"Dolly Franklin's Decision": Sarah Orne Jewett's Definition of "A Good Girl"

By Johanningsmeier, Charles | Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, January 2000 | Go to article overview
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"Dolly Franklin's Decision": Sarah Orne Jewett's Definition of "A Good Girl"


Johanningsmeier, Charles, Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers


Ever since the project of "recovering" the works of Sarah Orne Jewett began in earnest approximately twenty-five years ago, literary scholars have focused their attention almost exclusively on three of her works: Deephaven (1877), "A White Heron" (1886), and The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896). Not coincidentally, these works and others that are frequently written about were almost all first published in the most prestigious magazines of the late nineteenth century, including the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Monthly, Century, Independent, and Scribner's. The predominance of these works in Jewett scholarship is due not only to practical considerations (copies of these magazines can be found in most research libraries) but also to cultural bias: it is assumed that stories printed in these venues are the ones most worthy of recovery and study. Undoubtedly, Deep haven, "A White Heron," The Country of the Pointed Firs, and many of the stories that appeared in the aforementioned magazines do represent some of Jewe tt's best work. However, they do not necessarily convey an accurate picture of the range of Jewett's abilities and interests, and of the complexity of her artistry and personal views. In order to form a more complete understanding of Jewett, it is imperative that scholars begin to study in much greater detail those of her works which she chose to publish in less prominent periodicals, such as Far and Near, Youth's Companion, Wide Awake, and Sunday Afternoon, to name just a few.

One of the greatest blind spots in Jewett scholarship involves the short fictions that she sold to newspaper syndicates and which were published in numerous daily metropolitan newspapers of the late nineteenth century, such as the Boston Globe, Kansas City Star, Minneapolis Tribune, New York World, Boston Evening Transcript, Portland Oregonian, Chicago Inter-Ocean, and countless others. Given the difficulty of locating these stories, it is not surprising that so few scholars have tried to find such fictions and that so very little has been written about them. Even when one knows the most likely places to find such works, obtaining the appropriate microfilm reels and searching through them is a difficult and often frustrating task. The inchoate status of research into Jewett's syndicated newspaper publications is best indicated by Paula Blanchard's recent comment in Sarah Orne Jewett: Her World and Her Work (1994): "Just how many of Jewett's sketches were published with the McClure Syndicate, as well as the ri val syndicate of Bacheller, Johnson, and Bacheller, remains to be discovered" (190n).

In two recent studies, Fiction and the American Literary Marketplace: The Role of Newspaper Syndicates, 1860--1900 and "Sarah Orne Jewett and Mary E. Wilkins (Freeman): Two Shrewd Businesswomen in Search of New Markets," I have briefly discussed ten of the sketches and stories I have located that Jewett syndicated to newspapers via McClure and Bacheller. Included in this group is one story, "A Good Girl" (entitled "Dolly Franklin's Decision" in one newspaper), which until now was not known to exist. None of the numerous Jewett biographies mentions it, and a complete search of available Jewett bibliographic materials has turned up no known printings. [1]

I first became aware of this story's existence while leafing through a crumbling scrapbook of the Associated Literary Press newspaper syndicate in the S. S. McClure Papers at Indiana University's Lilly Library. A small piece of newsprint that read "A Good Girl, by Sarah O. Jewett" was stuck on a page along with the headings of other materials slated for publication on 24 November 1889; the clipping gave no indication of whether this was a work of fiction or nonfiction. I then began my search for newspaper printings of this story; finding them would, as I knew from previous experience, be no easy task. After all, McClure's syndicate at this time typically sold galley proofs of individual stories to over fifty newspapers for simultaneous publication, but the firm did not record the names of the subscribing newspapers.

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