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Columns from the Atlantic Contributor's Club for 1892 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. None of these pieces from 1892 have been positively identified as by Jewett.

     Reader comments are welcome. The most interesting of these will be linked to the appropriate pieces. Send them along with any corrections to the site manager.



A Club for Little Hercules

September 1892: 427-8

-- If the babes must have battles waged over them, they are fortunate in having such a champion as the Contributor who stood up for them in the Club, recently. I rejoice with that Contributor in the belief that a defensive warfare is not necessary. The Philistines are unborn who are strong enough, either in numbers or in individual prowess, to kill the characters in the nursery classic drama. My attack, if I could organize one, would be upon the swarm of figures that infest modern literature for the young; and yet they are such creatures of a day that I am almost willing to let them die the death of ephemera. Now and then one of these figures has a momentary vogue, but the fashion is so clearly a reflection of some temporary sentiment that one can scarcely believe such characters have any permanent hold upon the affections of the young. We have all met Lord Fauntleroy on the street, -- almost enough of him to make a company of infantry; but he is already fading away in real life, thanks to the innate sanity of boyhood, which will not let the youngster contemplate himself and his costume so long as there is a ball for him to fix his eye on, or a mechanical toy for him to pull to pieces. Not so offensive is this offshoot of the peerage as the mincing miss who had carefully framed her conduct upon a pattern which she has drawn from such inspiring literature as Polly Dolittle and Her Friends, or Four Little Girls of Dull Haven. I have shed gentle, pleasant tears over Mrs. Burnett's charming creation, and often have found books with titles similar to the above-mentioned amusing and not unprofitable reading for one interested in studying child life. But then I have drawn this nutriment from them by virtue of my age and experience; if I were an innocent child, they would have done me the harm they do inflict upon actual children. How can the poor dears help growing artificial, if they are nourished on a realistic literature which their bewildered brains mistake for real life, and come to prefer to it? Why should they be asked to study child life? The proper study of mankind may be man, but no Pope, temporal, spiritual or literary, will ever persuade me that the critical analysis of childhood is the proper study for children.

     The best results of fiction for the young are to be found in the enrichment of the imagination, not in the cultivation of the moral faculties; and the genuine nursery literature is so clearly imaginative that no healthy-minded child mistakes such moral lessons as may be drawn from it. For my part, I should rather trust the morals of the young to the most improbable nursery tales than to the lifelike, hateful narratives of real life in which the daughter-in-law is set against her mother-in-law. Is it worse for an impressionable youth to contemplate the ingenuous depravity of the wicked uncle in The Babes in the Wood than to imbibe from the latest, most improved fiction the insidious poison which makes him critical of his own parents' disciplinary methods with him, because they differ from those of an ideally charming mamma in a story-book?

     To draw upon my own recollections, my childhood was haunted by bears. They were not bears out of books, so far as I can remember, but a childish formula, for this Dark Unknown which is apt to frighten every little stranger who comes alone into this great world of ours. Many an hour have I lain awake in an ecstasy of trembling lest the sonorous breathing of the sister asleep at my side should be loud enough to rouse the dire beasts from their lurking places. Yet those hours did not "embitter my infancy," nor do they now in retrospect cause me poignant grief. What does shame me is the remembrance of other hours of that same period when I was trying to adjust my emotions and actions to an agreement with those of the particular heroine out of fiction who happened to be my nearest acquaintance at the time.

     I am aware that there is another side to this subject. There are ignorant nursery-maids capable of embittering any infancy by their manner of introducing hobgoblins to it; but so long as there is mother love in the world, there will be mothers wise and eloquent enough to act as the guides and interpreters of childhood in its excursions into Fairyland, and children who will rejoice to their latest day in the goodly heritage they possess in the realm which is ruled by an aristocracy of Red Riding-Hood and her peers.
 



A Memory

November 1892, 717-719

      -- We drove along the Barony Road, as it is called, -- a long straight avenue between rows of trees, the Via Sacra of the old Laird of Auchinleck. The storms of the past week had broken great branches from the trees on either side, and when we entered the grounds we found still more damage had been done. But to-day there is no breath of wind. The autumn sunshine is everywhere, gilding the fading leaves, making beautiful lights on the harvested fields, laying soft shadows on the distant hills. "The day is made for you," some one says. Through the open gates we notice here and there in the woods a tree blown down; some of them are oaks that were growing when Johnson came. But the woods fall back, there is a wide sweep of lawn, and in another minute we are at the house.

     Auchinleck Place, a large white house, plain in style, handsome in its proportions, dignified rather than grand, stands as it was built some hundred and twenty years ago. The most beautiful thing about it is the situation. From the broad steps we look across the graveled road to the green-sward, glittering this October morning with the early frost; and beyond, the eye passes over pasture lands and woods, till the view is closed in some twenty miles away by the New Cumnock hills.

     In the hall, which we enter from the steps, are several pictures, and over the drawing-room mantelpiece one of Mary, Queen of Scots, signing her abdication in Lochleven Castle. It was painted, we learn from Boswell, by a Mr. Hamilton in Rome, and Johnson, at Boswell's request, composed a Latin inscription for the engraving taken from it.

     Crossing the hall, a doorway leads to the staircase, where, on the wall, hangs a full-length portrait of "the land-louping scoundrel of a Corsican," General Paoli. He is represented as a portly looking gentleman in a green velvet suit and powdered wig.

     Upstairs is the library, -- a long room, with a fireplace at either end. It is lined with bookcases, except for three windows on the farther side, looking to the back of the house. The view in that direction is as beautiful and as extensive as we saw to the front. The trees in the park are finer; this is, if we may so say, the older part of the demesne where the former mansion-house stood. The gardens are over there, and just beyond them, hidden in its deep, rocky channel, flows the Lugar. On the far horizon we can trace a mountain outline: it is Arran. Was it mere chance, or taste which was rare in those days, that led Lord Auchinleck to choose this site for the new house? Was the view among the things "quod petis" he sought and found here, stout old Whig that he was, with his doctrine of contentment?

     The library is the most interesting apartment in the house, but it would take days to explore its treasures, and we have only half an hour. The sober bindings of the volumes in calf and vellum give a scholastic air to the room, strangely at variance with the large billiard-table which takes up so much of the space. It seems a queer setting for the billiard table, does it not, and a queer companionship for the books, -- Ladislaw and Casaubon domiciled together, to their mutual discomfort? It has taken more than one generation to bring this about. The man who filled the bookshelves which still give the chamber its name was not the man who had the table built there. The glazed doors of the bookcases are standing open to-day, and we keep dipping in among the volumes. Those Greek and Roman classics may have been what Johnson handled that rainy morning, the first day of his visit, while he still remembered his biographer's urgent request to avoid Whiggism, Presbyterianism, and -- Sir John Pringle, in conversation with his host. Alas! before the week was out the request was forgotten, the promise gone to the winds.

     "Dr. Johnson and my father came into collision. In the course of their altercation, Whiggism and Presbyterianism, Toryism and Episcopacy, were terribly buffeted. My worthy hereditary friend, Sir John Pringle, never having been mentioned, happily escaped without a bruise." (November 6, 1773.)

     Queen Mary's prayer-book is here, a little red-bound volume of Latin prayers written and illuminated on vellum. An inscription on the fly-leaf tells what is known of its history, and how it was given by Mary's granddaughter, Elizabeth Stuart, to Lord Harrington, when he escorted her to her home in the Palatinate. There is a manuscript of The Gentle Shepherd, and surely some of the very smallest volumes ever bound in calf and gold. They have the tiniest frontispieces and title-pages, and are dated "Amsterdam." One is a Treatise on Short Writing. On another shelf, stowed away among all sorts of odds and ends, we found a little worn volume entitled The New Year's Gift, and on the fly-leaf was written "This book belonged to Samuel Johnson." Over the fireplaces there are family portraits: of the first Boswell of Auchinleck, to whom the property was given, and who fell at Flodden; of his wife; of the Dutch ancestor; of Grizzel Cochrane. Lord Auchinleck's portrait is hung in the dining-room, but the son he thought "clean gyte" is here, painted by Reynolds. An engraving of this picture forms the frontispiece to the fifth volume of Dr. Birbeck Hill's edition of the great biography. It has suffered reverses, this portrait. Within living memory it was turned to the wall, and a fool's cap was displayed on the back of it. Poor James Boswell! his "moments of self-complacency" would have been fewer could he have looked forward a little way. But there he is, at once the most famous and the most jeered at of biographers, the author to whom we owe so much, and for whom we care so little.

     "Quod petis hic est" (to quote again the motto on the front of the mansion) in the library, but we must see the remains of the old house which are still standing. We pass down among the trees, and, entering by a wicket-gate, go along the smooth grassy walks. And in my lady's garden, right in what must have been the banqueting-hall, the flowers are growing, mingling their fleeting delicate graces with the severe outlines of the ancient masonry. Beyond is the bowling-green, and across from it, on a lofty point of rock jutting out above the river, the ruin of the oldest Auchinleck of them all, the castle whose "sullen dignity" so pleased the sage.

     "I cannot figure a more romantic scene!" exclaims Boswell, as he relates how he pointed out its beauties to Dr. Johnson, and "expatiated on the antiquity of my family." Indeed, it is a beautiful and romantic scene. The Lugar, which here is joined by a burn, flows far below, almost hidden by the trees and brushwood. The old keep still commands the situation, but the enemies it feared and the lives it guarded alike are gone. The old order has changed, and given place to new fulfillments of human life.


Notes

     A Club for Little Hercules
 

the Club: The Contributor's Club.
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Lord Fauntleroy: Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924), British Born American novelists published Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1886 and The Secret Garden in 1911.
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Polly Dolittle and Her Friends or Four Little Girls of Dull Haven: These may be fictional book or story titles. No record of them has been found in the Making of America database or WorldCat. Assistance is welcome.
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proper study of mankind ... Pope: Aside from possible puns, the main specific reference here is to Alexander Pope's (1688-1744) "Essay on Man" (1734).
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The Babes in the Woods: Also known as "The Children in the Wood," "Babes in the Wood" is a long British broadside ballad, printed as early as 1595. In the collection Percy's Reliques (c. 1601), the lyrics are attributed to Rob Tarrington.
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Red Riding-Hood: In various versions of this European folk tale, a little girl in a red hood takes treats to her grandmother, but stops in the woods to converse with a wolf.
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     A Memory

Laird of Auchinleck: This sketch tells of a visit to the family estate of James Boswell (1740-1795) the biographer of Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).The Life of Johnson was published in 1791. Johnson toured Scotland and the Hebrides with Boswell in 1773, and Boswell's Journal of a Tour of the Hebrides appeared in 1785. The estate was in Ayrshire near New Comnock, on the river Lugar, south of Glasgow.
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General Paoli: Pasquale Paoli (1725-1807) was a Corsican patriot. Boswell's acquaintance with Jean Jacques Rousseau led to his interest in Corsican independence, his friendship with Paoli and An Account of Corsica (1768).
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Arran: The Island of Arran is in western Scotland, in the Firth of Clyde, west of Glasgow.
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quod petis hic est: This motto is from the Roman, Horace (65-8 B.C.), Epistles (I, 11, 27). "The object of our search is present with us."
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Ladislaw and Casaubon: These are principal characters in George Eliot's (Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880) Middlemarch (1871-2).
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Whiggism, Presbyterianism ... Sir John Pringle ...Toryism ... Episcopacy: This quotation is from Journal of a Tour of the Hebrides. In England, during the 18th Century, Whigs and Tories were opposing political parties, Presbyterians (tending toward Whiggism) and Episcopalian/Church of England (tending toward Toryism) were opposing branches of Protestantism in Scotland and England. Boswell's father was a devoted Presbyterian and Whig, while his son, James, became an Episcopalian Tory. Sir John Pringle (1707-1782) was a British physician, known as the founder of modern military medicine. In "Why a hatred for Sir John Pringle?" Philip Spinks discusses Dr. Johnson's attitude toward Dr. Pringle -- http://www.lichfieldrambler.co.uk/pringle.htm.
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Elizabeth Stuart ... Lord Harrington ... Palatinate: Elizabeth Stuart (1596-1660) was the granddaughter of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the daughter of King James I, the first Stuart king of England (1566-1625). The Earl of Harrington was her protector in her youth, and she lived with his family at Combe Abbey, near Coventry. She married Friedrich V (1596-1632), and lived at Heidelberg (now Germany), the capital of the Palatinate. Elizabeth and Friedrich's life afterwards did not go well, after he unwisely accepted an offer to become King of Bohemia. They became known as the Winter King and the Winter Queen after their Bohemian reign of only a few months.
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The Gentle Shepherd: The Gentle Shepherd (1725) by Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) is one of the best-known plays in Scottish literature. (Source: Encarta Encyclopedia)
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Treatise on Short Writing: Probably this was Short-writing the most easie, exact, lineal, and speedy method that hath ever been obtained, or taught (1674) by Theophilus Metcalfe.
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The New Year's Gift: This was a fairly common title for books of meditation in the 17th and 18th centuries. The one that had belonged to Johnson could have been, for example, A New-year's gift. Meditations miscellaneous, holy and humane. Joseph Henshaw; Richard Kidder; John Tillotson; Isaac Barrow (1703).
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Flodden: In the battle of Flodden in Northumberland in 1513, British forces representing Henry VIII defeated Scottish forces, killing James IV of Scotland. The Boswell ancestor who died at Flodden was Thomas, who had served at James's court and had been rewarded with being made Lord of Auchinleck.
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Grizzel Cochrane: "Grizel Cochrane: A Tale of Tweedmouth Moor." The story of this Scots heroine, a loyal daughter who visits her surrounded and doomed father on the battlefield, is told in Wilson's historical, traditionary and imaginative tales of the borders and of Scotland by John Mackay Wilson (1848) See: http://www.electricscotland.com/bordertales/vol1story7.htm
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clean gyte ... painted by Reynolds: Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), British portrait painter. In Scots, to go "clean gyte" is to become hopelessly extravagant. "Significant Scots: James Boswell," at http://www.electricscotland.com/history/other/boswell_james.htm, says of Boswell's father: "But it was chiefly with the unsettled and undignified conduct of his son, that the old gentleman found fault. 'There's nae hope for Jamie, man,' he said to a friend about the time of the journey to the Hebrides; 'Jamie's gane clean gyte: What do ye think, man? he's aff wi' the land-louping scoundrel of a Corsican; and whase tail do ye think he has pinned himself to now, man?'" The man to whom Boswell had currently pinned himself was, of course, Samuel Johnson, the opposite in politics and religion of Lord Auchinleck.
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Dr. Birbeck Hill's edition of the great biography: George Birbeck Norman Hill (1835-1903) produced the edition of Boswell's life of Johnson: together with Boswell's journal of a tour of the Hebrides and Johnson's diary of a journal into North Wales in 1887.
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