Chapter II
Night, Love, War

KATE CHOPIN was not a good candidate to be a best selling author, and her first publisher knew it.

Although publishing was still considered a gentleman's profession, most companies in the 1890s, as in the 1990s, were looking for blockbusters. Bayou Folk had sold out its first printing (1,250 copies) and another 500 were ordered, but those were not the roaring sales that Houghton, Mifflin wanted. The best sellers of the 1890s, with sales in the high thousands, were historical novels, such as When Knighthood Was in Flower by Charles Major, and Richard Carvel by Winston Churchill (the St. Louis novelist, not the future prime minister).

By the mid- 1890s Chopin had given up on ever publishing her second novel, Young Dr. Gosse and Théo. She had started writing the 45,000- word book in 1890, not long after At Fault, and her story opened with a prologue in Paris, followed by a scene ten years later in the United States. The character of young Dr. Gosse may have been a rehearsal for Dr. Mandelet in The Awakening -- or Dr. Gosse may have been female, inspired by the heroic Dr. Nan Prince in Sarah Orne Jewett A Country Doctor ( 1884). Possibly the story, whatever it was, was too French to be salable to Americans: "As a piece of literature it does not satisfy me," Chopin later told a New York editor. Sometime after Young Dr. Gosse and Théo was rejected for the tenth time, she destroyed the manuscript.

Bayou Folk, though, had gotten national recognition and glowing reviews. But when Chopin asked Houghton, Mifflin about publishing her next story collection, she received some unhappy news: Horace E. Scudder of the Atlantic, who was also the editor-in-chief at Houghton, Mifflin, rejected her twice in the same letter. First he declined a story

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