The Literary Scene
WEST VIRGINIA FICTION had its beginnings in the writings of Rebecca Harding Davis ( 1831- 1910O), whose novels dealt with labor and the beginnings of modern industry. While a resident of Wheeling, Mrs. Davis wrote "Life in the Iron Mills," which was published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1861 and reprinted in 1866 in a collection titled Atlantic Tales. In Margaret Howth, 1862, Mrs. Davis dramatized certain ethical and social problems incident to the rise of industry in an agricultural community. In David Gaunt, 1862, she portrayed hardships of West Virginia small farmers. She was the author of a number of other books, dealing with various phases of American life, and for several years, she was an editorial writer for the New York Tribune.
Mrs. Davis had worthy peer in Francis (Frank) R. Stockton ( 1834- 1902) who, when he moved to Claymont, Jefferson County, West Virginia, in 1899, had long been a master of the art of short story writing. In this field his The Lady or the Tiger, 1884, attracted international attention. While a resident of West Virginia, he wrote a number of stories, some of which, including Tales Out of School, were reproduced in book form. Of his passing William Dean Howells said, "eternity seems the richer and time the poorer."
The non-fiction "Coin Series" of William Hope Harvey, born and reared in Putnam County, West Virginia, was read perhaps more extensively in the United States than any other book except the Bible at the turn of the century, but Melville Davisson Post ( April 19, 1871-June 23, 1930) was then generally recognized as the most gifted West Virginia author of the period. The pros and cons of his detective stories attracted much attention. While admitting its literary merit, critics of The Strange Schemes of Randolph Mason, 1896, claimed that it showed criminals how to beat