Kate Vannah (1855-1933), Poet and Composer

Kate Vannah (1855-1933), Poet and Composer July 8, 2011

Authentic Sketches of Living Catholic Authors

The Catholic World (June 1897), 426-427.

Kate Vannah was born in Gardiner, Maine. The original family name was Werner, and through various gradations of Warner, Verner, and Varner it has come, during the last two generations, to its present form.

Miss Vannah’s paternal ancestors came from Saxony; her maternal, from Ireland. Her full name is Letitita Katherine Vannah, but for the past decade of years every production, either of a musical or literary nature, is known by the name of Kate Vannah. Her mother, who is still living, has always been a Roman Catholic, as has the daughter. Her father became a member of the Roman Catholic Church in the year 1872, and until the hour of his death, which occurred in 1895, was a very devout adherent thereto.

Miss Vannah was educated in the public schools of Gardiner until she reached the age of fifteen, when, immediately upon graduating from the high school there, she was sent to St. Joseph’s Academy at Emmitsburg, Md., under the management of the Sisters of Charity of Vincent De Paul. There she remained for two years, at the expiration of which period she graduated. Shortly after her return to her home in the East she began to write for the press.

This work was continued intermittently, until five years since, when musical composition demanded her attention to the exclusion of regular journalistic work, and, in fact, all literary effort save the publication of an occasional poem in some periodical. One of the first kind and encouraging letters that she received, by the way, came to her from George Parsons Lathrop when he was literary editor of the Boston Traveller. To him Miss Vannah sent a sonnet entitled “A Flower’s Name.” It was a great pleasure to her to have the editor send to her for more, after paying her work a pretty compliment. It may not be out of place to mention right here that she had not abandoned journalistic worl when she wrote and published the song which made her so well known, and whose sale is still unabated, viz., “Good-by, Sweet Day”—poem by Celia Thaxter.

Her early poems were finally collected and published under the title of Verses. In 1893 a second volume of verse appeared from her pen, entitled From Heart to Heart. The poems are deeply personal, as the title would indicate. Besides her poems, she has written several short stories, and made a good many translations from the French. In journalism her work had covered a wide range of subjects, from book reviews, musical and dramatic criticisms, to personal sketches of interesting personages in the literary, musical, and dramatic world.

Her musical compositions are now, and have for three years past, been done in collaboration with Miss Elinore C. Bartlett, a native of Minneapolis. Often they write their own words for a song. Miss Vannah’s poems are nearly all far more grave than gay. The same may be said for her songs.

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