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  • Brady Stroh

Celia's Shoals

Six miles or so SE of Portsmouth Harbor (New Hampshire) a rockpile juts above the ocean surface to create a small group of rugged mounts, cliffs, and tidal ledges — the Isles of Shoals. Appledore, Smuttynose, and Star are the largest islands in the group — Star being home to a rustic resort.

Celia Thaxter (1835-1894) skillfully crafts a lens that allows us to peer into the diverse realities that make up the insular culture of the Isles of Shoals. She expertly captures the haunting remoteness, the treacherous terrain, and the tempestuous waters that shape the lives of the islanders. Thaxter also illuminates the unique dialect spoken by the inhabitants, and the often monotonous yet occasionally exhilarating daily routine that defines their existence. Through her writing, we witness the piercing dullness of everyday life, punctuated by moments of existential drama that shake the island to its core.

Thaxter was an American poet, writer, and painter who became a significant figure in the literary and cultural circles of New England in the late 19th century. Born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Thaxter spent much of her childhood on the Isles of Shoals, a group of small islands off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. Her experiences on the islands inspired much of her writing, which often focused on the natural beauty of the area.

Celia began her career as a writer in the 1850s, publishing poems and essays in a variety of magazines and newspapers. She gained widespread recognition for her poetry collection "Poems" (1872), which included some of her most famous works such as "The Sandpiper" and "The Burgomaster Gull". In addition to her writing, Thaxter was also an accomplished painter, often creating watercolor paintings of the landscape around her home.

Thaxter's literary and artistic achievements earned her a place in the cultural elite of New England. She counted among her friends such notable figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and John Greenleaf Whittier. Her home on Appledore Island, one of the Isles of Shoals, became a gathering place for artists, writers, and intellectuals of the day.


"Celia Thaxter." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2023.

"Celia Laighton Thaxter." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2023.

"Celia Thaxter." Smithsonian American Art Museum. Smithsonian Institution, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2023.

The Isles of Shoals have long been a source of inspiration for artists, who have contributed a vast and diverse array of visual imagery to capture the unique beauty of the islands. From the early 19th century to the present day, a multitude of artists have been drawn to the rugged landscape, turbulent waters, and distinctive culture of the Isles. The result is a rich and varied visual history that spans centuries. The artists...

Christopher Volpe (also vid producer)


Aldred Perkins

Arthur Quartley ( De Haas)

Wm Trost Richards

R Swain Gifford

A T Bricher ( Moran)

H Bird Brown

J Appleton Brown

Childe Hassam

Wm Morris Hunt

Nay Land

Ross Sterling Turner

Francis Henry Richsrdson

Tonalism - American School

Birge Harrison

Olaf Brauner

Ignaz Marcel

Carolina Coventry-Haynes

Soren Emil Carlsen

John Marin

Richard Hayley Lever

Abraham J Bogdanove

Frank Cohen Kirk

Thomas Hart Benton

Donald Gordon Squier

John Woodsum Hatch

Karen Blackwood

Lennie Mullaney

Alastair Dacey

Bill Paarlberg

Lisa Noonis

MJ Blanchette

T M Nicholas

Tom Hughes

John Stobart

Cindy House

Hannah Phelps

Kevin Beers

Monique Sekellarios

Carol Aronson-Shore

James Aponovich

William Sillin

Donald Jurney

Alexandra de Steiguer

Wendy Turner

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