, “Your Portrait,” Poem, , Hancock Co., IL, to JS, [, Hancock Co., IL], 20 Aug. 1842. Featured version published in Wasp, 27 Aug. 1842, vol. 1, no. 19, . For more complete source information, see the source note for Notice, 28 Apr. 1842.
On 20 August 1842, composed a poem in , Illinois, which she addressed to JS, who was in hiding. The poem focused on JS’s absence from Nauvoo due to the attempt to extradite him to . Snow had joined the in Mantua, Ohio, in 1835 before moving to , Ohio, where she taught school and lived with JS and his family. From Kirtland she moved to , Missouri; then, after being forced to leave the along with her fellow Latter-day Saints in early 1839, she eventually settled in Nauvoo. A respected poet and writer, Snow published her first poem in in 1825 and had published thirty additional poems in local newspapers by 1832. After joining the church, she penned hymns and poems celebrating and defending Latter-day Saints and their doctrines. She was elected secretary for the in March 1842, and an April 1842 notice about the formation of the society referred to Snow as “our well known and talented poetess.” She lived for a time in Nauvoo with ; then, in August 1842, invited her to live in the Smith home. Snow moved there between 14 and 17 August.
Nearly two months before writing this poem, had been to JS as a plural wife. On that day, 29 June 1842, Snow began writing in a new journal given to her earlier that year by . Snow’s entry does not mention her sealing to JS, but it appears to capture the significance of the day, opening with the statement: “This is a day of much interest to my feelings.” In the journal, Snow reflected on the recent departure of her family from and the loneliness and changes she was experiencing, which certainly included her marriage to JS. Perhaps concerned about societal misunderstandings and objections to plural marriage, Snow’s 29 June entry included an exclamation about a sudden thunderstorm that had occurred while she was writing: “O God, is it not enough that we have the prepossessions of mankind—their prejudices and their hatred to contend with; but must we also stand amid the rage of elements?” She then concluded her journal entry with her determination to trust in God and to “live by every word that proceedeth out of his mouth.”
During JS’s absence from in August 1842, wrote two poems that were published in the Wasp. The 20 August poem featured here is the second of those two poems. The first was untitled and addressed to both JS and . It focused on the unsettled state of affairs in Nauvoo, which Snow described as “A deep intricate puzzle, a tangle of strings, / That no possible scheme can make straight.” The poem ended with a triumphant stanza promising that would be sustained and “the glory of God usher’d in.”
The second poem wrote, “Your Portrait,” is featured here. In this poem, Snow contrasted JS with the image in his portrait and reflected on his gifts of intellect and speech, which the portrait could not possess. Snow further used the metaphor of a framed portrait to parallel the sense of imprisonment that JS faced in being surrounded by enemies and threatened with extradition to ; in doing so, she decried the injustice of his circumstances. In the poem, Snow expressed admiration for JS and concern for his welfare, as well as a devotion likely enhanced by their recent sealing. Snow composed the poem featured here on 20 August; it was printed in the 27 August issue of the Wasp.
Derr, Jill Mulvay, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016.
Eliza R. Snow, Affidavit, Salt Lake Co., Utah Territory, 7 June 1869, in Joseph F. Smith, Affidavits about Celestial Marriage, 1:25; see also Eliza R. Snow, “Sketch of My Life,” in Beecher, Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, 17. As with most of JS’s plural marriages, no contemporary documents record the date of Snow’s marriage to JS, and scholars must rely on her affidavit and reminiscent accounts for this information.
Smith, Joseph F. Affidavits about Celestial Marriage, 1869–1915. CHL. MS 3423.
Beecher, Maureen Ursenbach, ed. The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow. Life Writings of Frontier Women 5. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2000.
Artist Sutcliffe Maudsley created a portrait of JS in June 1842, which may have hung in the Smith home. Maudsley likely used a pantograph to create a profile for JS and then added details. This portrait of JS was made into a lithograph by printer John Childs and was included on the published map of the city of Nauvoo. (See JS, Journal, 25 June 1842.)