A Sarah Orne Jewett Companion

A Sarah Orne Jewett Companion

A Sarah Orne Jewett Companion

A Sarah Orne Jewett Companion

Synopsis

For too long Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909) was dismissed as a timid New England local colorist, known principally for her novels and short stories based in her native state of Maine. But in addition to her fiction, she also wrote poetry, plays, and essays. She enjoyed an extensive acquaintance with most of the established writers of her time and was on friendly terms with many lesser-known women of her era. With the publication of a selection of her letters in 1956, scholarly books and articles soon followed. And with the advent of the women's movement came a renewal of interest in Jewett's life and writings. She is now recognized as a uniquely sharp, compassionate observer of women and their lives in 19th-century New England.

Included in this reference book are alphabetically arranged entries for Jewett's writings, characters, family members, friends, acquaintances, and professional associates and admirers. Entries on the most important works and persons include brief bibliographies. The volume begins with a concise introductory essay, and a chronology highlights the chief events in Jewett's life and career. The book closes with a general bibliography of works about Jewett. Given Jewett's complex characterizations and her subtle crafting of plots and settings, this book will be a valuable guide both for those approaching Jewett's works for the first time and for more advanced readers.

Excerpt

For too long, Sarah Orne Jewett was dismissed as a timid New England local colorisi. In 1940, Van Wyck Brooks, the distinguished cultural historian who, despite his unquestioned significance, got into a little trouble with his curious theories concerning Mark Twain and Henry James, dismissed Jewett with similar misguided one-sidedness. After recognizing her stylistic excellence, Brooks felt compelled to add this: “Her vision was certainly limited. It scarcely embraced the world of men, and the vigorous, masculine life of towns like Gloucester, astir with Yankee enterprise and bustle, lay quite outside her province and point of view” (New England: Indian Summer, pp. 347–48). Brooks must have been insufficiently impressed by the fact that F. O. Matthiessen, one of America’s greatest literary critics, had published a pioneering study of Jewett in 1929 or that a French student, Jean Sougnac, had published his dissertation on Jewett in 1937. She was obviously respected by the knowledgeable both here and abroad.

Then came Richard Cary, Jewett’s most devoted, pioneering critic. He skillfully edited a selection of Jewett’s letters in 1956, published several apt essays on her then and later, and quickly followed John Eldridge Frost’s 1960 study of Jewett with a vista-opening 1962 monograph and an expanded selection of Jewett’s letters in 1967. During these years, numerous short biographical and critical pieces appeared. And with the advent of the women’s movement came what must be called a Jewett renaissance. Contemporary critics, and innumerable purchasers and readers of popular reprints of Jewett as well, now recognize her as a uniquely sharp, compassionate observer of women and their lot in the New England of her era. Brooks wrongly implies that “masculine… bustle” was about nine-tenths of what was important in that region, though accomplished by . . .

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