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Sarah Orne Jewett's Death
Notices, Obituaries, etc.
In Annie Fields (2002), Rita Gollin recounts Annie Fields's reactions to Sarah Orne Jewett's final weeks. On February 4, 1909, Fields wrote: "My dear S. O. J. was stricken down early Sunday morning a small blood vessel giving way in the brain." Gollin continues, "A month later, Sarah was 'still in a low state though reviving a little from time to time.' Though she could speak a bit and even joke with the nurses, she was virtually helpless. Then on 21 April, 'she was carried to her South Berwick home from her Charles Street home. We did not speak again together after that morning. She needed all her steadiness and so did I. She understood and wrote me afterward that she loved it so.' The 'it' was their silent farewell. 'I could not speak for crying,' Sarah wrote from South Berwick the next morning...." For the last two months of her life, Jewett wrote regular notes in barely readable handwriting. "And she copied into her diary what may have been the last of them: 'Goodbye darling with my heart's love your Pinny" (309).
The following is a selection of representative obituaries from the many that appeared upon her death. Readers should remain aware that there are many factual errors in these notices; those in the New York Times have been noted, while some, though not all, are corrected within the texts. Notices not transcribed here are listed at the end of the document.
SARAH JEWETT IS CALLED BY DEATH
Noted New England Author Succumbs to Paralysis in Room Where Born.
South Berwick, Me., June 24. -- In the room where she was born, and where she did much of her literary work, Miss Sarah Orne Jewett died tonight, after an illness of several months from paralysis. She had been at the Jewett homestead since last March, when physicians in Boston told her that her case was hopeless. Her illness, however, did not assume a critical form until Monday and she became confined to her room. Previous to that her sister, Miss May [Mary] R. Jewett, and a corps of nurses moved her in a wheeled chair about the house.
Miss Jewett was stricken at the home of her friend, Mrs. James T. Fields, 148 Charles street, Boston. Although practically helpless her mind remained clear. After being brought here in a special car and installed in the house of her childhood the famous author seemed to improve for a few days. She recalled incidents in the lives of her father and mother and was also reminiscent of her childhood.
Miss Jewett was born in South Berwick, Me., Sept. 3, 1849, in one of the most beautiful houses in New England.
Boston Journal, June 25, 1909, p. 1
Available courtesy of the University of New England Maine Women Writers Collection.
Sarah Orne Jewett
Boston Evening Transcript
June 25, 1909, p. 5.
AUTHOR OF MANY BOOKS
Miss Sarah Orne Jewett Was Native of
South Berwick and Had Spent Nearly
Her Whole Life in the Old Mansion.
Miss Sarah Orne Jewett, the author, died last night at South Berwick, Me., in the very room where she was born on Sept. 3, 1849. She had been ill for several months with paralysis, but her condition had not assumed an alarming form until the first of the week. She was stricken at the home of her friend, Mrs. James T. Fields, at the latter's Boston home in Charles street, and in March she was taken to South Berwick in a private car. Once home she seemed to improve, but a change came last Monday.
Miss Jewett was the daughter of Dr. Theodore H. and Caroline F. (Perry) Jewett. She was educated at Berwick Academy and early gave evidence of that ability in the literary line which for the rest of her life engaged her constant attention. Her father, besides being a physician, was professor in the medical department of Bowdoin College. The daughter was in the habit of accompanying him on his round of calls, and listening to the conversation in the households that he visited. He was a learned man and the friendly chats were on a wide range of subjects; and from these chats Miss Jewett gathered material which she used to good advantage in her literary work afterwards. Her first contribution to literature was "Deephaven" which was published in the Atlantic Monthly before Miss Jewett was twenty years old.
From that time Miss Jewett was accustomed to issue a volume about once a year, among which are "Play Days," published in 1878; "Old Friends and New," in 1879; "Country By-Ways," in 1881; "The Mate of the Daylight and Friends Ashore," in 1883; and successively "A Country Doctor," "A Marsh Island," "A White Heron and Other Stories," "The Story of the Normans" (Story of Nations, series), "The Kind of Folly Island and Other People," "Betty Leicester -- A Story for Girls," "Strangers and Wayfarers," "A Native of Winby and Other Tales," "The Life of Nancy," "The Country of the Pointed Firs," "Betty Leicester's English Christmas," "The Queen's Twin[s]," and "The Tory Lover." Miss Jewett had also contributed largely to magazines. She was an extensive traveller throughout the United States, Europe and the West Indies. She was a member of the Mayflower Club of Boston and the Lyceum Club of London, Eng.
In 1901 Miss Jewett received the degree of doctor of letters from Bowdoin College and she was the only woman to whom that institution ever conferred the honor of a degree. Her sister, Miss Mary R. Jewett, and her nephew, Dr. Theodore Jewett Eastman of 330 Dartmouth street, Boston, are her only surviving relatives. The house where Miss Jewett was born has been in the possession of the family since 1740. It is a fine old colonial mansion and has welcomed many of the literary celebrities of America and Europe.
Miss Jewett always worked in a methodical manner. Her correspondence was attended to in the morning, and in the afternoon she gave her time to her writing, sometimes penning between 8000 and 10,000 words at a sitting. Some of her magazine stories were written at one sitting, but in her greater works she wrote from 2000 to 4000 words a day, for four or five days, but she claimed that her writing was fitful.
Sarah Orne Jewett
Boston Evening Transcript
June 25, 1909, p. 8.
Even before she had ceased to be a frequent contributor to the magazines, Miss Sarah Orne Jewett seemed somehow to belong not so much among her contemporaries as to an elder and superior literary style and epoch -- indeed, her name was often linked with that of Hawthorne and without straining comparison. She has died in what might have been her prime; but there has long been associated with her name and her work "the tender grace of a day that is dead." The French proverb which says that "Style is the man himself" was again illustrated in Miss Jewett's case; she was a lady in birth and rearing -- her father a college-bred man, following the mission of the country physician, her home an old mansion with associations of the family itself dating back to both the great revolutions of the eighteenth century on either side of the Atlantic.
One of the leading English critics writing the other day of some recent American fiction remarked that "the American novelist of the newer order seems to write, as the American young woman talks, at the top of her voice." He went on to say that "the literary ideals of Hawthorne are evidently obsolete; even those of Mr. Henry James and those of Mr. W. D. Howells are contemned or forgotten." In their place are come at the demand for "snap" and "go" and the "epigrammatic" staccato style of a "tense" struggle aiming (as this critic points out, in vain), "to galvanize inert matter to a semblance of vigor and gayety," by employing "freakishness, irreverence, slang and grievous maltreatment of language." Sarah Orne Jewett could never compete with the "best sellers" of the day on any such terms as the sacrifice of her personal dignity or her genuineness of feeling, in short, her literary conscience and self-respect as an artist in supplying to magazine editors the sort of by-product necessary to their business.
On the other hand, she was long ago recognized in the best English literary criticism as ranking only second to Hawthorne as the literary interpreter of the spirit of New England. The genuineness of a notable "appreciation" of Miss Jewett in the London Academy of a few years since is attested by the mingling of bits of criticism with its laudations, as for instance: "We feel that a certain faint charm is struggling unavailingly with an artistic method too monotonous" -- which is surely the remark of an expert and competent, as well as candid, critic. But the same writer goes on to speak of the "peculiar spirituality which her work exhales -- a spirituality inseparable from her unerring perception of her country people's native outlook and instinctive attitude to life" and the exquisite sense of humor interpenetrating this spiritual gravity." This Academy critic of half a dozen years ago appears to have sensed in advance the drawing on of the phases deplored by the critic first cited, the magazines' semi-journalistic and standard manufactured article of fiction, from all competition with which Miss Jewett quietly withdrew: "Almost anybody can produce an arbitrary, concocted picture of life in which every line is a little false, and every tone is exaggerated. Such pictures of life are often as plausibly interesting as the scenes of a spirited panorama. They serve their purpose. But in relation to the rare art which synthesizes for us the living delicacy of nature they are what most modern popular fiction is to the poetic realism of "The Country of the Pointed Firs."
There is more than the keen grief of the personal bereavement, therefore, in the untimely taking-off of this finished and distinguished artist in letters. Those who delighted in her noble and spirited presence, her rich low voice, the quick glance of intelligence passed to a kindred understanding over some irresistible appeal to the sense of humor, or call upon common sympathies, can hardly reconcile her sudden departure with the eternal fitness of things. But there is a larger public loss -- the disappearance of an example of style, in the highest sense of the word, the loss of an ennobling and refining influence, which those who are still at work in American literary production and those who are coming on may well make it a pious task not to allow to be lost altogether for the honor and future of the American literary guild. Miss Jewett's best outward and visible monument will ever be those "marsh islands" of the old English New England, between Ipswich and Newburyport, crowned with oaks and other great trees -- the region that she loved. It is one of the most picturesque in New England, viewed at any hour, but its highest charm is when twilight softens its outlines, and lends the atmosphere of a Sarah Orne Jewett story.
Funeral of Miss Jewett Tomorrow
South Berwick, Me., June 25 -- The funeral of Sarah Orne Jewett, the author, whose death occurred last evening at her summer home here, will take place, Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock at the Congregational Church. The service will be conducted by the Rev. George Lewis, D. D., who has been pastor of the church for thirty-five years. The bearers will be Charles C. Hobbs, William Thompson, two of the oldest members of the church, William A. H. Goodwin and John B. Whitehead.
This newspaper notice is available courtesy of the University of New England Maine Women Writers Collection. Its source is unknown; assistance identifying the source is welcome.
SARAH ORNE JEWETT,
NOTED WRITER, DEAD
New York Times, 25 June 1909, p. 9.
Admired for Her Stories of New England Rural Life
-- Praised by Lowell.
DEATH FOLLOWED PARALYSIS
Sixty Years Old, Most of Her Life Had
Been Spent Between Her Native
Maine and Boston
SOUTH BERWICK, Me., June 24. -- An illness lasting many months ended to-night in the death of Miss Sarah Orne Jewett, Litt. D., author of many books and regarded as one of the foremost women writers of America. Since last March Miss Jewett had been at her old home here, where for many years she had been accustomed to pass her Summers, and it was in the old home that her death occurred at 6:40 this evening.
It was while living in Boston early in the present year, at the residence of her friend, Mrs. James T. Fields, widow of a famous Boston publisher, and herself an author of various books, that Miss Jewett had an attack of apoplexy which caused paralysis on one side of her body, and, although her mind remained clear, she became nearly helpless physically.
It is believed that another attack of the brain hemorrhage from which she first suffered was the immediate cause of death.
The house where Miss Jewett was born, on Sept. 3, 1849, has been in the possession of the Jewett family since 1740.* Miss Jewett was the daughter of Dr. Theodore H. and Caroline F. (Perry) Jewett.
Miss Jewett was best known to the literary world through her stories of New England country life. These were published both in book form and in the magazines.
Her father was a country physician.
Delicate health in childhood compelled Miss Jewett to spend most of her time in the open air. She therefore accompanied her father every day on his rounds among his patients. During these trips she stored up material which later found its way into print. Afterward, gaining somewhat in strength, Miss Jewett attended the academy in her native village.
Her career as an author began when she was quite young. While she was at the Berwick Academy, she was only seventeen then, several short stories under her name appeared in "Our Young Folks," and the Riverside Magazine.* She ventured to send a story to the Atlantic Monthly when she was nineteen years of age, and since then hardly a year has passed without a volume from her.
Although nearly all of her life was spent between the house in which she was born in Maine and at the home of Mrs. James T. Fields, these places were not the only ones with which Miss Jewett was acquainted. She traveled throughout this country and made several trips abroad.
Among Miss Jewett's principal writings were "Deephaven," in 1877; "Old Friends and New," published in 1880; "Country Byways," which was published in the following year; "A Country Doctor," in 1884; a series of stories of the nations, which was published in 1887; "Tales of New England," in 1888, and "The Country of the Pointed Firs," published in 1897. Other stories were "A Marsh Island," "The Story of the Normans," her last book being "The Tory Lover," published in 1901. Miss Jewett was a contributor besides, to many magazines. In 1901 she received the degree of Doctor of Letters from Bowdoin College.
The Jewett House
Stories vary from the observable facts about when the Jewett family came into possession of what is now known as the Jewett House in South Berwick.
Though this is difficult to determine with exactness, it appears that the ownership of the land on which the house and its outbuildings stood became unclear when heirs of John Haggens died intestate between 1822 and 1827. The estates were settled by 1830, and it seems that Nancy Haggens became the main owner of the Jewett house and lands.
Paula Blanchard states that Theodore F. Jewett (Sarah's grandfather) moved into the Jewett house with his second wife, Olive Walker, soon after their marriage in 1821. Though Blanchard states that T. F. Jewett bought the house at that time, in fact the purchase was not completed until 1839, and SPNEA research suggests that Theodore Furber Jewett rented the property from John Haggens's estate at first. The house did not change hands legally (by deed) until 1839. On May 27, 1839, Thomas Jewett (Sarah's uncle) purchased from Nancy Haggens and the estate of John Haggens several parcels of property (York Deeds 164:267). On the same day, Thomas sold the "mansion house" and lot to his brother, Theodore (York Deeds 164:269).
Jewett's literary beginnings
Jewett's first two published works appeared in The Flag of the Union and Our Young Folks, when she was 18. Her third publication, "Mr. Bruce," a short story, appeared in Atlantic Monthly when she was 19.
Jewett's works -- corrections
Old Friends and New - 1879
Country By-Ways - 1881
Tales of New England - 1890
The Country of the Pointed Firs - 1896
There was no "series of stories of the nations," but in 1887, Jewett published The Story of the Normans, a volume in a series of "stories of the nations" school texts.
Death of Sarah Orne Jewett
at the Old Berwick Homestead
-- Maine Loses One of Her Most Gifted Authors.
Lewiston Journal, Illustrated Magazine Section
June 26-30, 1909, p. 12.
Sarah One Jewett, considered by some the most gifted of our Maine authors and by all one of the foremost women writers of America, is dead.
The end came Thursday evening at the old South Berwick homestead, thus fulfilling a wish expressed by Miss Jewett some time ago.
"I was born here and I hope to die here, leaving the lilac bushes still green and all the chairs in their places," she said.
It was while living in Boston, early in the present year, at the residence of her friend, Mrs. James T. Fields, widow of a Boston publisher, and herself an author of various books, that Miss Jewett was stricken with the disease which proved fatal. She had an attack of apoplexy, which caused paralysis of one side of her body, and altho her mind remained clear she became nearly helpless physically. Miss Jewett remained at Mrs. Fields' home, 148 Charles street, Boston, until March, when she was brought to her ancestral residence in a special car.
Under the care of her sister, Miss Mary R. Jewett and a corps of nurses, the authoress was able to be moved about the house in a wheel chair and to receive her friends, while she continued to devote much of her time to reading and study. It was not until last Monday that her illness assumed a critical form and she became confined to her room.
Dr. Theodore Jewett, father of Sarah Orne Jewett, was a professor in the medical department at Bowdoin College, president of the Maine Medical Society, and a writer on professional topics. As a child, the authoress used to drive over the country roads with him when he visited his patients and she then go an insight into the lives of the rural New England characters which she alter depicted with such fidelity.
When she was a little girl, too, she was very imaginative and would tell herself fairy stories by the hour. At first she wrote stories in rhyme. Over all her work her father exercised a guiding watchfulness and it is due to the practical trend of his direction that she developed accuracy in observation and a sense of the value of details which mark her stories.
In those days Berwick was a port of trade, and in her childhood Miss Jewett heard tales of the sea and foreign ports which thrilled her and packed her brain with such ideas of the world that she could never regard mundane things as commonplace.
Educated mostly at home and at Berwick Academy, Miss Jewett traveled extensively thru this country and Europe while a girl. From her den leading off the upper hall she has been writing since she was a child. Here at 14 she wrote "Lucy Garron's Lovers," and later "Deephaven," "A Country Doctor," "A Marsh Island" and "The Country of the Pointed Firs." She was a fruitful writer, turning out from 8000n to 10,000 words on her busiest days. When she was 19, she had a story accepted purely on its merits by the Atlantic Monthly[.] It has often been said that she first called attention to the simple dignity of the country folk of her section who had formerly been habitually burlesqued.
Of all her books she cared most for "A Country Doctor" for a personal reason. it is really a portrait of her father. "Deephaven" was her first published book. It came in in 1877. This was followed by "Play Days," "Old Friends and New," "Country By-Ways," "A Country Doctor," "A Marsh Island," "The Story of the Normans" and many others, her latest book being "The Tory Lover," published in 1901. Miss Jewett was a contributor besides to many magazines.
In 1901 Miss Jewett received the degree of doctor of letters from Bowdoin College, and she was the only woman on whom that institution ever conferred the honor of a degree. That fact that James Russell Lowell said of her in writing to some London publishers just before his death: "Nothing more pleasingly characteristic of rural life in New England has been written than that from the pen of Miss Sarah Orne Jewett," would of itself show that Bowdoin made no mistake in dubbing her a doctor of letters.
Sarah Orne Jewett Dead
Was One of the Foremost Women Writers of America
Montreal Gazette 25 June 1909. p. 1.
South Berwick, Me., June 24. -- An illness lasting many months ended early tonight in the death of Miss Sarah Orne Jewett, Litt.D., author of many books and regarded as one of the foremost women writers of America. She was a sufferer from apoplexy and paralysis. In Boston early in the present year, Miss Jewett had an attack of apoplexy which caused a paralysis of one side of her body, and although her mind remained clear, she became nearly helpless physically. In March she was brought to her ancestral residence here in a special car and progressed so well that she was able to be moved about the house in a wheel chair and to receive her friends. She continued also to devote much of her time to reading and studying. It was not until last Monday that her illness assumed a critical form and Miss Jewett was confined to her room. Since that time she has been failing steadily and her friends knew that the end was not far off. It is believed that another attack of brain hemorrhage [hemhorrage] from which she first suffered, was the immediate cause of death. Miss Jewett was born September 3, 1849, the daughter of Dr. Theodore H. and Caroline F. (Perry) Jewett. Among her literary works are "Play Days," "Old Friends and New," "Country By-Ways," "A Country Doctor, "A Marsh island," and "The Story of the Normans." Her last book was "The Tory Lover [Liver]."
from "Boston Gossip of Latest Books"
New York Times, 3 July 1909.
Book Review, p. 421.
The lamented death of Miss Sarah Orne Jewett takes away from earth a soul as sweet, a heart as gentle as ever guided a pen. She drew her own portrait in her gentlewomen, young and old, and should her biography be written she can best be described in her own phrases. So far as human vision could discern, she attained her own idea in grace, courtesy, and charity. When the Atlantic was giving those dinners to which ladies were admitted, it was amusing to hear men, after being sufficiently voluble in praise of others, hesitate when they came to her name, and to see how many of them were satisfied with crying, " But Miss Jewett!" with an ecstatic expression. No woman dissented. She charmed all. Her epitaph should be "How good! how kind! and she is gone!" She had not been quite well since the accident of which there was a rumor some years ago, but illness and pain were borne with dignified sweetness which left no unlovely memory in any mind, and will never be forgotten by those to whom glimpses of it were granted.
Sarah Orne Jewett.
The Outlook 92 (3 July 1909) 542-3.
Those who recall Sarah Orne Jewett on the threshold of her career can never forget the sweet serenity of her face, the beauty of her brow, the gentle truthfulness of her eye, the atmosphere of candor in which she lived, the harmony of keen observation, quiet sympathy, and poise of judgment which moved with her. The resemblance between her work and that of Jane Austen's has often been noted. Pressed too far, that resemblance dissolves into thin air; but superficially the two women had many things in common. Both were free from the blight of an over-developed literary consciousness; both met life and studied it, not so much on its highways as in its byways; both looked not only for the eccentricities and inconsistencies of character, but for its fundamental goodness, its saving sweetness, its normal expression of normal ambitions; and both found what they looked for. Born in a colonial house, of a cultivated New England parentage, the daughter of a country physician, and growing up among books in the quiet of a New England town, Miss Jewett expressed the spirit of the Pilgrims rather than that of the Puritans. Her vision of righteousness was merged in a larger view of life than fell to the lot of the Puritan, and was tempered by a sweetness and breadth of sympathy which made her the recorder, not only of the judgments expressed in character and fate, but of those qualities which redeem the hardness of life and modify its cruel fortunes. She loved her people:
"When I was perhaps fifteen," she said, "the first city borders began to make their appearance near Berwick, and the way they misconstrued the country people and made game of their peculiarities fired me with indignation. I determined to teach the world that country people were not the awkward, ignorant set those persons seemed to think. I wanted the world to know their grand, simple lives; and, so far as I had a mission, when I first began to write, I think that was it."
A villager to the end of her life in her sense of the significance of local things, of the interest of local characters, of the happy intimacy which comes from unfolding out of the soil in which one's roots were planted, Miss Jewett was also a woman of the modern world. She had broadening and stimulating associations. She knew the Old World as well as the New; she had access to the ancient culture as well as sympathy with the modern intelligence and the modern spirit. She knew Boston, and Boston loved her; but there were doors across the Atlantic held open by hands equally friendly. Living for many years with Mrs. James T. Fields, in a house furnished, as Mr. James said in "The Bostonians," "with associations," the intimate friend of an American woman the fine quality of whose mind and the charm of whose talent are known to all readers of "Under the Olive," Miss Jewett's lines were cast in pleasant places; and until her illness, which was probably the result of a carriage accident, her career was one of quiet growth and singular prosperity. Her first story found its way into the Atlantic Monthly when she was only twenty years old. Her early novel, "Deephaven," was eagerly read by a public keen enough to appreciate its literary charm, its quick and faithful observation of life, and its delightful humor. Several long and many short stories represent Miss Jewett's literary work. In one of them, "A Country Doctor," she recalls her happy companionship with her father and the pleasant ways of rural life in a New England hamlet and about the New England countryside. All her stories were biographic in a sense that they reflected, not the story of the happenings of her individual life, but the happenings of that wider community life into which, through sympathy and insight, she entered so simply that she came to the very heart of it almost without consciousness of the fidelity of her record.
It was her happy fortune to describe the gentle side of New England life, and to leave behind her a social history of quite inestimable value in which the future generations will live again with the quiet women, sweet-tempered and resolute, the quiet men, hard-working, shrewd, and kindly, as well as the humorous and eccentric figures, who peopled the New England of a generation ago. She opened the door to colonial homes in which breathed the refinement of an earlier New England society; she conveyed the charm of the high breeding of that older society, its love of books, its simplicity and dignity. She had the key also to the farm-houses and the little houses by the sea; and into whatsoever home she went, it was never as an intruder, but always as an affectionate and sympathetic student of the men and women she loved. "A Marsh Island," "The Country of the Pointed Firs," "A Native of Winby, and Other Tales," "The Queen's Twin," and many another tale, long and short, not only constitute her contribution to American literature, but are happy disclosure of her spirit. She was never infected by curiosity concerning morbid things; the passion for psychology which has brought confusion and weariness into art, and distorted and wasted many a talent, never touched her. She went her quiet way, as Jane Austin went hers; and when many a "big, bow-wow" book, to recall Scott's phrase, has been forgotten, her pure English, her fresh and faithful transcriptions from life, and her delightful humor will be remembered.
Other Obituaries and Notices
Toledo Blade - Jul 1, 1909, p. 5
Edited by Terry Heller, with assistance from Linda Heller. Coe College
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