Main Contents & Search
Columns from the Atlantic Contributor's Club for 1893
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. The most interesting of these will be linked to the appropriate pieces. Send them along with any corrections to the site manager.
A Painter's Snug Corner
March 1893, pp. 423-24
If there is any one who needs to be convinced that picturesqueness and dirt have no necessary and inherent connection, he should make a pilgrimage to little seaside Newlyn, whose fame is now fast being spread abroad by the colony of clever artists who have adopted it as their home. At Newlyn, one may fairly sate one's eyes on uninterrupted and undiluted picturesqueness, and at the same time learn to know how dear cleanliness may be to the makers of the picturesque, if they have had the good fortune to be born on Cornish soil, and reared in the good old traditions of the remote Cornish peninsula. For Newlyn is not a score of miles distant from the Land's End itself. Its granite bluffs are washed by the sounding tides of the English Channel. As yet it is happily innocent of a railway station. Penzance, its near neighbor on Mount's Bay, has the railway and the hotels, and the other ugly adjuncts of a watering-place, leaving Newlyn to the undisturbed possession of its fisher folk and its artists.
How intimately and unitedly its fisher folk and its artists have learned to live is the first surprise that Newlyn has for the sentimental traveler. Here is a mite of a cottage, clinging close to the ground, as the Cornish cottage loves to cling. Under its beetling roof of thatch, it looks almost too tiny to harbor the broad-chested, yellow-bearded fisherman whose home it is. Your eyes wander from one to another of its quaint details, and lo, in the midst of the weather-beaten thatch there is a large glass skylight. It is in these primitive quarters that an artist has found a nook for his studio. Only a few yards higher up the stony zigzag that makes a Newlyn thoroughfare, you come upon a minute gray dwelling, built of incongruously huge blocks of stone. A grapevine drapes the low front, which stands at a defiant angle to the fronts of all its neighbors. You peer around its side, and another glass light proclaims the workroom of another of the picture-making brotherhood.
No matter how steep the assent is, the little flower-filled gardens, the trimly kept interiors seen in glimpses through the low doorways, the apple-cheeked children at the thresholds, the constant succession of subjects for a sketchbook, still tempt you upward. At the corner of a second precipitous zigzag, a board bearing the words "Rue des Beaux Arts" reminds you afresh that it is a metropolis of art, and not a mere fishing-village, you are straying through. Presently the sight of an open meadow, overgrown with tall ripe grasses, lures you through a stone gateway, and you find yourself in a veritable artists' paradise. The meadow, which slopes no less steeply than the village, is dotted at irregular intervals with studios, each adorned at its threshold with the bloom of midsummer flowers. The most complete of these field-built haunts of art belongs to Mr. Stanhope Forbes, well known on the walls of London exhibitions, and facile princeps among the Newlynites. A small cottage, built of the beautiful blocks of granite that are one of nature's gifts to Cornwall, adjoins the glass-covered studio. It has a low lattice over the doorway, and upon the lattice clambers a vine whose huge leaves flaunt themselves with an almost conscious perfection of ornamentation. Sunflowers, sweet peas, and marigolds fill the foreground of this idyl within an idyl.
If by chance, or the friendly guidance of a native, you find your way into one of the studios hidden among the houses in the heart of the village, and, after climbing up the ladder-like staircase that is its sole approach, you are fortunate enough to have a chat with the artist who has discovered its possibilities, he will tell you several things about the art of the Newlynites. In the first place, he will disclaim the idea that they are Impressionists. The Impressionists, he will tell you, paint with their eyes shut. The school of Newlyn, on the contrary, endeavors to keep its eyes very wide open. Its chief end and aim is to paint things as they actually look. "No, we are not Impressionists; we are Realists," your artist will reiterate, thrusting his hands into the pockets of his white flannel trousers, and glancing alternately at you and the picture in progress on his easel. The model for the picture, a gray-haired tar, will in the mean time have retired as far as the limits of the low four-windowed room will permit. But after looking at him, and at his counterfeit presentment on the easel, it is quite certain that you will not wish to leave Newlyn without some speech with his brethren of the dark blue jersey jacket.
There they stand in a line, leaning over the iron rail on the stone embankment, and looking with sagacious eyes over the glancing blue surface before them. Sundown is the time when they go out in their red-sailed "trollers" and "drifters," to come back in the early dawn with the night's haul of fishes. Until then they are ready for a friendly chat with a stranger. Their own discourse will be of the things the stranger loves to hear about: of the finding of pilchards in the dark, twenty feet below the surface of the water; of the mackerel that are caught at the top; and of the soles and plaice that must be trolled for many fathoms deep. A fine scorn will creep into the old salt's manner when he tells you of the difference between the ice-packed fish that finds its way to London and the freshly caught mess that graces his own board. Then, turning adroitly from the discussion of his craft to the beauties of his coast, he will look across the shimmering bay to St. Michael's Mount in the distance, and tell you, in his rich Cornish dialect, that it is a fine view.
So, too, the artists seem to think, to judge by their manner of gathering on the beach at sunset, when the western front of the castle on the summit of St. Michael's Mount gleams like marble above its rocky foundations, and sedulously transferring to canvas as much of the beauty before them as their skill can compass. If the Newlynites do not become a famous school of colorists, it will not be because nature has not unfolded before them a combination of color as rich and rare as even southern lands can boast. The sea that washes the time-stained granite cliffs is unrivaled in the depths of its blue, and in the clearness of its emerald hues in shallow pools and inlets. There is the high square gray tower of the Penzance parish church to give character to the shallow white curve that the town makes around the bay, and there is the inimitable beauty of the famous Mount "that guards the western coast." With a love of the picturesque that binds them to a primitive fishing-village, it will not be strange if the artist colony give to Newlyn and its surroundings the fame that another group of artists have given to Barbizon and Fontainebleau.
At the Funeral of Phillips Brooks (Jewett is known to have written this piece).
April 1893: 566-7
-- The day was a winter day with a spring sky, when sudden glooms darkened the great church, and were followed by instant sunlight that made the windows glow, and shone again from the faces that were turned upward. Upon all the black hangings were great triumphal wreaths of laurel; the people sat waiting as if to welcome a victor. If old men sobbed as they sat in their places, it was as if they were weighted down with a remembrance of those sorrows through which they had passed, and of the great flight of life in which he who had died had led them to victory, and healed them of their hurts by his own courage and sight of the peace to come.
That simple way of meeting a great moment, which is the finest flower of our New England behavior, was shown now as perhaps it had never been shown before. The city laid aside its work and hushed its noise. From narrow courts and high houses the people came out, and gathered at the place of mourning; they made a mighty mourning crowd about the church. The sense of a solemn rite pervaded every mind, as if an old inheritance of ancient days had waked again, and the compelling mysteries of a great triumphal scene were joined to the Christian service. The grave pageantry of white gowns and black, the altar heaped with flowers, the scarlet trophy that hung upon the empty pulpit of the great leader and inspirer of men, the weeping crowd, - all lifted themselves into emblems and mysteries of symbolic shape high toward the spiritual, high above the material plane. The scene grew into that unreality which is the true reality, the life of the world to come.
Expectancy spent itself, and tears ceased to fall; there came a moment that was full of the glory of remembrance, when each heart counted its treasures and renewed its vows. The sunlight came and went. There was a noise at the door, and sorrow fell again upon the place. The people rose to greet the work of death that was coming in. Then the heavy burden, borne shoulder-high on a purple pall, the sacrifice to mortality, the empty armor of God's warrior, was carried, with pride and tears, up the long aisle. The bearers, young in face, who felt their future uncompanioned; the old in face, who followed, whose past was now bereft; every heart that cried to itself, My friend! my friend! knew again in spirit the voice of him who had spoken words of hope so often in that place, and sorrowed most of all that they should see his face no more.
When the last hymn was sung, a great hymn of praise and courage, it began with a noble outburst, and the light came again to many a tear-dimmed eye. Then the burden was lifted, and with slow steps the young bearers went their way. The leave-taking was too much: the voices that tried to sing were stopped; they faltered one by one with grief, as when the sudden frost of autumn makes shrill the brave notes of summer twilight one by one to cease. A mighty chill of silence crept about; and when the eye could look once more at that which made such sorrow, the burden, with its purple and its lilies, had forever passed.
Appreciation Though Enjoyment
July 1893: 141-143
-- I remember well a certain day, Šons ago, when my own shelf in the old bookcase -- the lowest shelf it was -- seemed to have no books on it worth reading. The fairy tales were too tiresomely true; more wonderful things came near happening every day in the garden and garret. As for ancient, English, and American history, it was all false; one of the grown people had said at dinner that nobody believed history nowadays. Harpers' story-books, after you knew them by heart, furnished very little meat for the intellect or fancy. There must be some other things in the world to read. Yet the upper shelves looked deadly uninteresting; almost all the bindings were black or dingy brown, with little gilt about them, and the few books I had peeped into were appallingly polysyllabic, -- solid pages of print quite destitute of the enlivening quotation mark.
But at eight years one has infinite faith in the possibilities of the world ahead; the world behind and about one has proved so inexhaustibly satisfying. I sidled up to one of the grown people, and, in a whining voice, as I plainly recall, asked for "something to read." Now that grown person did not point to the lowest shelf, saying, "There are your own stories; why don't you read them?" Not at all. She took in the situation at once. She rose, went to the high bookcase, and, exactly as if she had foreseen the present emergency, laid her hand upon and drew forth from an upper shelf, quite beyond my reach save from a chair, a book, -- one of two bound alike in dull lilac, with fine gilt arabesques on the back, and a lovely gilt medallion on each cover. "Here is a picture-book for you," said that inspired grown person, as she thrust into my hand the volume opened at a certain place near the beginning. Then she returned to her work.
I had not time to exclaim, "But I don't see any pictures!" for already was my eye caught and held.
"With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all;
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable wall."
Not see any pictures? What pictures had I ever seen before one half so rich and alluring? Pictures set to music, too; such slow-moving, melancholy music! I did not know what it was all about, nor did I ask. I cared not to know. Mariana was in the moated grange, -- "the lonely moated grange." Fascinating phrase! She waited there and wept. Somebody would not come. That was enough.
Why she had chosen so undesirable an abode; why she remained there, shedding such seeming superfluity of tears; what on earth she was aweary of; who he was that did not come; why he stayed away, and what possible good he could have done had he come, I questioned not. Moreover, I believe I should have resented being told. The abstract is mystery, enchantment; these the concrete kills. Mariana was hopelessness. She had no face, no form. I knew only that she sat and wept. When she looked out, it was "thickest dark." One could not see her then. "He" was yet more vague and negative. All he did was not to come. He stood for faithlessness; for the thing you thought was going to happen, and did not happen.
I reveled, all infant that I was, in the dreamy sense of sickening disappointment and despair which breathes through this unspeakable picture, and which every image serves to increase. But how vivid and realistic the images! Those "broken sheds," -- were they not in our back yard? That dark which "did trance the sky," -- whatever that might mean, -- it tranced me every summer night when I went to bed without a candle. The "glooming flats," -- they lay across our river, and belonged, so far as I knew, to nobody. The Marquis of Carabas might have claimed them all. Then "the sluice with blackened waters," and the "low moon," the "very low" moon. (Thereafter I felt no interest in commonplace high moons.) Above all, that marvelous sixth stanza, which set quivering every poetic fibre in my small soul. For years afterwards, on cool, sleepy autumn days, when "the blue fly sung in the pane" (flies always looked green to me, by no matter), I would thrill at memory of weary Mariana starting at the shrieking mice, watching fearfully for "old faces" to come and "glimmer" at her, listening for "old footsteps" tap-tapping, creak-creaking, on the "upper floors." Oh, was ever ghost or fairy tale more weirdly formles,s yet more definitely suggestive, or more idealistically realistic?
But the beauty of it all, and the point I now wish to make, is that, without knowing any of these big words, or of the bigger ideas which folks try to cram into the words; without knowing what poetry was, or even that such a thing as poetry (technically) existed, I yet got all the good out of Mariana that I could have gotten out of it had I been a hundred years old, and thrice versed in the principles of belles-lettres. All the good, I mean, that the poet himself felt when he wrote it; all the real, intrinsic good of poetry, whose great end -- so Keats tells us -- is "to lift the thoughts of man."
It goes without saying that at eight years I could not have that experience of life or of my on soul which would have enabled me to apprehend the full reality of the human situation depicted in Mariana. Still, though a small human being, I was a whole one and a normal one; in my little life I had not remained ignorant of hope deferred; also was I well aware that people who make promises oftentimes break them, and that sorrow ensues therefrom.
For the rest, -- for that strange, close connection of the outer with the inner world, of the nature that we see with the nature that we feel; for the binding though invisible analogy between our tears and the "dews of even," between the monotony of our spirits and the monotony of Nature's wastes and her calmly recurrent sounds; for that exposition of soul-moods accordant or non-accordant with "gray-eyed morns" or "thick-moted sunbeams," -- for these and for a multitude more of sensations that were revelations, I had the poet to thank. In a single short song he had shown me the poetry of earth which "ceaseth never."
And this brings me to my second and chief point, namely (quoting some one whose name and state I wish I could remember), that "that is truly a work of art which may be appreciated simply by being enjoyed." That I did appreciate Mariana long before I had completed my first decade I cannot doubt; the first impression received from it was too striking ever to be forgotten, or misassigned as to date.
Many a time, in the days following that important afternoon, did I clamber up and pull down for myself the violet volume, find my poem, read it and dream over it. Reading it again, years later, I have not experienced a single emotion which was not mine in that sweet primeval time. The emotions, some of them, are stronger, -- that is all. The work of art had done its utmost -- its highest, that is -- upon my childish mind: it had gifted me with the appreciation that comes through enjoyment.
This same principle -- for I believe it is a principle, and one that can readily be explained -- applies to my more recent reading of Dante. I know no Italian. I do not study the Comedy Divine; I only read it, soak myself in it, enjoy it. And it stands the test, yielding a power of appreciation which makes me not ashamed before those who are students of its mysteries, delivers in its deepest depths.
Also is this true of all other forms of art. The truly, perfectly great picture appeals, and appeals at once, to those who have not the first knowledge of the technicalities of painting. A moderately educated country girl, who had never read one line upon art, nor ever heard artistic subjects discussed, visited the recent Loan Exhibition in New York. She unhesitatingly picked out The Gilder as being the best picture on the walls, and in describing it she used almost the same words as those employed by a certain cultivated person who knows all the galleries of Europe. "You can't think that paint did it," said she. Her enjoyment amounted to appreciation.
I have been especially struck lately with the same thing in regard to yet another art. I am acquainted with at least half a dozen people who, knowing nothing of music, caring less for the piano than for any other instrument, above all abhorring "a piano performance," went, quite unwillingly, to hear Paderewski. Fully expecting to be bored, they were held entranced throughout the long recitals, dreading when the last note should be struck, and they came away the loudest trumpeters of that much-betrumpeted artist. It cannot injure the theory I am advancing to say that a large portion of Paderewski's charm consists in his personality and his magnetic qualities. Of course his personality increases the greatness of what he does, -- is an intrinsic part of it; how could it be otherwise? The performance includes the artist as well as the music he plays. Was not Rembrandt's hand behind the lauded paint, and his brain, or self, behind his hand? At the risk of being charged with triteness, I will say that only great men can do great things. None the less -- the more, rather -- do the great things speak so loudly, so plainly, that all may hear, and hearing enjoy, and enjoying (for this is the sine qua non) appreciate.
A Barometer of Gayety
August 1893, pp. 283-84
-- A few steps from the birthplace of Giulio Romano, and within a stone's throw of the new Victor Emmanuel monument, is a little by-street with a queer name, which has not yet succumbed to the devastating hand of progress. Lumbering diligences, crowded inside with priest and peasant, and laden on top with weary poultry and fresh eggs from the mountains, draw up here every evening and unload their dusty, vociferous burden. Next to the diligence stable is a wine shop of the old Roman type, with grotesquely frescoed walls and great wine vats. When one passes by at night, the eye plunges through a long vista of black tuns and flickering light, with groups of dark-browed folk drinking and playing cards, men wrapping their mantles about them in the fashion of their forefathers, and not less swift than they with their knives in midnight brawls. Opposite this, the cooks and maids of the neighborhood gather each morning around a greengrocer's, where they chat and munch, and the hours fly by unheeded. It is mortifying to call such a study in color a "grocery." The massing of the tender green of the endive salad and darker lettuce, borderings of tiny scarlet tomatoes, fringings of purple and white grapes, big yellow pumpkins in the background, piles of juicy figs to the fore, -- such dashes of color, such combinations of shades, all entitle the ortolano to some of the artist's honors.
But the keynote to my characteristic by-way is a place of business facing this shop, and a would-be rival. In a wide, arched doorway, by the side of baskets of wizened apples, speckled pears, and pomegranates, sits a fat old woman, too colossal and lazy ever to drive a flourishing trade. Before her is one of the little iron stands for roasting chestnuts; and she also deals in vegetables, but each thing is the worst of its kind. On one side hangs a dingy card, inscribed, in shaky capitals, with the words
"DARNING AND MENDING DONE HERE."
But over her head is suspended the redeeming feature of the establishment. On a string stretched across the front of the shop, above the decaying cabbages and fried artichokes, is strung a goodly array of mandolins, violins, and guitars,
"TO BE LET OR SOLD."
During the bright October days, Christmas week, and the carousals of carnival not a single instrument is on the line, but Lenten dullness finds the string taut and fully manned; so I have learned to consider this, Madame Lucrezia's relative musical display, as a sign of whether our Romans are serenading, making merry, or doing penance.
In old days Madame Lucrezia found in me an occasional customer. Honeyed flattery was distilled into my ear as I bought oranges, and several extras were thrown in when chestnuts were the purchase; but pulpy fruit and worm-eaten shells drove me to her vis-Ó-vis, a fact naturally resented by this dealer in greens, fine needlework, and musical instruments. Passing in best array and light gloves for calling, I am arrested by a fat paw thrusting forward roasted chestnuts and sticky fruit. Distance is unrecognized by her, and as I go down the street with friends she screams, "Why don't you buy from me any more?" Sometimes she appeals to me as "beautiful child," and again shakes her fist and says bad words. She knows not dignity; and though she begins to despair of me as a purchaser, she cannot yet quite relinquish the social side of our acquaintance; and on the days she does not see my cook shopping at her rival's, opposite, she inquires affectionately after her health, and wishes me a pleasant walk.
A Painter's Snug Corner
Cornish soil: Newlyn, Land's End and Penzance are in Cornwall, in the far southwest of England.
[ Back ]
Rue des Beaux Arts: French; Street of the Fine Arts.
[ Back ]
Mr. Stanhope Forbes ... facile princeps: Stanhope Forbes (1857-1947) was trained at the Royal Academy School, where he began exhibiting in 1885. He founded the Newlyn School, painters working in the Newlyn fishing village in Cornwall. Source: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/ARTforbes.htm.
facile ... is French - easily first.
[ Back ]
St. Michael's Mount: St Michael's Mount is on a small island off the far west coast of Cornwall, the location of a former Benedictine Priory and castle, now a British National Trust property.
[ Back ]
Barbizon and Fontainebleau: Barbizon, on the edge of the forest of Fontainbleau in France, is associated with a nineteenth-century school of landscape painting, a leader of which was J. F. Millet.
[ Back ]
At the Funeral of Phillips Brooks
Phillips Brooks: Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), a famous American Episcopal priest, became rector of Trinity Church in Boston and became Bishop of Massachusetts. He died on 23 January 1893.
[ Back ]
Appreciation Through Enjoyment:
moated grange: This is the opening of "Mariana" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), the English poet.
[ Back ]
Keats: John Keats (1795-1820), one of England's greatest poets and literary theoreticians.
[ Back ]
Dante ... Comedy Divine: Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Italian author of The Divine Comedy.
[ Back ]
The Gilder: It is probable that this refers to portrait by Rembrandt -- who is mentioned below -- that is sometimes called "The Gilder." I have not been able to verify this however. Further assistance is welcome. (Research assistance: David Goodwin.)
[ Back ]
Paderewski: Ignace Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), polish pianist, composer, and statesman.
[ Back ]
sine qua non: the indispensable thing.
[ Back ]
A Barometer of Gayety
birthplace of Giulio Romano ... new Victor Emmanuel monument: Giulio Romano (1499?-1546), Italian painter and architect in the Mannerist style, was born in Rome. The monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of united Italy, built between 1895 and 1911, stands in the Piazza Venezia in Rome.
[ Back ]
ortolano: Italian - greengrocer.
[ Back ]
Main Contents & Search