Oh, friends! I pray to-night,
Keep not your kisses for my dead, cold brow:
The way is lonely, let me feel them now.
(If I Should Die To-night, 25-27)
Arabella Eugenia Smith was born in 1844 in Lichfield, Ohio, and resided from 1850 to 1874 in Percival, Iowa. She graduated from Tabor College (originally Tabor Literary Institute, 1853-66, open to both sexes) in Tabor, Iowa. This Christian College offered four-year courses in classics, science, and literature and was located on a plateau between the Nishnabotna and Missouri Rivers. It opened in 1866 and had to close in 1927. After graduation, she became an instructor there. She published "If I Should Die To-night" in The Christian Union on June 18, 1873, and in only a few years it swept America as one of the county's favorite poems and hymns. Her authorship of the poem was quickly obscured; for example, Slason Thompson, in The Humbler Poets: A Collection of Newspaper and Periodical Verse 1870 to 1885 (Chicago: Jansen, McClurg, 1886; 309-10; CIHM no. 34189, mfe Z C255 Robarts Library), presents it as anonymous. We know very little about Smith's life. She died in July, 1916, in Santa Barbara, California, according to an Associated Press release of July 24. Her biography appears in A Library of American Literature from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, ed. Edmund Clarence Stedman and Ellen Mackay Hutchinson (New York: C. L. Webster, 1891; PS 504 S84 Robarts Library). For an account of the poem, and its parody by Ben King, see Burton E. Stevenson, Famous Single Poems And the Controversies Which Have Raged Around Them (London: George G. Harrap, 1924; PS 303 S7 Robarts Library).
Given name: Arabella Eugenia
Family name: Smith
Birth date: ca. 1844
Death date: 1916