Betty Leicester Stories
Reviews of Betty Leicester (1889)
& Betty Leicester's English Christmas (1899)
"BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE." The Literary World 20 (Dec. 7, 1889) p. 460.
This sweet and wholesome little book has little plot to it. It simply gives the every-day life of a dear every-day child, sent to spend the summer in a New England neighborhood, and the freshening and pleasure which her breezy and helpful nature bring[s] to a great many people. Nothing happens in the course of the narrative more exciting than the escape from jail and death of a somewhat dimly outlined criminal father to some children in the village; but the whole is sunny and delightful, and full of characteristic hints and hits at character in Miss Jewett's happiest vein, from Betty herself to the delightful old lame woman, whose chief joy is braiding rugs out of rags, and who opines that the royal family of England "have to think of their example;" and adds:
"I wonder 'f 'mongst all they've learned to do, anybody ever showed 'em how to braid or hook 'em a nice mat? I s'pose not, but with all their hired help, an' all their rags that must come of a year's wear, 'twould be a shame for them to buy!" --------- Houghton, Mifflin & Co. $1.25
"Book Reviews." Overland monthly and Out West Magazine 15: 85 (Jan 1890), pp. 110-112.
Betty Leicester is by Sarah Orne Jewett, and that is equivalent to saying that it is in almost every respect as good of its kind as possible. It is a story of a young girl's summer, -- a story without a plot, merely of the people she met, and the things she saw, and the influence of her frank, sunny nature. It is stretched out and pieced up from a shorter story published in St. Nicholas, and it shows it, -- which is a pity, it might have been so nearly perfect. It would have been better if shorter, for it has not the substance for as much of a book as it has been made into.
Cottage Hearth 16 (January 1890), 23.
Miss Jewett has been known hitherto chiefly as a writer of books— quite unsurpassed in their atmosphere of sweet, pure, New England country life—for the general reader. She now takes her place in the ranks of those women whose works are calculated to elevate and inspire the young; not little children, but young girls who need a true woman's influence and counsel as they step forward to take their places in the busy world. "Betty Leicester" is a girl of fifteen, which she thinks "such a funny age—you seem to perch there, between being a little girl and a young lady, and first you think you are one and then you think you are the other." The story of her simple, natural, sunny life, bringing "a bit of color" into the gray lives of the country people where she spends the summer, is an exquisite bit of helpful writing, worthy of a place beside Little Women and Faith Gartney. The world seems to us, after we have read this little book, a brighter and better place to live in.
The American Hebrew 42 (2 April, 1890), 199.
If it be considered how important are the years from thirteen to sixteen in forming the reading habits of girls, it cannot be thought less than criminal on the part of parents, when they allow their daughters of this age to enter upon a course of reading consisting mainly of unmitigated trash. It is impossible to estimate how much of intellectual degradation is to be traced to this practice of permitting girls at this period of their lives to devote their entire leisure for reading, to such stuff as the silly novels of Mary J. Holmes, Mary Agnes Fleming, Bertha Clay, Mrs. Southworth, and the rest of the crew. True, it is not easy to write a work of fiction as is suitable for the age indicated. Miss Jewett's first attempt at this class of literature is perfectly successful in meeting the requirements of the case. There is a good story and it is cleverly written. In fact, the interest is continually sustained, and as was to be suspected of a writer of her culture and experience, the literary quality is of that order which ought to be one [of] the first essentials in books of the character we are now considering. It is indeed an excellent study of character, and an exquisite picture of New England life.
Ah, but there is a moral to the book! Well, and what of it? It is any the less a work of art, for that? Is not this exquisite description of the manner in which a bright girl coming from a long course of foreign travel to the somewhat depressed and depressing social conditions of village life, touches it up, insensibly to herself and to those whom she influences, with a [an] radiant gracefulness and graciousness,-- is not this the real element of art in the book? Is not this better than Mrs. Southworth's everlasting children changed at birth, or Mary Holmes' seamstress with the smile of a duchess, who is treated with scorn by her young mistress because she is afraid her "grand" brother will fall in love with the lovely sewing girl? It is disgraceful to compare Miss Jewett's delicate workmanship with this rubbish. But, how else will negligent parents be urged to pay some attention to this matter of the books read by their daughters? Just let such take up any volume by one of these scribblers we have mentioned above, and then read this "Betty Leicester" by Miss Jewett. They will then realize how great is their responsibility in relation to the subject, and how needful it is for them to exercise some oversight in regard to the reading of their children.
Reviews of Betty Leicester's Christmas (1899)
The New England Magazine New Series 21: 4, (Dec 1899) 387.
Betty Leicester does not appear for the first time when we meet her at the Christmas festivities at an English house party; for Miss Jewett has already let her live, as she says, “in a small, square book, bound in scarlet and white,” but she remains the same helpful and dear child everybody loves to know.
From "About Girls and For Them." The Dial 28 (December 1899), p. 235.
Of books more distinctly for girls, none could be more delightful reading than Miss Sarah Orne Jewett's "Betty Leicester's Christmas" (Houghton). It is an international work, telling how a simple-hearted little American girl made one of the stately homes of England the merrier for her presence.
Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College
Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project
Betty Leicester Stories