The romantic poetry shared between Sidney Lanier and Virginia Hankins stands as one of the most passionate periods in Bacon’s Castle’s history. Born in Georgia, Sidney Lanier served in the Confederate Army and became well-known for his highly musical poems. While serving in the Confederate Army in Virginia, he met Virginia Hankins, who lived at Bacon’s Castle.
Ginna, as she was known to family and friends, was well-educated and a writer herself. When Lanier visited Bacon’s Castle with the Hankins brothers, the two hit it off immediately. They began a romantic relationship, exchanging letters throughout the war and his imprisonment for being a blockade runner. They wrote many poems back and forth, proclaiming their deep love for one another. Most intriguingly, Ginna even began a friendly correspondence with Mary Day, a hometown friend of Sidney’s who would become his wife. Sidney proposed to Ginna in 1867, but she refused out of obligation to her young, motherless siblings.
Sidney later married Mary Day and became a professor at Johns Hopkins University. His poems were published in magazines and he frequently wrote about the state of Florida. Ginna eventually sold Bacon’s Castle to support her siblings and moved to Richmond, continuing to write her own poems and eventually an unpublished novel. The two maintained their correspondence until his death in 1881.
To learn more about the romantic poetry of Sidney and Ginna, visit Bacon’s Castle during National Poetry Month.