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Columns from the Atlantic Contributor's Club 1878 - 1879 that may be by Sarah Orne Jewett
 

A Game of Authorship

Richard Cary in "Some Bibliographic Ghosts of Sarah Orne Jewett" (Colby Quarterly 8, September 1968, pp. 139-145) says that Jewett appeared rather frequently in "The Contributors' Club." He lists 11 columns from 1878 to 1884 that he is convinced for various reasons are by Jewett. He suggests that several more may have appeared in 1892-3. He does not list Jewett's piece on the funeral of Phillips Brooks, because it was previously listed in Weber and Weber, A Bibliography of the Published Writings of Sarah Orne Jewett (1949). I have looked through these years and have selected a few more that seem at least likely to be by Jewett. However, to my knowledge, we have solid verification of authorship for only a very few pieces.

     This part of the Jewett Text Project, therefore, offers us a kind of game. What internal and external evidence can be gathered to establish that Jewett was or was not the author of any of these pieces? Cary's opinions and some other possibly relevant facts appear in the notes.

     Reader comments are welcome. Those I receive will be linked to the appropriate pieces. Send them communications to the site manager.
 


A Cure for Vampire Women   April 1878, pp. 545-6

- Here is a fact which might be worked by a skillful hand into a new psychological study. I give it to anybody who has a mind to write a melodrama with Soul and Body as leading parts; only let them remember what Hawthorne would have made of it, or even George Sand, in her own way. A certain American physician, a specialist in nerve diseases, has lately discovered a cure for Vampire Women, as Doctor Holmes somewhere calls them; women, that is, in whom all healthy bodily functions have given way, and only the nerves are left, to torture the souls of their owner and, what is much more important, the souls of her unfortunate family. You will find one of these gentle, selfish victims preying upon the life of many a poor New England household. She drains its vitality and its purse in true vampire fashion; her only tie to the world is through neuralgia, anæmia, or other intangible ailment; her almost freed soul is apt to revel in spiritualism, devout mysticism, or some other trade or profession belonging to the dim border land between us and the world beyond.

     To one doctor comes one of these emancipated souls, caged but in the frailest possible cobweb of the flesh. Her religious raptures were full and ecstatic; her spiritual insight abnormal; her stomach, liver, and all the rest of the viscera had given up working long ago, and lay torpid; she did not sleep; she did not drink; she did not eat even the olive per day which Zeno allowed; talk of Hayes' election, or the Russian war, or even of pottery passed her insensate ear as far winds on the hill-tops; she had dropped and forgotten all her old affections as she had the dolls of her childhood. In short, she was as far out of this world as Mickey Free's father was from purgatory when he cleared the door, barring one foot and shoe. She shook her plumes hourly, on tiptoe for Paradise.

     The doctor puts her raptures, plumes, visions, and all to bed. Her body, which she had a shock of surprise; she is not permitted to move a muscle. Then he proceeds to feed it, to knead it, to batter it, to vivify it with electricity. Imagine this winged soul, veritable offspring of Margaret Fuller and radical clubs, pausing in its upward flight to linger curiously among its bars of muscles and nerves to see what this common-sensed body-cobbler will do to its old companion. Presently, he begins to stuff it with five solid meals per day, precisely as pigs are fattened in Pennsylvania, or geese at Strasburg. Think of the shudders, the horror of this soul as it is forced back into the body, - made to sleep, to take a pleasure in growing fat, to eat terrapin, and smack its intangible lips! But I leave the playwright to explain the terrors of the courtship by which the soul was remarried to its carnal flesh. The curious facts are that when the woman rose from the bed, fat and rosy, the saint and poet had vanished; she was a housekeeper, a zealous cook; she took an eager part in village politics; and finally, she is the mother of a stout boy, and, you may be sure, is wedded to this world and the things thereof as long as he is in it.
 


Materials for American FictionAugust 1878, 248-9

      - I went on a journey the other day through the back regions of one of the older States, to a little village which is yet untouched by any railroad line. It is a drowsy, gossiping market town, precisely like thousands of others in the country. Besides its county jail, its Catholic chapel, and two meeting-houses, these are some of the things which I found there: -

     The carpenter, an old Scotchman who had followed his trade at sea for forty years, off every coast, and had ended with Kane.

     The priest, and Alsatian Jesuit, under some cloud for which he had been exiled to this barren shore. No need to fish here for souls or for preferment; the man composedly gave himself up to studying spiders.

     The minister, who had been, twenty years ago, a lawyer of acumen and force in New Orleans. There was a divorce, a duel; the husband, who killed his man, went into the church, took this charge, and worked in his old age for his Master with a fervid, hopeless zeal, strangely pathetic and effective.

     There was a great man visiting the village while I was there, - Sharp (worth uncounted millions), of New York. We all looked at his gold-plated harness with bated breath. Sharp had been a farm boy, with an itching palm, in the neighborhood, thirty years ago. He was back now to look after his uncle, old Sam. Sam had starved himself until he was sixty to save his few thousands; now a materialized spirit and her family had quartered themselves on him, and the money was going fast.

     The postmistress was a wizened old creature, in a knit woolen jacket, and patched shoes that clattered as she dealt out the pounds of brown sugar, or yards of yellow calico, or the few grimy letters. Now and then the pure intonation of the cracked voice startled a stranger, or a brilliant gleam from the gray eyes under the spectacles. This woman had been a power in Washington when women of culture and power were few. Old Aaron Burr had bowed to her budding beauty. The men who were giants in those days gathered about her father's table. "She had a shrewd wit, and that memory for details and magnetic presence which go to make up the great politician," said the greatest politician of his day of her. But for a slight chance she thinks her husband would have been minister to France. But the chance, death, was not to be set aside, and she came to this village post-office instead of Versailles. She thinks this, but does not say it. You shall not hear from her the story of her life.

     On my way from the lonely little hamlet to a city where you might reasonably look for different people, I happened to read a late number of one of the heaviest British reviews, and found its final sentence upon the impossibility of that Bore of Expectation, the American novel. It declared that, owing to the rapid fusion of classes in the United States, characters for representation, if people of any culture, must all be found upon a dead social level, and offer therefore no dramatic possibilities to the novelist; whereas in English novels, from the graded ranks, there is an endless supply of incident and passion in the friction of society, in the ambition of individuals to pass its intangible barriers, in misalliances, etc.

     It seemed to me our novelists were not sufficiently grateful for this very fusion. They have a chance to test their subjects in every change of circumstance, and so strip character of circumstance. The artist in human nature may miss the social scaffolding for his novels which has served its turn so long in England (and the American substitute, if he tries it, will prove very shifty); but he will find in this country not only divers figures, but certain new and unique lights thrown upon each figure which are not possible in older civilizations.
 


Th. Bentzon   December 1878, p. 774

      - Th. Bentzon, who is known on this side of the water by her admirable translations from American authors, is known in France as a novelist of unusual originality and power. Indeed, in such pictures of provincial French life as La Petite Perle, La Grande Sauliere, and Désirée Turpin she comes nearer to what is best in George Sand than any contemporary French author. Th. Bentzon has been for several years an industrious contributor to the Revue des Deux Mondes, though the editor of the journal was unaware until quite recently that his valued correspondent was a woman. Madame Thérèse Blanc - there can be no impropriety in dropping a nom de plume which her talent has rendered useless as a disguise - belongs to an old French family, and is a highly accomplished woman. A portion of her girlhood was passed in England, to which fact we are indebted for the careful and scholarly translations of American works which have appeared from time to time during the last six or seven years in the Revue. She has a wide familiarity with every branch of American literature, and, curiously enough in one naturally a legitimist, she takes the deepest interest in the history of the socialistic movements in this country. The masterly paper on Nordhoff's Communistic Societies of the United States, which appeared some time since in the Revue des Deux Mondes, was from the hand of Madame Blanc. But it was of her as a novelist that I wished to say a word. I notice that some one has had the good taste to translate one of Madame Blanc's charming stories for Appleton's library of foreign authors, and has been fortunate enough, or wise enough, to select her best. The plot of Un Remords, the novel in question, is singularly fresh and ingenious; there are two or three powerful and new situations in the story, and the characters throughout are drawn with delicacy and firmness. Pierre Liéve, Manuela, M. Walrey, and his mother are notably fine characterizations. I have not seen the translation of Un Remords, but unless it does injustice to the original the reader will look eagerly for other novels of Madame Blanc in the same form.
 


Domestic Touches in Fiction -- March 1879, pp. 396-7
 

     - What one of your contributors in the October installment of the Club talk says about the incident of the cream, in That Husband of Mine, suggests to me the thought that domestic touches in books are upon the whole the most beautiful as well as most popular part of the work, or at least the part that most conduces to the survival of the work. However, it requires a skillful hand to touch the subject of every-day life rightly, and to rescue it from the commonplace, while still leaving it natural. In short, in literary as well as in artistic portrait painting, we need a master-hand. The flood of Sunday-school and "goody" literature, which stands on the level of the common, wooden, staring style of cheap portraiture, is an example of what may become of the tenderest home idyl in "professional" hands. I can remember but a few touches in prominent works of art which illustrate my meaning, but they will serve the purpose well, as almost all occur in novels confessedly of the highest kind. Who can forget those in Middlemarch: the naïve reproach implied in Celia's exclamation that Dorothea actually did not care to see the baby washed, and that the ceremony did not have any comforting or sedative power over her; and the mild self-denial of the little old maid who secreted her lumps of sugar at tea for her protégés, the street children? In Mrs. Stowe's Minister's Wooing, the fussiness and kindliness of the little dressmaker, Miss Prissy, is delicately and truly portrayed; and one sympathizes with her in her solicitude about the minister's frilled shirts, and her desire to make him one in the rare leisure moments she possesses, all the more because her awe of the "blessed" man as a minister is so overwhelming. Again, when the lover has come home, Virginie, the French friend of Mary Scudder, has a really womanly inspiration, and upsets and breaks a water-pitcher in the room above that where the mother is standing guard over Jim and Mary, knowing that no "housekeeper's instincts are proof against the crash of breaking china." In Mrs. Oliphant's Salem Chapel there is the minute and nervous care of Susan's mother about the lamp, and her pathetic anxiety to keep her daughter's disappearance a secret from the servant by a forlorn attempt to speak naturally to her son, who, man-like, is impatient and open, and gives the poor soul neither comfort nor support, though his grief is really deeper and his sense of injury sterner than hers. In a novel of Anthony Trollope's, - I forget which, - there is related an incident in the former life of a successful judge, living comfortably and luxuriously in one of the ample, respectable, old-fashioned squares in the east of London, whose former pinched circumstances were a contrast to this phase. In the old days of shabby lodgings and uncertain practice, his wife always contrived to skim off the daily pint of milk a tablespoonful of cream for his morning cup, triumphantly reserving the skim milk for her own; and no one, perhaps, who has not lived on a similar level can realize her intense enjoyment of this trivial arrangement. There is a scene in Trollope's Last Chronicles of Barsetshire which also appeals to the heart of every woman, and indeed to that of any home-loving person, - the smuggling-in of a basket of eatables into the kitchen of the poor and starving but scholarly clergyman, whose wife is almost hysterical with her efforts to divert his attention, and at the same time thank her benefactress, while the children peep round the doors in their nightclothes, wondering if the "lady had any sugar-plums in her muff." I have not given this verbatim, but such is the spirit. Mrs. Whitney has some similar touches in her works, but the "whole thing" is too domestic in her novels for any figure to stand out as one remembers certain figures doing in some of the Dutch genre paintings. In the few French books I have read, domesticity rather poses, or strikes an attitude, and so wholly loses its value as an element in literature, though in the unique work of Eugénie de Guérin's journal the very reverse is true, and one finds one's self subdued by the mingled charm and dignity of the conduct so unconsciously pictured in all its details. Her reading Plutarch by the kitchen fire, on a day when the servants have gone to a local parish fête, and she is watching the roasting of a joint, is an inimitable scene, and no amount of versified poetry draws the reader so near to her very self. And I think much the same is true of authors, and others whose biographies we have in this century multiplied almost beyond reason, but whom we certainly appreciate better in the light of their real lives than in that of their works. The fact that every human life is more wonderful than any imagined story becomes also a reason or an excuse for the minor portraits of comparatively obscure men, - a class of works with which we have lately become familiar. Unless intolerably ill written, such monographs have the interest of home life, and show us one more phase of human existence in its secret workings. It is of interest to know how average men live, as well as to scan the thoughts of exceptional men; indeed, one need scarcely apologize for the curiosity, but what is to be regretted is that biographers are unluckily apt to pass a plane of conventionality over every individuality, not likely to exalt their subject in the eyes of the public, often sacrificing truth, and always disappointing the reader.



Notes

A Cure for Vampire Women: Cary does not attribute this piece to Jewett, but the attitudes expressed toward self-indulgent women are familiar in Jewett's writing.
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Hawthorne would have made of it, or even George Sand ... A certain American physician ... Doctor Holmes: Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), notable for portraits of strong women in several of his novels, such as The Scarlet Letter (1850) and The Blithedale Romance (1852). George Sand (Amandine-Aurore Lucille Dupin, Baronne Dudevant, 1804-1876) was a productive French novelist, remembered also for her love affairs with the painter Alfred de Musset and the pianist-composer, Frederic Chopin (1810-1849). Dr. Holmes is Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), a poet and author of The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858). Trained as a physician, he was the father of the Supreme Court Justice, Oliver W. Holmes, Jr. The unnamed American physician is likely to be Silas Weir Mitchell, M.D. (1829-1914); perhaps best remembered for his "rest cure" for hysteria, he was also a novelist. See especially Wear and Tear: Hints for the Overworked (1871). Mitchell's first paper on treating mental exhaustion in the Civil War appeared in Atlantic Monthly in 1866.
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neuralgia, anæmia, or other intangible ailment: Neuralgia is nerve pain, usually acute. Anemia - weakness due to low iron in the blood - was another common illness among child-bearing women.
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spiritualism: A religious movement that developed around "spirit-rappings" -- sounds made by the dead who wished to communicate with the living -- and seances after the middle of the 19th Century in the United States. Jewett's friend, Celia Thaxter was intensely interested in Spiritualism in 1882-83, under the influence of the medium, Rose Darrah. Paula Blanchard (Sarah Orne Jewett) reports that Jewett and Fields also showed some interest, but were more skeptical (181-2).
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Zeno: It seems probable the reference is to Zeno of Citium (333-261 B.C.), the founder of Stoicism. Diogenes Laertius in Lives of the Eminent Philosophers (Hicks translation, Harvard UP, 1958, p. 139) reports that Zeno had a reputation for temperance -- "more temperate than Zeno" being a common comparison. The biographer quotes from a play, Philosophers, attributed to Philemon: "One sole loaf of bread his food; / His best dessert dried figs; water his drink." No reference has been found to his allowing himself only one olive per day. Help is welcome.
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talk of Hayes' election, or the Russian war, or even of pottery: Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893) became president of the United States in the disputed election of 1876, when no candidate received a clear majority of the votes in the Electoral College. A long series of Russo-Turkish wars began in 1676. In the 19th Century, these wars took place in 1806-12, 1828-29, 1853-56 (part of the Crimean War), and     [ Back ]

as far out of this world as Mickey Free's father was from purgatory when he cleared the door, barring one foot and shoe: Mickey Free is a name for a stereotypical Irish character. This story has not been located. Assistance is welcome.
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offspring of Margaret Fuller and radical clubs: Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) was an American journalist and essayist. It is likely that the author refers to Fuller's major feminist essay, Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845). The radical clubs are likely to be woman suffrage organizations.
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geese at Strasburg: In E. Cobham Brewer's (1810-1897) Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898), a Strasburg Goose is "A goose fattened, crammed, and confined in order to enlarge its liver. Metaphorically, one crammed with instruction and kept from healthy exercise in order to pass examinations."
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Materials for American Fiction: Cary attributes this piece to Jewett. See headnote.
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Kane: Probably this refers to Elisha Kent Kane (1820-57), American explorer, physician, and scientist, author of Arctic Explorations: The Second Grinnel Expedition. (1856). The carpenter's last voyage apparently was with Kane in 1853.
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Aaron Burr: Third vice president of the United States (1801-05), who killed his political rival, Alexander Hamilton, in a duel (1804) and whose turbulent political career ended with his arrest for treason in 1807. (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)
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Versailles: "Capital city of Yvelines département, Paris region, northern France, 14 mi (22 km) southwest of Paris. The city developed around the 17th-century palace built by Louis XIV, the principal residence of the kings of France and the seat of the government for more than 100 years." (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)
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heaviest British reviews, and found its final sentence upon the impossibility of that Bore of Expectation, the American novel: This article has not been located. Assistance is welcome.
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Th. Bentzon: Cary does not attribute this piece of Jewett. See next note.
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Th. Bentzon: Mme. Thérèse Blanc (1840-1907) wrote under the name of Th. Bentzon. Madame Bentzon was a novelist, translator, and writer of literary essays. She wrote more than 30 novels, among the better known: Le Roman d'un Muet (1868); Un Divorce (1872); La Grande Sauliere (1877); Un Remords (1878); Yette and Georgette (1880); Le Retour (1882); Tete folle (1883); Tony, (1884); Emancipee (1887); Constance (1891); Jacqueline (1893). She also wrote criticism, including Nouveaux Romanciers Americains (1885). According to Richard Cary, she made a specialty of translating American authors into French, including Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and Jewett. (Cary, Sarah Orne Jewett Letters 111). Mme. Blanc and Jewett sustained a trans-Atlantic friendship, visiting each other, corresponding, and translating each other's works. However, their personal acquaintance did not begin until after Blanc's positive review of A Country Doctor in 1884 (See Blanchard, Sarah Orne Jewett, pp. 261-2).
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La Petite Perle, La Grande Sauliere, and Désirée Turpin: See above for La Grande Sauliere. La Petite Perle and Désirée Turpin appeared together in 1878.
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George Sand: George Sand (Amandine-Aurore Lucille Dupin, Baronne Dudevant, 1804-1876) was a productive French novelist, remembered also for her love affairs with the painter Alfred de Musset and the pianist-composer, Frederic Chopin (1810-1849).
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nom de plume: French. Pen name.
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paper on Nordhoff's Communistic Societies of the United States, which appeared some time since in the Revue des Deux Mondes: Charles Nordhoff (1830-1901) published a monograph in 1874 - The Communistic Societies of the United States from Personal Visit and Observation: Including Detailed Accounts of the Economists, Zoarites, Shakers, the Amana, Oneida, Bethel, Aurora, Icarian and Other Existing Societies : Their Religious Creeds, Social Practices, Numbers, Industries, and Present Condition. Bentzon's review of this book in Revue des Deux Mondes has not been located. Assistance is welcome.
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Appleton's library of foreign authors: A Bentzon story appears translated in one of these, but this has not been located. Assistance is welcome.
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Un Remords: Bentzon's novel appeared in 1878.
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Domestic Touches in Fiction: Cary attributes this piece to Jewett. See headnote.
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That Husband of Mine: Mary Andrew Denison (1826-1911), That Husband of Mine (1877), a novel.
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Middlemarch: George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880) wrote the novel Middlemarch (1871-2).
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Mrs. Stowe's Minister's Wooing: Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Minister's Wooing (1859).
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Mrs. Oliphant's Salem Chapel: Margaret Oliphant (1828-1897), Salem Chapel (1863).
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a novel of Anthony Trollope's: Anthony Trollope (1815-1882). Which novel this refers to has not been discovered. Assistance is welcome.
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Trollope's Last Chronicles of Barsetshire: Trollope's series of Barsetshire novels began with Barchester Towers (1857) and ended with The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867).
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Mrs Whitney: Which Mrs. Whitney is referred to here is as yet uncertain. Leading candidates include the poet, Mrs. Adeline Dutton Train Whitney (1824-1906), Mrs. E. C. Whitney (other information unknown), and Mrs. Luna M. Hammond Whitney (other information unknown). All were contemporary novelists.
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Eugénie de Guérin's journal: Eugénie de Guérin (1804-1858) lived a solitary, retiring life in a château near Albi in south central France, near the Spanish border. The Journal of Eugénie de Guérin first appeared in French posthumously, in 1855. There was an English translation available by 1865 and other editions followed. The 1855 French publication also included writings grouped under the title Reliquiae that are notable for their spiritual, melancholy quality. During the years 1832-34, she kept her Journal intime for her absent brother, Maurice, the famous poet who later died tragically young of tuberculosis while under her care. (Research assistance: Carla Zecher)
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Plutarch: Plutarch (c. 50 - 125 C.E.) was a popular Greek biographer and moralist.
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