Books: Two Wives & a Spinster

THE PEABODY SISTERS OF SALEM (372 pp.)—Louise Hall Tharp—Little, Brown ($4).

Poor "Lizzie" Peabody. "Busybody" might have been a better name. She was such a congenital, selfless do-gooder, almost too perfect a distaff product of New England's 19th Century intellectual flowering. As a child of four in Salem, Mass., she was already envious of Neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne's sister Ebe, who was six and reading Shakespeare. Twenty-nine years later (1837) when future brother-in-law Nathaniel published his Twice-Told Tales, Liz sang his praises so busily that Hawthorne got tired of her. Once during the Civil...

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