MRS. HENRY WIMPLE SKINNER (Henrietta Channing Dana) is the youngest daughter of the late Richard H. Dana, Jr., of Boston, Mass., author of Two Years Before the Mast. Her grandfather was Richard Henry Dana, the poet, author of The Buccaneer, And Other Poems, and founder of the North American Review. His father, Judge Francis Dana, was for many years chief-justice of Massachusetts, and was the first United States to Russia, 1781-1783. He married a daughter of William Ellery, of Rhode Island, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and granddaughter of Judge Jonathan Remington. Justice Richard Dana, father of Judge Francis, was a sturdy patriot of colonial days, a prominent opponent of the “Stamp Act,” and figures in Hawthorne’s Grandfather’s Chair. His wife was a sister of Judge Edmund Trowbridge, chief-justice of Massachusetts in 17-.
Mrs. Skinner’s early childhood was spent in Cambridge, Mass., where the Danas were near neighbors of the poet Longfellow, and Henrietta, from her seventh to her eleventh year, received daily instruction with the younger Longfellow children from their English governess. “Craigie House” became her second home, and the friendship of the families was further increased when in 1778 her brother, Richard Dana, married the poet’s second daughter, Edith Longfellow.
In her twelfth year Henrietta attended a select school in Boston, and then went to Europe, where she studied the piano for two years under Professor Pruckner, at the Artists’ School of the Stuttgart Conservatory, living in a German family, and attending courses of study both in public and private schools. She then went to Paris, where she studied music under the famous composer Cesar Franck, and was at the boarding-school of the Ladies of the Assumption. While there she wrote a series of letters, descriptive of convent life and of the young future Queen of Spain, who was her fellow-pupil at the school. These letters were published in Scribner’s Magazine of April 1878, under the title of “A Queen at School,” and attracted much attention. They were translated into French and reprinted in the Revue Britannique and the Paris Figaro, and a Spanish translation appeared in the Epoca of Madrid. Although Miss Dana received offers to become a regular contributor to the magazines and flattering letters from Dr. Holland, James Russell Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, the latter compared her letters to Walpole’s an saying “Your pen belongs to the public,” yet many years passed before she wrote again for publication; her life, meanwhile, being devoted to the care of an invalid mother and to the study of music and languages.