.

At the time of the present sketch, Mrs. Pugh is but in the spring season of her womanhood, and, we predict, of her authorship. The quaint, grave child has developed into the gay, sprightly woman, presiding with a graceful hospitality in her unpretending home, endearing herself to her old friends, and recommending herself to new acquaintances, by an engaging manner, quickness of repartee, and a display of many of the happiest qualities of heart, which she inherits in no slight degree from her father, while in manner, gesture, and appearance the French extraction unequivocally proclaims itself.

Giving all her spare moments to her pen, and to a careful supervision of her only child, she has not permitted her literary life to cast the shadow of an ill-regulated household on those who look to her for their happiness, or to cloud for an instant the sunshine of her home. She has not sunk the woman in the author, and has unhesitatingly declared her purpose to relinquish the pleasure of her pen should a word of reproach from those she loves warn her of such a probability. Yet to all who know her, that domestic circle proves that a combination of the practical and literary may be gracefully, pleasantly, and harmoniously blended.

Mrs. Pugh is fitted to adorn a wider circle in society than that she so gracefully fills at Lyns-Hope, her home, in Assumption Parish. Those who know her well, admire her less for her talents than for the kindly heart which prompts her to aid the poor and needy, and for her untiring and tender offices in sick-rooms, where one quickly discovers the element of the “true woman.”

Source: Southland Writers, Ida Raymond, Philadelphia, Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger, 1870, Pages 294-298

Submitted by Bob Franks

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