May Mannering (pseud of. Mrs. Harriet P. Hardy Nowell)

Little is known about Harriet Nowell -- not even her maiden name or exact date of birth or death.

Available information indicates she was born in New Hampshire, circa 1842, and married a Unitarian minister, William G. Nowell, prior to 1870.

The only works currently traced to Nowell appeared under the pseudonym "May Mannering" between 1864-1871. The earliest, "Maplewood Phantom Tales," ran in the periodical Merry's Museum in 1864. [1] In 1867, Student and Schoolmate published at least one story, "Katie's Case," which may have been loosely related to her forthcoming series. [2] Additionally, a notice in the prospectus for Oliver Optic's Magazine (1867-75) stated that May Mannering would be among the contributors to that publication, and her sketch, ""A Ghost Story", appeared in the August 10, 1867, issue. [3] Her only books were the six-volume Helping Hand series, spanning 1868 through 1871. Lee & Shepard, who handled Nowell's series books, also published Oliver Optic's Magazine, which may account for her connection with that periodical.

During the years she was writing, Harriet Nowell faced difficult circumstances, including the loss of a child and a string of illnesses affecting her health and that of her family. By 1880, the family's financial situation appears to have improved. The couple's entry in the census suggests that William Nowell had left the ministry and was teaching in New York City.

The 1900 census shows a couple that may be the same Nowells; if so, he was still teaching, and they had been married for 35 years. By the 1910 census, William G. Nowell was a widower. [4]

[1] Information about Merry's Museum is from the author index at Pat Pflieger's excellent Nineteenth-Century American Children and What They Read site.

[2] A review in the August 1868 Student and Schoolmate of the series' third volume states that "[The Cruise of the Dashaway; or, Katie Putnam's Voyage] giv[es] us an idea of her life on board the 'Dashaway,' detailing in another form the doings of the monkey, as we suppose, whose exploits found place in the SCHOOLMATE of last year, as 'Katie's Case.'"

[3] Dolores Blythe Jones, An "Oliver Optic" Checklist (Greenwood, 1985) lists Mannering among the "frequent contributors" to Oliver Optic's Magazine. The piece from the August issue is the only one located .

[4] "Harriet P. Hardy Nowell," a slightly more detailed account of the author's life and works, can be found in the June 2005 issue of Dime Novel Round-Up, pgs. 90-95.

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