Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Eliza Crawford Anderson Godefroy (1780-1839)

Elizabeth (Eliza) Crawford Anderson Godefroy

editor, writer, critic, and devoted wife

[draft for comment]

© Edward Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist, retired

Baltimore from York Road, ca. 1816


What opportunities were there for exercising the writing and editorial talents of a well-read, well-educated woman in the first decades of 19th century America? Baltimore City, the fastest growing urban center in America in those years was where Eliza Crawford did her best to find out. It proved a sobering experience. The glass ceiling of restraint held firm, but not after she had made a valiant attempt to shatter it.

Between its incorporation in 1797, and the Federal Census of 1820, Baltimore grew from nearly nothing to the third largest city in the United States and a population of 62,738, of whom 10,326 were “free” blacks and 4,357 were slaves. By 1815 the prospects for the city seem bright indeed. George Douglass, the senior editor of the American newspaper wrote Henry Wheaton, the leading legal scholar in America and soon to be the reporter of U. S. Supreme Court cases,

You will be pleased to hear of the rapid improvements going forward in this town -It would seem as if the war had given a new spring to the minds & efforts of the people of every

description - New houses are many in my quarter, & yet there are not enough for the number of new-comers, & the many who have lately entered into the holy state of matrimony - but the excessive rise of rents don't agree with my very limited impecunious finances —[1]

In every respect Baltimore in the first quarter of the 19th century was an economic and cultural frontier where fortunes were made and lost in international commerce by an aggressive and speculating merchant community that took advantage of the wars in Europe. One of the most active and initially successful proved to be General Samuel Smith and his partners. They dealt with both sides during the Napoleonic Wars, even when The United States was at war with the British between 1812 and 1815, and when at war, they resorted to a very lucrative privateering that made even the ship captains, like Lemuel Taylor, who carried the government’s approval of their raiding enemy shipping (called letters of Marque signed by the President and the Secretary of State) very wealthy. In addition, the duties the merchants paid on imports and exports prior to 1804, helped convince President Jefferson that he could afford to purchase Louisiana for $15 million dollars, a significant boost to Napoleon’s war chest. Ironically, when the loans negotiated for the purchase of Louisiana came due in 1817 to the London banking firm of Baring Brothers, it would prove to be the economic snake that bit the most adventuresome of the Baltimore merchants and sea captains, causing widespread bankruptcies, and precipitating the first great American Depression. Those merchants, including the Williams family who had been instrumental in the building the of the Unitarian Church in Baltimore, had secretly speculated in U. S. Bank Stock, assuming it would continue to rise in value, and when their securities were called in to pay for the stock which they had purchased on margin in an effort to send specie to pay off the Louisiana Purchase, the bubble burst, much like the recent home mortgage scandal, and the 1929 collapse of the stock market. As a result, commissions for private and public buildings in Baltimore and other cities like Richmond that were directly involved in the banking scandal dried up. Architects like Maximilian Godefroy,Benjamin Henry Latrobe, and Robert Mills suffered severely for lack of business and bad investments. [2]

Madame Jerome Bonaparte (Elizabeth Patterson)

Attributed to Thomas Sully (American, Horncastle, Lincolnshire 1783–1872

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Metropolitan Museum of Art,

Date: ca. 1805–10, Medium: Watercolor on ivory, Accession Number: 2000.359


Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, while traveling in Europe on the income from the settlement of her marriage with Napoleon’s brother Jerome, which Napoleon had annulled, and from which she had secured a Maryland divorce, bllamed the economic troubles in Baltimore between 1817 and 1822, on the lavish lifestyle of its merchants, particularly their penchant for building fine mansions.

Montebello Mansion, home of General Samuel Smith

From Lossing,

I shall never forget the depredations committed on banks, which brings me to speak of my regret at hearing of the death of poor James Buchanan, whose father has by this tragical event, been severely punished for the folly which led him to build and furnish with regal magnificence a palace.

I am sorry to express my conviction that General Smith’s fine house, and the extravagant mode of living he introduced into Baltimore caused the ruin of half the people in the place, who, without this example, would have been contented to live in habitations better suited to their fortunes; and certainly they only made themselves ridiculous by aping expenses little suited to a community of people of business.

It is to be hoped that in [the] future there will be no palaces constructed, as there appears to be a fatality attending their owners, beginning with Robert Morris and ending with Lem. Taylor. I do not recall a single instance, except that of [William] Bingham, of any one who built one in America, not dying a bankrupt...[3]

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, had not been severely hurt by the economic downturn in Baltimore. She had invested her money conservatively and lived off the interest. By 1823, when she wrote about General Smith and his business contemporaries, Baltimore business was on the mend. Travel accounts appeared praising the city and its architecture, if not its culture.[4]

John Neal knew Baltimore well. He studied law there and edited the Portico Magazine which was published in Baltimore between 1816 and 1818. By 1824 he was in Britain writing extensively on American writing and writers. While in Baltimore Neal studied the architecture of the city, and may have been responsible for soliciting the drawing by Maximilian Godefroy that appeared as the frontispiece of an 1816 issue of Portico: The Allegorical figure in the drawing could be the earliest known representation of Godefroy’s wife, the former Eliza Crawford Anderson.


In his review of a travel book by Isaac Candler who had been much taken by Baltimore, Neal praised the architecture of the city based on his own knowledge, in particular the work of Maximilian Godefroy:

The Baltimore Exchange, designed by Benjamin Latrobe and Maximilian Godefroy


The publick buildings of Baltimore are numerous; and some are beautiful. The Exchange . was planned by Latrobe ...and Godefroy (A French-man of talent --now in London --starved out in America … The Washington Monument … is quite a marvel ...is the joint achievement of a tolerable American architect, named Mills; and a blundering committee of lawyers --who chose the worst of many plans for which they paid a premium, and spoilt it.

Godefroy’s Battle Monument


The Battle Monument is a capital affair; the most beautiful piece of marble workmanship in the United States. It was designed by Godefroy, built by stone-masons; and is ornamented with some good alto relievo, representing the death of General Ross, at North Point, and the attack on Fort M’Henry: four capital Griffins --and a marble woman (the only one, that we know of in, America --though we did meet with some wooden ones)--colossal-- and full of dignity-- all the work of Capellano, an Italian, or Spaniard.

Godefroy’s Unitarian Church


The “Unitarian Church;” like our Irish diamonds; and the precious stones of Scotland --they carry forward, as a national wonder. In the cant of the day, it is quite a transatlantic gem. It is built of brick; plastered and painted, so as to resemble stone (like our celebrated Regent Street:) exterior, like a bird cage: interior perfectly beautiful: a dome upon four delightful arches: a plagiarism, by the way, from Sir C. Wren’s masterpiece St. Stephen’s) Godefroy was the architect.[5]

Christopher Wren’s St. Stephen Walbrook


Neale’s review provoked a quick response confined to the work of Maximilian Godefroy that was published in the April 1824 issue. It purported to be written from London on February 19, 1825 and was signed. A. B.

In the article on America, contained in your 95th Number, are some well-earned compliments to a gentleman of splendid talents, the architect of some of the most important buildings in the United States, M. Godefroy, who, as your correspondent observes with great truth, “was starved out in America.”.

On one point A. B. was most unhappy. Godefroy did not plagiarize Sir Christopher Wren. “the plan may be in some respects the same, but the merit of the design, as of its completion, belongs to Mr. Godefroy, who never saw any elevation of St. Stephen’s until his arrival in England…

A.B. went on to attempt “to rescue this heroic and truly noble character from the obscurity in which he is now living. ...He indeed deserves a better fate.”

A.B. recounts the personal sacrifices of Godefroy that are to be found much later in a more detailed autobiographical memoir he wrote hoping to secure a curatorial position with the French Government, and concludes with this summation:

His military education led him to the study of fortification, and thence of architecture, in which, if his abilities were once called into action he would soon acquire the means of procuring ease and comfort at a period of life, when, with a body shattered by wounds, and a mind broken by misfortunes, his sufferings must need alleviation.

It is not known for certain who A. B. was, but in all likelihood it was his wife of then 17 years, Eliza Crawford Anderson Godefroy. Since their marriage she had spent her life as Godefroy’s amanuensis, writing many letters on his behalf without his knowledge in an effort to secure him work and financial support. Prior to her second marriage to Godefroy in 1808, as a single mother with a house and a modest income, but no fortune, she had distinguished herself as a magazine editor of a journal of her own creation and as the chief critic of Baltimore manners and culture. Like her second husband, she deserves a better fate, not only for her accomplishments as an editor and critic, but also for for her valiant, if ultimately unsuccessful attempt to break through the glass ceiling that restrained women intellectuals from achieving fame and fortune in a cultural world dominated by men.



While a fair amount has been written about Eliza Crawford Anderson Godefroy including most recently a well-researched article for the Maryland Historical Magazine, and a well-written novel, The Observer, both by Natalie Wexler, not all the ‘facts’ asserted about her life are correct or complete, nor has much of her writing in the two publications, The Companion, and The Observer, been clearly identified and assessed for content. In addition, once she decided to abandon her editorial and writing career to further the career of Maximilian Godefroy, little attention has been paid to the probability that she served faithfully as his translator and ‘press agent,’ as well as his care-giver, just as she had done for her own father prior to his death in 1813.

Château d'If on an island in the Bay of Marsailles, the last place of Maxmilian Godefroy’s incarceration


Throughout his documented life, Maximilian Godefroy exhibited the characteristics of what today would be diagnosed as a severe bi-polar condition that took him to great heights of productivity and extreme depths of depression. In one of his seventeen page diatribes written while imprisoned Godefroy quoted from his version of the book of Job, Chapter 32:

“I am full of things I have to say, and my mind is as if in labor, until I bring forth my thoughts. Iam filled as if with a wine that has no air, and am about to burst like new vessels into which it is put. Therefore I will speak, and then I will breathe.”

When his sister, Dieu-Donnee Godefroy, fought successfully to get him out prison in 1805 after his having been incarcerated without trial for almost 15 months for activities subversive to the Napoleonic regime, she made it clear to the authorities (who agreed with her), that his mind was tortured, perhaps even unhinged.

Dieu-Donnee worked hard for her brother’s release, writing the only reliable account of his early life, especially the years when he was accused of being a subversive to the Napoleonic regime. She makes it clear that he had lived with her in Paris and served in a number of secretarial posts before joining the 5th Regiment in Soissons, 62 miles northeast of Paris. There he was given the first name of Maximilien by the officers of the regiment to distinguish him from another Godefroy. On his return to Paris with his discharge papers, he kept Maximilien, adding it to his full name, Jean Maur Godefroy and when he got to America, the ‘e’ to an ‘a’. After his military service which ended about 1794, he served in a couple of estate management posts before he was arrested.

At one point Dieu-Donnee begged to see him in prison, noting her alarm about his health and that “the total privation of any society in the last 18 days can also become pernicious for his reason and his very existence, considering the excessive irritation of his nerves. Godefroy himself would write about his own thoughts at the time:

Why should I not pamper my own [imagination] on lonely paths within the vast probabilities of the future, and why, finally, should I allow my soul, forever agitated as it is and as it were in perpetual ebullience, to evaporate without leaving anything for me ….

His answer to himself was to publish a pamphlet on why France ought not to sell Louisiana, and while in prison, to piece together his charcoal masterpiece of the battle of Pultowa.

detail from The Battle of Pultowa by Maximilian Godefroy, courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

11 and 11a

Godefroy, apart from his architectural triumphs, considered the drawing he did of the Battle of Pultowa while incarcerated at Château d'If on an island in the Bay of Marsailles on the southern coast of France,his finest work.. By his own account he drew it on 128 separate pieces of paper with charcoal created from the fire in his cell. On his voyage to America after his sister had secured his freedom, he put it together, had it framed and kept it with him for most of the rest of his life, exhibiting it frequently. The scene he chose to draw was taken from his reading of Voltaire’s biography of Charles XII of Sweden at a point in the battle when King Charles had thought he had won the battle, but in fact had not.[6]

Godefroy’s friend and fellow architect in America, Benjamin latrobe would later refer to him as a genius and sent his son to study drawing with him at St. Mary’s College in Baltimore where Godefroy taught from his arrival in Baltimore in December 1805 until 1818. Latrobe would have great difficulty in coping with Godefroy’s mood swings, so much so that their friendship dissolved in 1816 over a joint project in which Latrobe found it necessary to accept modifications of Godefroy’s original designs. The controversy centered on Godefroy’s plans for the portion of the Exchange Building that housed the ill-fated Second Bank of the United States that would prove to be at the center of the financial storm that terminated Godefroy’s business prospects in America.

Throughout his career in Baltimore, Maximilian Jean Maur Godefroy had difficulty promoting himself as his English apparently was barely passable for conversation, and his ability to write in that language was non-existent. He relied on others to translate and advocate for him. In 1811, while writing to U. S. Senator Henry Clay on Godefroy’s behalf, Benjamin Latrobe apologized for

the hasty translation of the letter of my excellent friend Godefroi. For it wants its elegance as well as its force, & that … decided character which is stamped upon the style as well as the substance of the writings of genius, …

Latrobe admits he has ‘ventured to soften the expression of disapprobation which this old Soldier uses…’ and explains that his efforts to promote Godefroy as a military expert met with strong resistance from the Secretary of War and President Jefferson who dismissed Godefroy as merely ‘a good draftsman.’[7]

Within a short time of his arrival in Baltimore, Godefroy found someone who would ultimately abandon her own aspirations for a career as an editor and writer to be Godefroy’s principal translator, publicist, and advocate.


Who was this woman who abandoned her own editorial and writing aspirations in the face of intense criticism and prejudice, to devote the remainder of her life to a mentally unstable, yet dashing figure of a man fifteen years her senior?


In March of 1780, Elizabeth Crawford was born in Barbadoes. Shortly thereafter she, her brother, and her parents, left for London where on the 14th of July, 1780, Elizabeth (Eliza) Crawford, daughter of Dr. John Crawford and Elizabeth O’Donnell Crawford, was christened at Saint Clement Danes, Westminstser, London, England. Two years before her brother, Thomas Spalding Crawford had been born aboard ship on its way to Barbadoes where their father was stationed at a hospital. According to an undocumented family tradition, their mother, Elizabeth O’Donnell, died on the return voyage from Barbados to England. Given the extent of John Crawford’s travels after his wife’s death including obtaining a medical degree at the University of Leiden, it is most likely that following their mother’s death the two children were placed in the care of British relatives where they remained and were educated. Eliza’s brother, Thomas Spalding Crawford apparently never left Europe, and would die in 1803 in Montpelier France just as he completed his medical studies. [8]

Dr. John Crawford


In 1796, Dr. John Crawford heeded the advice of his brother-in-law, John O’Donnell, to come to Baltimore with his daughter Elizabeth to live. John O’donnell, a Protestant Irish ship captain who had made a fortune in the trade with China, provided them with a house and the prospects of a remunerative medical practice for Dr. Crawford who by then was, like his brother, widely known for his work on tropical diseases. They arrived first at Philadelphia where they were welcomed into the Benjamin Rush home. There Dr. Crawford began a friendship with Dr. Benjamin Rush, a prominent physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, that lasted until Dr. Crawford’s death in 1813, and the teenaged Elizabeth (known now as Eliza), enjoyed the company of Dr. Rush’s daughters. When they arrived in Baltimore, the House on Hanover street awaited them where Eliza would continue to live until her departure for Europe in 1819, never to return.

Eliza attended her first Baltimore Ball in 1796 at the age of 16, and by by 1800 had married a speculating merchant, Henry Anderson, possibly a distant Irish born cousin, who by 1801 had failed in business, fled his creditors, and deserted Eliza, leaving her with their one year old daughter.

Betsy Patterson by Gilbert Stuart


Among Eliza’s closest circle of friends and acquaintances in Baltimore was Elizabeth Patterson, the independent minded, strong willed daughter of a wealthy merchant. Five years younger than Eliza, ‘Betsy’ Patterson shared a love with Eliza of French and English novels, and possibly even dreams of marrying into the French nobility. Both were heavily influenced by the work of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin who wrote on the rights of women, especially her novel “Maria or the Wrongs of Women, a posthumous fragment,” which Wollstonecraft published under her married name. While believing in the intellectual equality of women and men, both Eliza and Betsy were adherents of a French culture of the Old Regime in which marriage was meant to bring, status and wealth, if not independence . In an America with its tendency to level society, Eliza and Betsy were aristocratic elitists who favored the French aristocracy, especially its dashing young military and naval men, including Corsican newcomers like Napoleon and his extensive family. Both Eliza and Betsy were well versed in French. Eliza proved to be a serious student of the language and culture, while Betsy apparently was less so, although both were fluent conversationalists Undoubtedly they were inspired by the social event of the Spring 1797 season with the arrival in town of a real French prince, Louis Philippe. Eliza was 17 and Betsy 12.

Said to be Louis Philippe at the time of his American Travels, 1797.


Louis Philippe was a dashing young soldier whose mother would figure prominently in the stories of Maximilian Godefroy’s escape from a French prison eight years later. He was destined one day to be the citizen King of France, but in 1797 was on a grand tour in America while avoiding the guillotine that took his father’s life. Upon his arrival in Baltimore he was feted by the Carroll/Caton family whose daughters were friends of Eliza and Betsy, by General Samuel Smith, and Robert Gilmore. When he left five days later, Robert Gilmore provided him with a letter of credit to use on his travels and the social elite of the City wished him well, especially I suspect, the teenage daughters of the wealthy Baltimore merchants and their social circle.

Louis Phillippe found Baltimore charming as he records in his travel journal:

The 29th. We reached Baltimore at one o’clock and took lodgings with the Evanses at the “Indian Queen,” Before riding down into Baltimore [from Havre de Grace] one is treated to a panorama of the whole city, the port, and the bay, all of which together compose a splendid view. My brothers tell me that it looks much like Marseilles. [9]


It is likely that Eliza either attended or possibly even taught at Madam Lacombe’s Academy on Franklin Street, near Eliza’s Hanover Street home, where Betsy Patterson learned French and studied French culture in the late 1790s. Madam Lacombe (1747-1827) taught several generations of the fashionable young ladies of Baltimore French language and culture. She was an emigre from Haiti and closely associated with St. Mary’s seminary and college. She lived most of her life in Baltimore across from the College on Paca street in a house she held on ground rent from the Sulpicians. Her influence was widespread among those who could afford to send their daughters to a school whose tuition for room and board was as much as $260 a year.

Jerome Bonaparte


In the Fall of 1803, at the races on Whetstone Point and again at a Ball at the residence of one of Maryland’s signers of the Declaration of Independence, lawyer Samuel Chase, Betsy Patterson met and won the heart of Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger brother. Jerome was a naval officer on leave, handsome and flush with cash derived from the sale of Louisiana to the United States which President Jefferson had just announced to Congress in his message of July 4th.

After a tumultuous courtship opposed by her father, William Patterson, Betsy married Jerome on Christmas Eve, 1803. Napoleon was not pleased. He had other plans for Jerome. Jerome was summoned home, leaving in March 1805 with Betsy who was pregnant, Betsy’s brother, and her faithful companion, Eliza Crawford Anderson, who left her own daughter behind at the Hanover Street house in the care of her father, Dr. Crawford. Betsy was not allowed to land in France and went to London where she gave birth to a son on July 5, 1805. If it had been a girl, it is likely that Betsy would not have had much success in deriving support for herself and her child from the Bonapartes, as she ultimately did, but instead the birth of Jerome proved to be the key to creating her own independent fortune. Eliza Crawford Anderson, in the meantime, became increasingly anxious about her family back home and at one point tried to leave for Baltimore on her own. This did not please Betsy, who was determined to stay in London. She caustically told her father that Eliza would be “of no material loss’.[10] Instead they all left London together for home, arriving in Baltimore in the ship Mars in November 1805, after being away eight months.

On her return, Eliza found she was an heiress of sorts. Her Uncle, John O’Donnell had died in October, leaving her a life estate in the House on Hanover street, a modest income to her father from another rental property nearby, and forgiving all of her father’s debts. It was a new beginning for Eliza and she was inspired to take on a major role in a Baltimore publication called the “The Companion and Weekly Miscellany” to which she may have contributed some anonymous pieces before she had left with Betsy. The weekly probably had its origins in the faculty and students of St. Mary’s College, founded by the Sulpician order and in 1804 chartered as a non sectarian university by the Maryland legislature. By the time Eliza returned, the Companion’s original editors (one of whom may have been Eliza’s father, Dr. John Crawford) had begun to lose interest in the publication. By May of 1806, Dr. Crawford and Eliza took over the publication, according to a contemporary annotation of one of their subscribers, possibly Madam Lacombe.


Dr. Crawford assumed the chair of Edward Easy, the editor on the masthead, and Eliza did most of the work, writing much of the text and editing the pieces solicited from the community. At the same time a new dashing, no so young Frenchman appeared on the social scene, who would shape the remainder of Eliza Crawford Anderson’s life and cause her to abandon her career as editor, satirist, and chief critic of Baltimore’s cultural world.

Maxmillian Godefroy, attributed to Rembrandt Peale, but probably by Thomas Sully[11]

Maximilian Godefroy claimed to be from the aristocracy of the old regime, and always referred to himself as Count St. Mard as did his associates and his wife to be, Eliza Crawford Anderson.

Maximilian Godefroy came to Baltimore to teach drawing and military science at St. Mary’s University in December of 1805, just shortly after Eliza’s return from London. Almost immediately he began exercising his talents as an Architect, drawing and overseeing construction of the new Chapel at St. Mary’s.

21 Godefroy’s St. Mary’s Chapel

It was a triumph, if not completely to Godefroy’s liking as the Sulpicians were forever cutting corners to save money and did not allow full execution of his plans.

Within a year he had captured the heart of Eliza Crawford Anderson and they began a remarkable, if tragic, adventure together which included Eliza’s severing her ties with the Companion and its printer, the Editor of the Federal Gazette, John Hewes, and going it alone as the sole editor and major contributor to a new publication she called “the Observer.”

Eliza was very well read and fluent in French. She was a skilled writer and editor. In the Observer she featured the writings of her father on epidemics and the causes of disease, and Godefroy’s pamphlet on military tactics which she translated for him and which was later published separately by her new printer, Joseph Robinson.

A good glimpse of her caustic style of writing is found under the byline of Sylph in the Companion, weeks before she launched her new publication, The Observer. Based on a 1778 novel about a guardian spirit for the female protagonist. [12]. There Sylph is especially critical of the performances at the Baltimore Theatre and has little good to say about a benefit performance of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. She attacked the costumes as being historically inaccurate and the uneven performances of the principal actors, as well as the shortcomings of the audience, one of whom nearly knocked down a woman in an effort to get to his place. She was kind to the orchestra to which no one seemed to listen or appreciate, and admitted that Mr. Wood who played the part of Coriolanus, ‘has genius.” But on the whole the tragedy, poorly costumed and often playing to the audience with comic gestures and foot stamping failed to measure up to her expectations.

Sylph no. 2

Sylph’s musings occupy fully 20 percent of the pages of the Companion, once she and her father assume control of its pages on May 3, 1806, , and she appears briefly again in the new publication that Eliza launches in the fall of 1806. A byline “Observer” appears in the Companion as well, hinting at the acerbic cynicism of Eliza’s later writings in the new magazine where she conducted an unremitting assault on the cultural “Siberia’” of Baltimore. In that regard, Natalie Wexler’s essay on Eliza provides the best summary of her increasingly virulent attacks on the backwardness of the Baltimore cultural scene:

She frequently denounced Baltimore's lack of appreciation for the

arts and artists in vehement terms, repeatedly characterizing the city's apathy in this

department as "Vandalism" and terming it "the very Siberia of the arts." While praising

a German violinist named Nenninger, she lamented that his skill would undoubtedly

"be buried like that of so many other Europeans, who vegetate here already,

to our shame and our detriment," and that in order to support himself he would

be reduced to "the hateful, the killing task, which is death to all genius, of teaching

brats without ear or attention."

In all likelihood the reference to “teaching brats without ear or attention,” came from her association with Godefroy, who went so far to advertise in the newspapers that he would not teach inattentive children without talent to draw.

Eliza’s major complaint throughout her writings was that the new money and riches of Baltimore did not equate with culture and refinement. As the first essay by “Observer” explained.,

Nothing more frequently strikes the attention of the philosophic observer, when he mixes in the motly groups, that assemblies and large parties present to his contemplation, than the triumph which fortune often gains over nature, by giving importance to many who were created for obscurity; for who does not bow before the supremacy of riches. A weighty purse is one of the best possible recommendations to distinction in society; and however deficient a man may be, in all that constitutes a gentleman, does he but possess money, he i sure of attention and respect. Of all the different species of pride that swell the heart of man, that originating in wealth is most contemptible. Pride of ancestry, may inspire or be accompanied with nobleness of soul; pride of talens brings with it in those talents, its apology, but the arrogance which arises in narrow minds, from the adventitious gifts of fortune, is the growth of vulgar souls, and with it, nothing great or good, can ever be allied.

Wealthy women fare no better under this Observer’s pen:

Decked out with all the ostentation of wealth, they suppose that wherever they appear they must command homage. And yet, all the dignity of lace and satin, and the splendour of pearls and spangles, will scarcely prevail in imprinting the mark of gentlewoman on some of the pretenders to that title.

By May 10, 1806, the editorship of the Companion was down to one person, presumably Eliza. Another essay by ‘Observer’ followed the next week, more moderate in tone than the first and asserted to be by a man. It addressed the ‘love of fame’, and lamented the obsession with fashion upon which feminine fame was based:

In the sober days of our grand-mothers, the ladies generally aspired to renown, by aiming at superior skill in domestic affairs: But fashion, which changes all things, has also changed the path to female glory. To be perfectly ignorant of all useful information; whether she has ear or not, and no matter what havock she may commit among the sharps, flats and naturals, to play on the piano is, indispensible; to dress herself a la Grecque, that is scarcely dress herself at all; to be the first in every fashion, and have all the coxcombs of the day inher train, these are the paths to distinction for a modern belle.:

By June of 1806, Eliza was in full stride, if indeed she assumed the non de plume Camilla. In that issue of the Companion, Camilla, a character drawn from the novels of Madam D’Arblay, assaulted with great zeal Alexander Pope’s Characters of Women.

I hope you will indulge me by giving a place to a few strictures on Pope’s “Epistle on the Characters of Women” --a production which I should otherwise be very willing to abandon to the contempt that in almost every point of view it so justly merits.

I trust i am not transported an undue zeal for the honour of my sex, when i undertake to prove this celebrated, but outrageous, satire upon it, inconsistent with itself, with truth, and with justice, replete with false maxims, false wit and unprovoked malignity, and equally unworthy the philosopher, the philanthropist, the man of taste, and the man of sense.

After pointing out that there is no difference in the character of women and men, moral or intellectual, Camilla closes with

If I have proved Pope, notwithstanding his lofty pretensions to morality, to philosophy, and to good sense, to have attacked our sex with malignity, flippancy, and indecency, with injustice, absurdity and inconsistency, i shall be more than satisfied. I believe that he who renders woman contemptible, encourages licentiousness, and injures human happiness; and this pursuasion exclusive of other motives, would have sufficedto prompt me to become my sex’s champion.

On October 25, 1806, the Companion and Weekly Miscellany came to an abrupt end. The issue began with a tribute to Madam D’Arblay the novelist who wrote Camilla, Evelina, and Cecilia. It purported to be the first installment, but no other was to appear. In many ways it was autobiographical for Eliza who had decided to launch her own publication. It praised Madam d’Arblay as the daughter of the much beloved Doctor Burney who not unlike Eliza’s opinion of her father, was admired on account of his abilities in a science and as a “faithful friend, a prudent counsellor, and an amiable companion. It singled out Madam d’Arblay’s library (Eliza was said to have had a library of her own of 400 books in the Hanover Street house):

Her library presented to the eye, a visible picture of those visionary scenes which poets tell of, when they describe that elysium in which the great ones of all times parties, and talents, will be friends and contemporaries. Even the heroes of the imagination presumed to mingle with those of reality, and to wear a local habitation as well as a name. Cesar, charles the Twelfth of Sweden, and the Czar Peter, peaceably occupied the same shelf …

Such various subjects of investigation , produced great variety in the mind of Miss Burney; and very much promoted that facility in composition, that proteus-like versatility of fancy, which now constitute the charm of her works.

The unsigned piece continued to praise Miss Burney for the first novel she published anonymously. When Dr. Burney found out she was the author of Evelina,

The astonishment and pleasure of Doctor Burney were nearly on a par: he could scarcely credit his senses. Intelligent as he knew his daughter to be, he had formed no conception that such maturity of observation, fancy, judgment, and style could have been displayed by a girl of seventeen …

Though bred a simple country girl, and apparently little beyond a child in discernment; yet nature had taught her own scholar, and gave to her morning of life a proficiency in the art of composition, which few attain at the noon, or even at the close. ...

Was Eliza writing of herself? Perhaps.


No further issues of the Companion appeared.. Instead a prospectus for a new periodical named the Observer was announced in the Eastern Shore Republican Star on November 25, 1806, and in a prospectus mailed to the subscribers of the Companion. At first Eliza was reluctant to admit that she, a woman was the sole proprietor and editor of the new publication, although she did make it clear that she had been her father’s associate editor and then sole editor for the previous six months.


She expected to produce a more lively publication, filled with contributions from distinguished local authors moving in a “spirited versatility … in quick transition from “grave to gay, from lively to severe..””

She needed 500 subscribers to keep the magazine in circulation. On the Eastern Shore she entrusted the collection of subscriptions to the Sheriff, a wise move. Still, providing what she promised every week proved to be difficult.

She did publish a number of other authors including the anonymous Benjamin Bickerstaff and two well written installments by Benjamin Latrobe on the encouragement of fine arts in America, but the largest single contributions were made by herself, her father who used the publication as a forum for his radical ideas on the nature of disease, and by Maximilian Godefroy who began publishing his views on military tactics in installments over his own name.

Over the year of the Observer’s existence existence, Eliza took on the persona of Beatrice Ironsides and focused her contributions on the paucity of culture in the city with a fervor and increasing cynicism that earned her the title of the ““Fierce Fury” who edits the Observer.”bestowed on her by her former printer and editor of the Federal Gazette, John Hewes. Indeed Hewes became her chief critic in print. Refusing to announce or promote her translation of a decidedly racy French Novel, Clara d’Albe. Indeed the book was not advertised in Baltimore, but in Washington, D.C. Apart from the scene in the garden, which she had made less explicit in translation, the novel was a tragic story of illegitimate love. As one reviewer put it, The evident moral purpose of the author is to show that if the heart has not been careful to resist first impressions, virtue, confident in its own strength can be wrecked, and hence Claire must necessarily be considered as responsible.”

Eliza, probably writing as Sylph in the first number of the Observer in 1807, warned that the reader should expect the new Observer to be “not quite so Easy” as its predecessor:

And how in fact would it be possible, to be an observer, and yet wear a perpetually unruffled mein! No indeed, this would be impracticable; when we consider that at all times, but at this period more than ever, the earth exhibits a theatre of crimes and follies, cruelties and meannesses; ignorance and presumption, impertinence, infamy and injustice; in short a continual spectacle of all that can revolt the understanding, disgust the mind, and wound every feeling of the soul, I repeat, who could be an observer without being sometimes a misanthrope, and consequently, now and then a little caustic.

Still, Eliza felt deeply the slings and arrows of the response to her criticisms

Her exchanges with those she criticized in the Observer spilled over into the newspapers, particularly the Federal Gazette edited by John Hewes. She was accused of self promotion and selling space in the Observer for promoting cultural events which she vehemently denied.

[quote beatrice]

An illustration in Natalie Wexler, ….

The gossips in town also insinuated that she was having an affair with Godefroy which she denied in a letter to Betsy Bonaparte.

As for what the Town says of me, and much I hear they say, I care not. Absurd and ridiculous monsters in whose hands no fame can go unsullied ... If G. had wished or proposed anything dishonourable to me—- would it be by honourably proposing to my father to make me his wife

and share the good or bad fortune that befalls him that he's proved it— why should I be at the trouble of getting a divorce ... if I had already sacrificed honour—truly I might have continued as I was.[14]

Her increasingly shrill and vitriolic comments about the intellectual life and culture of Baltimore simply did not sit well with her peers and her subscribers, a number of whom failed to pay what was due. As her attachment to Godefroy deepened, her enthusiasm for editing and writing waned. To her the solution was to marry Godefroy and focus her attention on advancing his career. To do so she needed a divorce as she had explained to Betsy.

“Everything is legal in New Jersey”, Lin-Manuel Miranda, from the musical Hamilton.


Who suggested that she go to New Jersey for the divorce is not known for certain, but it may well have been the disgraced former Vice President Aaron Burr who was an expert in the laws of New York and New Jersey relating to domestic affairs. In 1807, Burr was in deep trouble and on trial in Richmond for treason. The Observer, which as a matter of policy did not carry articles related to current events in America, reported on the Burr trial in the summer of 1807. When the jury failed to convict, Burr paid a brief visit to Baltimore before fleeing to Europe under an assumed name. Both Robert Goodloe Harper, who had a high a high opinion of Godefroy’s Military Considerations that began appearing in August, 1807, had supported Burr for President in the election of 1800. Benjamin Latrobe knew Burr well and suggested to him that Burr write Godefroy for his advice relating to his plans for his western adventure. After Burr escaped to Britain, using Burr’s false name that only his closest associates were supposed to know, Godefroy commissioned Burr to retrieve a model of a military device he had designed and sent to the head of the British Army.

In any event, Eliza went to Trenton, New Jersey to petition for a divorce. She carried letters of introduction from General Samuel Smith and others. The Governor of New Jersey gave her a warm reception. Godefroy may well have been with her and may have accompanied her on her journey up the Hudson by steamboat in search of her first husband. She needed his acknowledgment that he had been unfaithful (desertion carried no weight with the New Jersey Chancery Court). She found him in a fishing village and got him to confess, attested to by an unknown Doctor, that he had seduced a servant in their Baltimore household. The New Jersey Chancery Court granted her request and on December 29, 1808, in a civil ceremony in Burlington, New Jersey, attended by her father, she and Maximilian were married by a Justice of the Peace.

They returned to Baltimore to live in her house on Hanover Street, where Godefroy gave private lessons, and they cared for Eliza’s father with the help of a Slave her father owned.


Benjamin Latrobe has left a graphic description of their living arrangements:

… I did not go out in the evening but supped and slept at Godefroi’s … This house is miserably out of sorts: but it so like the house of men of Genius with whom I have been all my life more or less acquainted that everything appears right. Godefroi’s room or study is very neat and handsome, furnished with marble statues and the walls hung with expensive pictures well framed. The dining room is very dirty and dark and has a stove in it. Dr. Crawford’s library is black with smoke, and covered with dust, cumbered with papers, and choked with books, bookcases and desks. … I slept in a little room very neatly furnished with a good fire in Godefroi’s military bed, very well. Every place is full of books. I had a hundred or two to choose out of in my room. Their chamber is shelved all round, I believe from the peep I got of it. She says she has four hundred books of her own. Godefroi has as many in his large study.[15]

There is no evidence that Eliza resumed writing or translating. Instead she became her husband’s translator and chief advocate, even being the go between when the partnership with Benjamin Latrobe ruptured in 1816.

On and off Godefroy had commissions that brought in some income and enhanced his reputation. Of his buildings and the Battle monument, there are near contemporary images drawn by John H. B. Latrobe, Benjamin Latrobe’s son. Those that survive to the present day are the Battle Monument, the Unitarian Church, and the St. Mary’s chapel.

Life with husband Godefroy was not easy. They were always short of money, save for one summer in [1818 ck date] while the Battle Monument was under construction and Godefroy had prospects of employment in Richmond. Always the dreamer, Godefroy fancied himself retiring to Jefferson’s Natural Bridge which he either offered to purchase, or expected Jefferson to give him (the record is not clear). Eliza friends deserted her and Betsy Bonaparte failed to respond to her letters. Betsy’s brother Edward in 1815 and again in 1817, asserted that the couple were impoverished and that Eliza had taken to drink. As there is no collaborating evidence, his observations should be taken with a dose of skepticism, especially as he was probably the brunt of some of Eliza’s criticism in the pages of the Companion and the Observer of wealthy young ne’r do wells who she accused of lacking any semblance of virtue and culture.

Years later Rembrandt Peale, whose museum housed the only portrait of Godefroy that either he or perhaps Godefroy’s friend Sully had painted, would remember the brief optimism of the Godefroy’s Virginia vacation and the fact that the Godefroy was off sketching the Natural Bridge.

The prospects of prosperity did not last. The banking crisis dried up the prospects of commissions both in Richmond and Baltimore.

By 1819 and the Yellow Fever epidemic in Baltimore, it seemed that any future for the 54 year old Godefroy lay on the other side of the Atlantic.

Self portrait of Thomas Sully (reversed) compared to the portrait of Maximilian Godefroy from the Rembrandt Peale Museum Collection now owned by Maryland State Archives[16]

In the Summer of [ck date] of 1819 they decided to leave Baltimore for Liverpool, never intending to return. Godefroy wrote his friend the painter Thomas Sully in Philadelphia asking for references and to say goodbye:

The Godefroy’s finally set sail on . Sadly yellow fever followed them down the Bay. Eliza’s daughter died of the disease before their ship reached the Atlantic and was buried somewhere on the shores of Virginia. The last known of Eliza’s writings published in America was her daughter’s obituary which appeared in [ck] and the American Farmer. When the Godefroys arrived in Liverpool after a rough passage, they did not have enough money to pay the customs duties on their baggage, and much of their possessions including Godefroy’s drawings, paintings, and books remained for some time in storage until the bill was paid.

Godefroy, as the letter to the editor of the Edinburgh Magazine indicated in 1824, did not find much business in London. The French emigre community in London helped him some, but by 1827 he and Eliza looked to France for relief and were ready to move once again.

The return of the Bourbons to the throne in France proved somewhat beneficial to the Godefroys.. Godefroy was given a position as chief architect of Renne only to fall out with the mayor who apparently expected him to pad his accounts in the Mayor’s favor. The city council supported Godefroy and gave him 3,000 francs as severance pay With their blessing, Godefroy moved on to his last post as Architect for the nearby city of Laval. When Louis Philippe became king in 1830, Godefroy received a small pension for his service in the Old Regime. Godefroy had always given credit to Louis Philippe’s mother for material assistance in gaining his release from prison and perhaps there had been some tie to the family. The pension did not last, however, and was revoked when Godefroy refused to give evidence of his poverty, preferring to live on his salary from Laval.

Eliza wrote extensively on behalf of her husband, especially to David Bailey Warden, a well known expatriate living in Paris who apparently she had known in Baltimore. The letters are long, rambling and sycophantic. She may have tried to publish some of her own writings, although the letter that Godefroy wrote describing her journey to Paris is subject to differing translations. It is more likely that she went to a booksellers to sell some of the books she brought with her to Laval. She wrote a number of letters seeking help from [ck] Jackson, one of Godefroy’s former students at St.Mary’s, who became a wealthy resident of Connecticut and a U. s. Congressman. Jackson did provide material assistance, and ultimately came to possess a significant collection of Godefroy’s papers from his last years as well as his beloved drawing of the Battle of Pultowa. How Jackson obtained the painting and the papers is somewhat of a mystery as are the final days of Maxmilian Godefroy.

On 1839 Eliza godefroy died a Roman Catholic. Maximilian Godefroy sent out a formal notice to their friends and acquaintences and quietly disappeared.

By the time she died Eliza was acutely aware of her lack of fame, fortune and country. In a letter to written in the familiar style of her Days as an observer, she made it clear that she felt no strong allegiance to any place.[quote]

As to Godefroy, his home and country was France of the old Regime. By 1842, three years after Eliza’s death, he had vanished from Laval. There is no record of his death, nor of where he was buried.

His remarkable drawing of the Battle of Pultowa, now owned by the Maryland Historical Society, had made its way across the Atlantic to New York where it was exhibited at in 1842.

In all the lives of Eliza and Maximilian Godefroy provide a means of exploring the nature and quality of professional life on the Urban frontier of America in the first decades of the 19th century. The print culture was extensive. Baltimore was a major center of the printing industry, a serious rival to Boston, New York, and especially Philadelphia. Even Eliza admitted that America had a greater reading public than England. [quote re: newspapers etc. to be found in every tavern and hotel], but reading newspapers and owning books did not equate with an appreciation of good music, good art, and good theater, all of which Eliza was certain Baltimore lacked. She came to believe that it was futile to even try to change the status quo and with Godefroy turned her energies to help him make an impact on the quality of the built environment. That too proved futile in the face of a severe economic downturn, although as Alexander and Natalie Wexler point out, they deserve a better press for what they they did accomplish. Baltimore is richer for the monument that adorns the city seal and the two surviving Godefroy churches.

Indeed, Eliza probably has the last laugh. When Maximilian Godefroy designed the Battle monument, he drew sketches of all the figures that were to adorn it including the woman destined to be on top. Placed there finally in 1822, she was in all probability modeled after Eliza, who has presided there ever since, the first monument to a woman, let alone a woman writer and editor, in America.


[1] August 19, 1815, Wheaton Papers, Brown University, https://library.brown.edu/collatoz/info.php?id=134

[2] In 1819 Godefroy left for what he and his wife thought were greener pastures in England, while Latrobe left a short time before to seek his fortune in New Orleans. Robert Mills, who initially went bankrupt in 1821, rose like a phoenix from the ashes to design a large number of public buildings, monuments, and private residences. As Benjamin Latrobe pointed out in 1814, before the banking scandal, to his then associate, Maximilian Godefroy:

Mills is an excellent man of detail, and a very snug contriver of domestic

conveniences and will make a good deal of money. He wants that professional self-respect which is the ruin of you and me, and therefore we shall go to the wall, while he will strut in the

middle of the street.#

[3] Elizabeth Patterson to William Patterson, May 22, 1823, as published in Eugene L. Dider, The Life and Letters of Madame Bonaparte (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1879), 142. I am indebted to Lance Humphries for this reference.

[4] Isaac Candler, a flour factor/merchant from London was so taken by Baltimore when he visited in 1822, that he praised it fully in his travel narrative published in London in 1824, and eventually emigrated to Baltimore where he died in 1844.

Candler did not provide much substantive detail about what he liked about Baltimore, but John Neal, did in a long review of Candler’s book published in Edinburgh Magazine in December 1824.

[5] Mr. Sparks, the present editor of the North American Review, was the first and last regular minister ...they have no settled minister at this time; are much embarrassed: the “ring-leaders,” as the charitable part of their brethren call them, having suffered severely in the late commercial overthrow of Baltimore ….

[6] Voltaire, 1781 edition, Perth Scotland, pp. 127-128. Perhaps he was himself as King Charles, rising from his stretcher to direct the defense of his forces. Note thespiked cheval de frize in front of the firing soldiers, middle right in the detail shown here. The Cheval de frize would become an obsession of Godefroys and the subject of an invention that he unsuccessfully offered to the British government in 1808.

[8] [Announcement of Thomas’s death.]

[9] The city seems quite large but comprises only 20,000 inhabitants. Market Street, the main avenue, is broad and handsome. The houses that line it are quite plain but brand new, for the city has been built up only recently; that is, it has achieved its present prosperity only in the last few years, for the town itself is quite old; but it seems that it owes its expansion to the export of flour from the west. As it lies farther west from Philadelphia, Baltimore has found it possible to buy up western flour cheaper and consequently in greater quantity.

[10] Didier p 40

[12] In the 1778 British novel The Sylph, a sylph appears as a guardian spirit for the female protagonist.[18]

"The Sylph (European Classics)". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 25 June 2014.

[13] As she explained in the Republican Star,

Six months experience has convinced the Editor of the Companion, that not withstanding the zeal and assiduity devoted to conducting this work, the circumscribed nature of its original plan, has rendered it impossible to communicate to it, that degree of interest which such a paper is certainly susceptible.

[14] MdHS, Bonaparte Papers, Anderson to Bonaparte, Trenton, N. J., June 4, 1808, as quoted in Dorothy MacKay Quynn, Maximilian and Eliza Godefroy, Maryland Historical Magazine, 53 (March 1957), p. 13.

[15] quoted by Carolina V. Davison, “Maximilian and Eliza Godefroy,” Maryland Historical Magazine, vol. 29, 1934, p. 10 from an original then privately owned.

[16] The portrait of Maxmilian Godefroy has always been attributed to Rembrandt Peale because its earliest known association is with the Baltimore Peale Museum collection. It is possible that Sully painted it, rather than Peale. Sully spent time in Baltimore while the Godefroys were still there. This self portrait of Sully is dated 1821.