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Her stunning portrayals of Helen Jewett, Robinson, and their raffish, colorful nineteenth-century world make vivid a frenetic city life and sexual morality whose complexities, contradictions, and concerns resonate with those of our own time.
Patricia Cline Cohen is Professor of History and Acting Dean of the Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
From her beginnings as a servant girl in Maine, Helen Jewett refashioned herself, using four successive aliases, into a highly paid courtesan.
She invented life stories for herself that helped her build a sympathetic clientele among New York City's elite, and she further captivated her customers through her seductive letters, which mixed elements of traditional feminine demureness with sexual boldness.
Snow in April April 9 of 1836 was an unseasonably cold Saturday night in New York City, coming at the end of the coldest and longest winter of the early nineteenth century.